Councilman Lay calls for a tuneup of Community Benefits Agreement

Contributed By:The 411 News

"Gives authority to a group that we have no control over. We need to bring it back to the council"

Gary's Community Benefits Agreement is in for an overhaul. The new ordinance gives residents a seat at the table when the city negotiates development deals. It is seeing its first test with the $11 million Broadway Lofts housing project that wants a tax abatement.

Broadway Lofts is a 38-unit housing complex planned for the 700 blocks of Broadway and Massachusetts.

During Tuesday's Gary Common Council finance committee meeting, Councilman Clorius Lay said the new ordinance, Municipal Code 93-05, gives authority to "a group that we have no control over. I think we need to bring it back to the council. A private group shouldn't have that kind of authority."

The Community Benefits Agreement was drafted by Gary residents and asks developers to give something in return to the community when the developer receives a city-issued benefit like property, land, tax abatements, tax incentives, grants, guaranted loans, or other financial incentives.

Approved by the city council in December 2019, the residents, under the banner of Coalition for a Gary Community Benefits Agreement, want 15% of the value of the city-issued benefit from the developer . Those funds will be used to address job training, local hiring, community improvements and the project's environmental impact.

The ordinance calls for collaborations between the coalition members, developer, and city administration. So far, the coalition and the developer of Broadway Lofts, MVAH Holdings, have met to discuss the CBA demands.

"We can't have a loose-knit group delegating our responsibilities," Councilman Lay said. "And, who are these people?"

Coalition members come from Gary's labor, religious, and community organizing sectors. Among the members are Rebecca Wyatt, Carolyn McCrady, Rev. John Jackson, Atty. James Dillon, Vanessa Allen-McCloud, Lori Latham, Rev. Emmett Mosely, Roman Brunson, Ragen Hatcher, and Melvin Evans.

Further discussion on the agreement is scheduled for the city council's upcoming planning committee meeting on Monday, July 20.

Story Posted:07/16/2020

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