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Congratulations to Andrea Cook and The Midas Center on their move to their new location at 200 North Michigan Street in Plymouth. I attended their Reception on December 17th and it was interesting to see their progress and the various people, some of them old friends, that are involved and were there to help them.
I initially connected to Andrea through her position on the Culver Redevelopment Commission. She has become quite active in the Culver and Plymouth Communities through her business at The Midas Center as well as her two community promotion sites, iHEARTplymouth and iHEARTculver. I have consulted with Andrea and her husband Phil on the status of the historic building they have purchased and we are working with them on a restoration project at the site.
The Marshall County Council chose to increase the Innkeeper’s Tax from 3 to 5 percent. [Pilot News Article] I’ve had a disagreement with this tax since it first went into effect over a decade ago.
My first issue is the same as Dr. Watson’s. (See his letter to the editor here.) It is taxation without representation. It was originally passed “because we could” rather than because there was a need. Now it appears that it has been raised using the same rational. From the Pilot News Article: “Woolfington [Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director] pointed out that Marshall County was one of just a handful of counties in the state of Indiana that has held the tax at 3 percent. Adjacent counties have raised their tax to the 5 percent level and St. Joseph County is at 6 percent.” Mr. Woolfington then goes on to talk about our loss of a major hotel chain. Somehow I doubt that this was because they suffered a decline in business because they weren’t charging enough! How is raising our tax rate to match surrounding counties going to attract people to stay here?
My second issue with this has always been the Marshall County Visitor’s Guide. Despite the Innkeeper’s Tax, the first thing the newly formed Visitor’s and Convention Bureau did was to start shaking down local businesses and Chambers of Commerce for ads in their new visitor’s guide. Currently more than that 10% of the Culver Chamber of Commerce’s annual budget goes toward an ad in this guide. I was on the Culver Chamber Board when this went into effect and I voted against that budget item and the passing of the budget including that item until I left the board and I continued to vote against it as a Chamber member for several years after. (I now generally skip that meeting as my meal doesn’t sit well after that vote…) I considered it then and now a phenomenal waste of precious dollars…dollars requested by a tax funded entity of a volunteer organization. Dollars which wouldn’t need them if MCCVB was effective in it’s mission!
H.B. 1182, legislation defining Complete Streets for Indiana streets and highways, passed the Indiana House but didn’t make it through the Senate earlier this year. This Bill followed a national trend to look at streets in a more holistic fashion, taking into account pedestrians, bicycles and public transportation, rather than just the minimalist approach of expediting the transit of cars from point A to point B. The Complete Streets ideal also looks at issues concerning stormwater control and optimizaton of pavement.
Culver recently received a grant for renovations to Main Street as it runs through the downtown business district. My understanding is that plans are underway to facilitate these improvements. I spoke to Town Manager, Michael Doss, and he did not believe that the Complete Streets standards would apply. (That was shortly after the grant was obtained and now his remarks appear sage-like as the legislation failed to move forward.) Some of the proposed standards may be of value though and hopefully will be considered by the designer. Improvements that make the downtown business district more pedestrian and cyclist friendly should be helpful. We also have a continuing stormwater issue in Culver that could be improved by changes to impervious surfaces in the downtown. Corrections to the existing stormwater system as well as other infrastructure should be considered as part of this project. It would be prudent to make sure that we’re not tearing up the new street in a couple of years to correct underlying problems.
Culver does not have a lot of new road construction planned, so opportunities to employ this type of design is limited. Now that the review of the the Culver Zoning Ordinance is coming to a close, it might be time to revisit the Subdivision Ordinance. That document has not been updated in decades. The Culver Comprehensive Plan is also past due for a review. Some of the new research and trends should be considered for implementation in our planning documents. Even without updates to these planning documents, there is the potential for doing this type of design through PUD’s under the current ordinance – something I would hope to accomplish with Sand Hill Farm.