GOSHEN — A flurry of economic development is underway in Elkhart County and the County Commissioners spent Monday morning approving a $10 million tax phase-in and road extension agreement for the largest one, along with zoning changes to accommodate others.

The commissioners approved an agreement among local governments and the developer to extend C.R. 4 from C.R. 17 to C.R. 19, extend Elkhart municipal water and sewer lines to the area and to grant the anonymous company a tax phase-in. The project’s working title is “Project Winnie.”

While not involving county government, the developers are also seeking approval from the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Toll Road Concession Co. for an entrance onto the Indiana Toll Road.

The project involves the construction of a five-story warehouse and distribution center on 100 acres of land in the Elkhart East Industrial Park. The company intends to invest $100 million in the facility and another $100 million in equipment.

Commercial real estate company Ambrose Group has led the project through county agency approvals on behalf of the developer.

But who the property is being developed for has not been revealed. Elkhart County Economic Development Corp. President Chris Stager told the County Council Sept. 11 that his agency has a non-disclosure agreement with the company.

Indiana Sen. Blake Doriot, a New Paris Republican, spoke to the County Council Sept. 11 as a private citizen and said he was opposed to the tax phase-in because it would allow one of the largest companies in the world, if the company is Amazon, to compete for employees with locally-owned companies.

“My research says Winnie is Amazon,” Doriot told the council.

The council went on to approve the tax phase-in.

During Monday’s meeting, commissioner Brad Rogers voted for the road extension agreement and against the tax phase-in.

“Once again I bring up the question, when is this company going to be revealed, officially,” Rogers asked county attorney Craig Buche.

Buche, who presented the legal documents for the phase-in and road agreement to the commissioners, said someone else would have to make the reveal because he could not do so.

Rogers said, “We are the final decision makers of this, but again, there has not been the transparency that I believe should be happening in government when we are doing these kinds of things for private entities.”

The commissioner said he would support the agreement because the land involved will likely be developed by someone because of the availability of utilities. But he declined to support the tax phase-in.

THE PROCESS

After the meeting commissioner Frank Lucchese explained the development process.

“We are not negotiating with the actual company, we are negotiating with the developer,” he said. “We know what is going on the property, it is a warehouse and distribution center. We approved the land use. It doesn’t matter who the company is as long as the use has been approved.”

“Right now there are a lot of rumors,” commissioner Suzie Weirich said. “We have not been approached directly by the company putting in the request. We have been approached by the developer. So, anything beyond that is still speculation and rumor and until the company comes forward, we are negotiation with the developer and signing contracts with the developer.”

Lucchese said the commissioners and other county agencies have gone through similar processes with other companies in the past, including General RV.

Lucchese and Weirick voted for the tax phase-in and road project and Rogers voted for the road project and voted no on the tax phase-in.

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