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By VINCE LUECKE
TELL CITY – Studying the best way to annex areas into the city, constructing a fire department substation, developing the Seventh Street corridor and hiring a city planner lead the recommendations made in a new Tell City comprehensive plan approved by the city council.
The recommendations made in the report aren’t binding but provide a multi-year road map for setting priorities and guiding work on zoning, downtown development and improving public services.
The city obtained a state grant to fund the creation of a new comprehensive plan, a process that hadn’t taken place for two decades. Bernardin, Lochmueller & Associates was chosen to oversee the project and a steering committee hosted two community input-gathering sessions that drew comments about the city, its needs and future goals.
The new plan profiles the city’s demographics, including population, age and employment. It also details available community services, schools, health care and utilities. The report then makes several recommendations.
The comprehensive plan’s lead priority is an annexation study that would chart how city leaders might best bring new areas into the community, thereby increasing the city’s population.
The city has seen its population shrink over the past 30 years, from 8,704 in 1980 to 7,272 in 2010.
The plan does not identify specific areas to be annexed but recommends city leaders study areas to its north, east and southeast that could be incorporated.
A study would likely begin by examining data the city obtained under a major annexation study conducted in 2007 under then Mayor Gayle Strassell.
That annexation effort failed to find city council support.
The comprehensive plan also recommends a review of and updates to the city’s existing zoning ordinance and zoning map.
An annexation report could cost $25,000 to $50,000 while a zoning update might cost $10,000 up to $50,000.
New Fire Department Substation
The comprehensive plan recommends the city build a fire-department substation that would serve the city and be located on the northern or eastern portions of the city to provide quicker response times. The former National Guard armory, now owned by the city and already used by the fire department for some training exercises, is identified as possible location. Federal or state grants could be sought to upgrade the building into a substation or to build a new facility.
Priority 2 under the comprehensive plan is a new commercial developer or city planner who would be hired by the city to help attract commercial development. The Perry County Development Corp. and Tell City Economic Development Commission are already active in industrial development but the study pointed to a need for commercial-development recruitment.
“While (PCDC and the EDC) do an excellent job of attracting (industrial) business, there are no organization trying to attract commercial businesses and commercial development,” the report states.
One project that moved quickly from the comprehensive plan’s recommendation list to construction is a new visitors center on Seventh Street.
Construction is on track for completion late this year or early 2013. The plan identifies the visitors center, which includes office space for the county convention and visitors bureau, a meeting room for public events and room for a farmers market, as the first of many project for the Seventh Street corridor.
The News will profile those projects in Thursday’s edition. They include a condominium-apartment complex and senior center.
The study suggested the apartment complex could have commercial development on its ground floor.
The plan also promotes the development of a new hotel for the Seventh Street, near the visitors center. It would be constructed privately and would provide a place to stay for those attending events at the new center or downtown. City leaders have said developers have expressed an interest in investing up to $10 million in a new hotel that would also serve business travelers visiting Perry County as well as Hancock County.
• A downtown grocery or convenience store.
• Encouraging downtown restaurants to offer outdoor seating areas.
• A facade improvement program that would provide incentives and possible financial assistance to owners of businesses who want to make exterior repairs and upgrades.
• Upgrades to recreational and sports offerings at Hagedorn Park.
• Added greenways and bike facilities.
• Exploring a new public golf course that could be located on the city's former landfill between Old State Road 37 and Spring Road.
A copy of the comprehensive plan is available for review at City Hall during normal business hours.