EAST CHICAGO — The East Chicago City Council is expected to approve a rezoning ordinance Tuesday night for the former West Calumet housing site and Goodman Park.
The council on May 11 approved on second reading an ordinance that would change the zoning from residential to light industrial. Final approval is expected Tuesday.
Council members had requested the special meeting to gain more information on plans for the area and to allow for public input.
Steve Radel, an executive with Industrial Development Advantage, LLC, described the proposal at the meeting earlier this month.
"What we're looking to do on this Zone 1 property is build a Class A, state of the art distribution facility," Radel said. "We're targeting a $75 million investment."
He said the thought is a 600,000- to 800,000-square-foot building could generate anywhere from 400 to 900 long-term, full-time jobs, with the range in numbers dependent on the type of user that operates the facility.
"These are new jobs," Radel said. "They aren't transferred or relocated positions."
He said the rezoning is one of the required steps before an agreement with the East Chicago Housing Authority to acquire the site for $2.1 million can proceed.
Radel said his company will work with the Environmental Protection Agency to de-list the site, meaning to take off its Superfund designation.
City consultant Milton Reed also took part in the presentation and said the proposed project won't have a negative impact on human health and the environment.
"I have not seen a case where a developer offers $2.1 million dollars for a contaminated site that is listed as a Superfund," Reed said. "This technically has negative real estate value because of the contamination."
The lead and arsenic contaminated soil in the area limits what can be built there.
"(The) East Chicago Housing Authority, as well as HUD, has said that there will not be any more housing put in Zone 1 due to the contamination and how we had to go there and remove the people as well as tear down the properties in Zone 1," said Tia Cauley, executive director for the East Chicago Housing Authority.
Some believe the property should be cleaned to residential standards as opposed to the less stringent standards that would be required for industrial use.
Members of the public offered comment via Zoom teleconferencing due to the social distancing required because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Among those who spoke was Maritza Lopez, a member of a community advisory group made up of residents of the Superfund site.
She said the cleanup currently proposed for Zone 1 will cause contamination for residents in Zone 2 and that economic development should not be the top priority.
"You need to take care of the health and safety of the residents first," Lopez said. "We have been contaminated too long."
She added the project described for the area will result in both noise and diesel pollution.
City attorney Carla Morgan spoke in favor of the proposed development, calling it "perhaps a once in a generation opportunity."
"If this proposal fails, we're faced with the very real possibility of having an empty 50-acre site that may never be able to be developed," Morgan said.
Council President Robert Garcia, D-5th, said he would like to hear from the EPA and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management to find out what responsibility they have in overseeing the developer during the cleanup of the property.