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Environmental Issues Could Derail Sports Complex Proposal

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Copyright 2013 South Bend Tribune Corporation
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South Bend Tribune (Indiana)
October 29, 2013 Tuesday
Mich Edition
NEWS; Pg. A3
460 words
Property issue could derail sports complex proposal in Niles
Lou Mumford, South Bend Tribune

NILES

A $400,000 sports complex proposed for the former Tyler Refrigeration property north of Lake Street apparently will remain on hold until an issue is resolved with property across the street, the Niles City Council learned Monday night.

City Administrator Ric Huff told council members at a committee of the whole session that the Carrier Corp., the company that bought Tyler Refrigeration and promptly closed it four years ago, has added a caveat regarding the former Tyler parking lot property and a research and development building in the same general area of the lot.

Instead of donating the parking lot parcel to the city as originally proposed, Huff said the company now is asking that the city agree to either retain the property forever or hold Carrier harmless from contamination problems. Should the city agree to the latter, Huff said, Carrier would allow the city to sell the property for commercial or industrial use but not residential.

Asked by Mayor Mike McCauslin why the company would restrict sale of the site for residential purposes, Huff said he didn't know. The administrator said he was aware, however, of environmental issues but he termed them "minor.''

Huff said, too, that there's state law that would seem to hold Carrier responsible for environmental problems even if the city holds the company harmless.

"We have no authority to enforce environmental law,'' he said.

A council decision could come as soon as its next meeting on Nov. 11. In the meantime, the mayor asked Huff to determine if the company's conversion of the plant site for the sports complex hinges directly on the city's decision regarding the parking lot property.

Plans called for the complex to include two women's fast-pitch softball fields, two baseball fields and four soccer fields. Both adult and youth leagues were expected to use the facilities.

Also Monday night, the council discussed the National-Standard Co.'s plans for demolition of its former manufacturing complex south of Wayne Street, between Eighth and 11th streets. The company has proposed what Huff termed "partial demolition'' of the buildings, with footings left in place but covered by a minimum of 18 inches of soil which in turn would be seeded and made available for non-organized neighborhood activities.

But partial demolition would require amending the current demolition ordinance, Huff said, adding that failure to grant the company's request could result in the wire manufacturer, owned by Heico Holdings, moving out of state.

McCauslin said the city is "between a rock and a hard place'' but indicated support for granting the company's request.

"I'd like to see the buildings down and green space rather than buildings crumbling,'' he said.

LMumford@SBTinfo.com 574-876-2752

October 30, 2013

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