INDIANAPOLIS | Legislation requiring the state to purchase Moon Valley, a 57-acre Michigan City dune habitat, will not be acted on this session — but Indiana may end up acquiring the land anyway.
The House Natural Resources Committee spent an hour Monday discussing House Bill 1379, sponsored by House Democratic Leader Scott Pelath, D-Michigan City. The measure compels the Department of Natural Resources to buy the privately owned property currently held in bankruptcy by LaPorte Savings Bank.
Pelath said he didn't expect the committee would vote on his proposal. He just wanted to call the Legislature's attention to the opportunity to save Moon Valley, one of the largest intact Lake Michigan dune parcels, from potential development.
"The outcome we want is just for the property to be preserved," Pelath said.
Chris Smith, DNR legislative director, said the agency opposes a legislative mandate to buy the property, because that could force the state to pay more than the land is worth.
In 2010, the property was offered for $3.8 million in a sale rejected by the DNR. The bank is reportedly marketing it for $1.2 million. LaPorte County assessed the property at $141,800.
Smith said even without a legislative mandate, DNR will continue to work with Michigan City, Long Beach, Save the Dunes, other area preservation groups and the Indiana Bicentennial Nature Trust to buy the property before it can be sold to a private owner.
Pelath said if the issue hasn't been resolved by summer, he'll ask that a General Assembly study committee reconsider the possibility of requiring purchase.