The Whiteland Town Council this week approved a $7.2 million bond to finance part of a massive mixed-use development in the works at Graham and Whiteland roads.
Part of this deal also puts into motion long-awaited plans to build a new public safety building in the town.
Westfield-based Patch Development is building a 159-acre mixed-use development that is expected to house light industrial development, apartments, restaurant and retail spaces, and medium-size commercial flex-space buildings.
Dubbed Gateway at Whiteland, work has already started on the first phase of the development, which includes a 617,316-square-foot light industrial building at the back end of the property.
Part of the project agreement between the town of Whiteland and Patch includes a financing method with help from the town to pay for public infrastructure improvements.
The Whiteland Town Council on Tuesday unanimously approved an approximately $7.25 million bond to Patch Development, in order to pay for infrastructure improvements, such as utilities and roads, for the first phase of construction on the nearly 160-acre property.
The newly-formed three-member Whiteland Economic Development Commission unanimously approved the bond. A public hearing was held before the commission on Tuesday, however, no member of the public attended the meeting.
This bond, known as an Economic Development Revenue Bond, is a 25-year bond paid for with tax-increment finance, or TIF, funds generated directly from the Patch Development land. These bond funds are loaned to Patch Development, so the debt is in the developer’s hands, not the town’s.
The town also earlier approved carving out the 160-acre Patch Development land, formerly known as the Horseley property, into its own TIF district. That means tax revenues generated from the development itself would then go back into paying off the $7.25 million bond — versus taking the money out of the four other already existing TIFs in Whiteland.
The town is projected to collect more than enough from the TIF to cover the debt over the 25-year period, according to Adam Stone, a local government financial consultant who presented the bond information to the council in August.
The proceeds of the bond could be used to finance the costs of utility improvements including electric, water, gas and sewer main improvements, roadway improvements, including improvements to Graham Road, stormwater improvements, and “other related infrastructure improvements in connection with the economic development project,” according to town documents.
Although the vote from the council was unanimous, some Whiteland officials made clear they were not 100% supportive of using an economic development bond to fund the project.
Council member David Hawkins has either abstained or voted against this financing method from the start. He, however, voted in favor of it on Tuesday because he said he recognized it was the will of the council and the town to move the bond forward, despite his personal feelings.
“Everybody knows that I’ve been for the project, but against the financing,” Hawkins said. “The financing and the project have been approved by the council, so therefore, I will try to begin to encourage the growth of the town with this in hopes that we prosper and beyond.”
Town Manager Jim Lowhorn has also spoken against this financing method and wanted to pull the project because of it earlier this year.
Though he still does not agree with the town financing these improvements with a TIF bond, he does like the project and thinks it will be good for Whiteland.
“It’s nothing that we’ve ever done before. We’ve never asked any other developer to do that,” Lowhorn said. “But since it has passed through the council, and they have approved it, it’s my job to make the best of it and to try to work with the developer.”
Another large part of why the town was willing to enter into this agreement with Patch Development for this project is because the town plans to build a new public safety building on the 160-acre Patch property.
The public safety building was a big sticking point that helped convince town officials to agree to the bond financing, said Stephen Watson, town attorney.
The public safety building is still a concept, and is likely still a few years out, Lowhorn said. The plan is to build a space large enough for both the police and fire departments — which are both in need of bigger spaces. It would also be funded primarily with TIF money.
“It’s definitely something with the expansion of Whiteland and the new growth, it is definitely something that we need,” Lowhorn said.
He sees the Gateway at Whiteland project overall as a transition piece to grow the town, and move it forward.
“For us to go from industrial to light industrial to the apartments, flex space, those sorts of things, and retail — those are things that Whiteland truly needs,” Lowhorn said.