McCORDSVILLE — Officials in McCordsville are now thinking about creating a special district near parts of a drainage ditch to create economic development opportunities by allowing for more alcoholic beverage permits.

They started the conversation this month as their counterparts in Fortville and Greenfield move ahead with their own riverfront development districts.

State law allows for riverfront development districts to be within 1,500 feet or three blocks, whichever is greater, of a river. Municipalities across Indiana have found success creating the districts along smaller waterways, prompting McCordsville to pursue one near parts of the Stansbury legal drain. A map of the proposed district locates the bulk of it in two larger pieces. The southernmost border of one area is along County Road 750N east of Mt. Comfort Road, and it extends north and northeast to County Road 800N. The other, larger, piece is north of the other and mostly between State Road 67 and Mt. Comfort Road, and south of the Emerald Springs neighborhood.

Inside a riverfront development district, there is no limit on alcoholic beverage permits, which are otherwise controlled by a municipality’s population.

Ryan Crum, McCordsville’s director of planning and building, said during a town council meeting on Tuesday that the district would be a good tool in developing the future town center. Plans for that project call for businesses, restaurants, housing and green space on more than 100 acres near Mt. Comfort Road and State Road 67.

“I think we all know that we don’t have the deep pockets that other larger communities have that allow them to really jump start and really invigorate their town center, so we ought to really be thinking about any and every way that we can make our town center more attractive and easier to develop,” Crum said. “And one way to do that, one tool for that toolbox is to… make alcohol permits more available to people. That’s essentially what this does.”

While the town does not issue alcoholic beverage permits, it would adopt guidelines for the riverfront development district and make recommendations over whether the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission should approve an applicant’s permit, Crum said. He also said that riverfront development district alcoholic beverage permits are not transferable outside the district.

Gregg Morelock, McCordsville town attorney, said riverfront development districts are rising in popularity across the state. He and other town officials indicated they want to jump into a discussion on a district for McCordsville while they still can.

“Our concern is that somebody in the legislature is going to say we’re just creating Broad Ripple Avenues all over the state or something like that, and they don’t want that done and then they will change the law,” Morelock said, referring to the nightspot district on the north side of Indianapolis. “So we’re trying to strike while this is an available tool for us.”

There are almost 300 active riverfront alcoholic beverage permits in the state, according to an online Indiana government database.

Larry Longman, a McCordsville town councilman, said the riverfront development districts’ rise in popularity is starting to make them similar to tax abatements — an incentive governments often offer because officials know if they don’t, developers will look somewhere else.

“If you don’t have this as an option, you might as well stay sitting on the bench, because they’re going to expect it from you,” Longman said.

The town plans to have a legal description prepared for the proposed district. Crum said the district will likely be ready for a council vote by July or August.

Fortville Town Council approved its riverfront development district along parts of a creek and drainage ditches on first reading earlier this month and will hold its second and final vote on May 18. The Greenfield Redevelopment Commission and Plan Commission have given their approvals of a riverfront development district along parts of Brandywine Creek. Greenfield City Council would have to approve it as well.
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