White Lodg­ing pitches tax for de­vel­op­ment

Some on Lake County Coun­cil op­pose re­quest

Post Tribune (Sunday) - - News - By Craig Lyons Post-Tri­bune

White Lodg­ing says that its pro­posed $350 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment will only pro­ceed if the Lake County Coun­cil passes a food and bev­er­age tax to sub­si­dize the project.

Deno Yiankes, pres­i­dent and CEO of in­vest­ments and de­vel­op­ment divi­sion for White Lodg­ing, met with the coun­cil Thurs­day to ask it to pass a food and bev­er­age tax to sup­port its pro­posed 40-acre de­vel­op­ment. With­out a food and bev­er­age tax, Yiankes said White Lodg­ing will still re­de­velop the prop­erty just not with what it’s pro­posed.

“We’re mak­ing it clear we’re not do­ing a de­vel­op­ment of this scale,” Yiankes said.

Yiankes said White Lodg­ing has worked on the project for two years and must de­cide on how it will pro­ceed. Yiankes said he’d like the coun­cil to put the food and bev­er­age tax on ei­ther the November or December agenda.

The ma­jor­ity of the Lake County Coun­cil has al­ready voiced op­po­si­tion to a food and bev­er­age tax.

Coun­cil­woman Chris­tine Cid, D-East Chicago, said White Lodg­ing has had time to do a study, and the coun­cil is now be­ing rushed to come up with a tax to sup­port a de­vel­op­ment.

“I do not want to rush this process,” Cid said.

White Lodg­ing plans a more than $350 mil­lion de­vel­op­ment, dubbed The Farm at Cross­road Com- mons, at the site for­merly oc­cu­pied by the Radis­son and Star Plaza The­atre. The pro­posed 40-acre de­vel­op­ment is a “mixed use” project that will com­bine ho­tels, event spaces, of­fice space and restau­rants, ac­cord­ing to a White Lodg­ing pre­sen­ta­tion.

Cid said she’s not against a con­ven­tion cen­ter, but doesn’t think she’s heard enough about what size fa­cil­ity Lake County would need.

“I do not care for the de­sign,” Cid said.

Coun­cil­man Ted Bil­ski, D-Ho­bart, said the coun­cil hasn’t had a con­ver­sa­tion about if it even wants to see a con­ven­tion cen­ter in Lake County.

“As of right now, there is no con­sen­sus,” Bil­ski said. “I’ve tried. I’ve asked.”

Bil­ski said he thinks that type of project would change the face of Lake County, bring new jobs to the area and cre­ate new eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Bil­ski said he was once op­posed to a lo­cal op­tion in­come tax but once the dis­tri­bu­tion for­mula was worked out, he changed his mind. He said he thinks the dis­tri­bu­tion of a food and bev­er­age tax would need to ben­e­fit all mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“I do sup­port a food and bev­er­age tax,” Bil­ski said.

A food and bev­er­age tax was in­cluded in The North­west In­di­ana Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Author­ity’s study on the po­ten­tial to build a new con­ven­tion cen­ter in the Re­gion.

The study said an es­ti­mate from the In­di­ana Leg­isla­tive Ser­vices Agency showed that a 1 per­cent food and bev­er­age tax could yield $9.4 mil­lion in rev­enue dur­ing 2019 and $9.8 mil­lion in 2020. The study said those es­ti­mates pre­dict that the tax rev­enue would cover a $3.37 mil­lion an­nual bond pay­ment for a $50 mil­lion project and leave $6.47 mil­lion for the county or other lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“I’m not in fa­vor of that,” said Coun­cil­man Dan Der­nulc, R-High­land.

White Lodg­ing, the White fam­ily and other groups plan to pri­vately fund 67 per­cent of the project’s cost, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany, and will seek pub­lic fi­nanc­ing for the re­main­ing 33 per­cent.

“I won’t sup­port a food and bev­er­age tax,” Franklin said. “I can­not in good con­science do that.”

The 40-acre de­vel­op­ment will in­clude ho­tels, a bed and break­fast, restau­rants, town­homes, meet­ing and event space, of­fice space, a rid­ing area and green­house, ac­cord­ing to the com­pany. The de­vel­op­ment as a whole will be more than 1.1 mil­lion gross square feet.

White Lodg­ing says the new de­vel­op­ment will cre­ate more than 600 con­struc­tion jobs, and 1,000 direct and in­di­rect jobs.

“All of us take any tax very se­ri­ously,” Yiankes said.

Coun­cil­man Ja­mal Wash­ing­ton said he’d like to find a way to sup­port the project but not af­fect the tax­pay­ers. He said the Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Author­ity may be an op­tion.

“I think this idea is great,” Wash­ing­ton said.

CRAIG LYONS/POST-TRI­BUNE

Deno Yiankes, pres­i­dent and CEO for the in­vest­ments and de­vel­op­ment divi­sion of White Lodg­ing, talks to the Lake County Coun­cil about the com­pany’s new de­vel­op­ment and its de­sire for the board to pass a food and bev­er­age tax.

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