Gary airport's green, economic potential mapped out

2012-12-12T14:15:00Z 2012-12-13T16:40:13Z Gary airport's green, economic potential mapped outBy Keith Benman, (219) 933-3326

A $50,000 study shows industrial development can continue side by side with protection of environmentally sensitive areas around Gary/Chicago International Airport.

Northwest Indiana Regional Development Authority Chairman Leigh Morris briefed the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission on the study at its meeting Thursday, telling the group his agency now has a road map to help with economic development around the airport.

"It's not a matter of steamroller economic development," Morris said.

The plan, sponsored by the RDA and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, literally mapped the entire 4,667-acre area, dividing it into absolutely environmentally protected areas, those which can be restored and those which are ready for economic development, Morris said.

Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson said the results of the study will inform the city in the redoing its master plan.

The broadest area most ready for economic development, according to the study, is north of the airport in an area that already includes Canadian National Railway's Kirk Yard, U.S. Steel property and other parcels.

The NIRPC executive board on Thursday also authorized the agency's executive director and attorney to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Northwest Indiana Regional Bus Authority to distribute $386,000 to various region transit agencies.

The RBA approved the distribution at its last meeting Wednesday afternoon, along with a $155,691 distribution to Gary Public Transit Corp. and $11,690 to fund the Hammond Council on Accessible Transportation. The RBA will cease operations at the end of the year.

The NIRPC executive board also approved new Adjusted Urbanized Area boundary maps for Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties.

The boundaries determine the amount of federal highway and transit dollars available to Northwest Indiana's urbanized areas. The 2010 census revealed changes in population density and counts for the region, so new maps had to be drawn up and approved.

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