County Council talks future plans for former paper mill site

(WTHI Photo)
(WTHI Photo)

VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTHI) – On Prairieton Road in Vigo County, it’s hard to miss the relatively new aquatic center.

However, right across the street, chances are you’ve overlooked the 65 acres worth of land. It’s the site of the former International Paper Company that closed down in 2007.

“We think its days of being an industrial property are probably gone,” said Steve Witt, President of the Terre Haute Economic Development Corporation, “We think that probably a better use for the property now is for sports and recreation, maybe commercial, just something that would improve the riverfront.”

Witt was at Tuesday night’s county council meeting on behalf of the county redevelopment commission,

“We thought this is a great opportunity to try and secure this, what we believe is the largest parcel, along the east side of the Wabash River,” he said.

The property, Witt says, is currently owned by an entity from New Jersey. The owner is looking to sell the property for $550,000.

“That’s what they (owner) paid for the property,” he said, “There’s back taxes of approximately $55,000 owed, that would be subtracted from the purchase price so about $495,000. Then, we felt that we needed probably an additional $50,000 just to get the property in shape from mowing, tree trimming and have some money to upkeep the property.”

Ideally, Witt says the property would be acquired by the redevelopment commission so it would be owned by county government. Witt says they would work with groups like riverscape and other parties who have expressed redevelopment interest.

County Council President Rick Burger says though it’s a great opportunity, a concern among the council is money.

“We’re talking about a jail, we’re talking about the Hulman Center and now we’re talking this, but we believe it’s a good investment too,” he said.

While the council believes it’s a good investment, questions still remain. Council members voted 5-1 to table the idea to discuss it further.

“I appreciate the group that came before us tonight, work with us, let’s get some answers and maybe we’ll make some other ways to make this happen,” Burger said, “I think there’s a lot of opportunities that are there and as one council person, I wanted to do something to give back to the community, and I believe that anchorage there gives that opportunity and that potential to make it happen.”

While no concrete answers were given on the future plans, Witt is hopeful for what’s to come, but he is concerned with how long it will take.

“We certainly understand that the council has a number of upcoming financial obligations. So we’ll just wait and see what the future brings, but at least we brought it to folks attention that this opportunity is before us,” he said, “We feel like there’s a little bit of a time issue because the property is owned by an entity from out of state that wants to sell it and that opportunity may go by the wayside.”