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Demolitions of abandoned homes in Gary

An abandoned home is demolished Feb. 29, 2016, in the 1200 block of Taft Street in Gary.

INDIANAPOLIS — The city of Gary likely will have to scale back its abandoned house demolition plans after failing to win General Assembly approval of enabling legislation for a municipal construction debris site.

House Bill 1318, sponsored by state Rep. Earl Harris, Jr., D-East Chicago, would have exempted Gary from a state law that applies only to Lake County, requiring landfills of any kind be located at least a half-mile from the nearest residence.

Under the plan, Gary could have established an open space within 600 feet of nearby homes to hold reclaimed building materials from demolished houses, such as brick, stone and wood, until they could be reused, recycled or permanently disposed of.

The measure passed the House 89-3 in January. It never received a Senate hearing.

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The House-approved language potentially could have been revived this week through the House-Senate conference committee process, but lawmakers instead decided to dump the controversial proposal.

"The problem of having abandoned, vacant houses still exists in Gary, and they are a huge safety issue," Harris said. "I don't know what the next step is in terms of resolving that issue."

City officials told lawmakers they planned to tear down some 6,000 abandoned homes in coming years.

However, since Gary now may have to pay to truck the demolition waste elsewhere, it likely can't afford to tear down as many.

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Statehouse Bureau Chief

Dan has reported on Indiana state government for The Times since 2009. He also covers casinos, campaigns and corruption.