In an effort to streamline new business opportunities in LaGrange County, LaGrange County Planning Administrator Bob Shanahan and LaGrange County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) Director Keith Gillenwater have been meeting weekly to help alleviate communication issues, the plan commission was told Monday.
As part of the effort to establish and maintain better communication between the two entities, Shanahan had suggested that he be allowed to sit in on the EDC’s board meetings as a non-voting member. In return, Gillenwater had suggested that he sit in on the plan commission, also as a non-voting member.
The commission’s legal counsel, Lisa Bowen-Slaven, noted that the proposal would be for an advisory member of the commission. However, she added, anyone with direct or non-direct interest in issues before the commission should not be on the board, even in an advisory position, per state statutes. That would create an issue if Gillenwater was seen as advocating for projects the EDC was involved with if he were an advisory member.
She continued that the commission allows for public comments on all applications, and that Gillenwater could advocate for projects in that manner. It was noted that Martin Franke of the LaGrange County Soil and Water Conservation District attends the meetings regularly to give input on erosion control plans, manure management plans and other issues on applications, and does so from the audience.
If Shanahan were to sit in on the EDC meetings, it would not be to advocate for any issue, but to help answer questions or make them aware of potential issues from the planning commission’s point of view, the commission was told.
Shanahan told the commission that he could send Gillenwater the same information the commission members receive prior to the meeting to keep him informed of upcoming projects and site plan applications. It was felt that, with Gillenwater aware of all applications submitted to the plan commission for business expansion or other projects, he would be able to offer the EDC’s services to those businesses that may not otherwise be aware of the benefits of the EDC’s assistance.
In other business:
The board approved a furniture manufacturing facility addition to E&S Wood Creations at 2070N 450W in Shipshewana. The addition will be 3,060 sq. ft. on the east end of the existing building.
Ben’s Pretzels had a site plan for a soft pretzel bakery, sales and conference room approved for a location at the corner of SR 5 and Berkshire Dr. in Shipshewana.
Interra Credit Union had its site plan for a financial institution/credit union approved for a location just east of Ben’s Bakery on Berkshire Dr. in Shipshewana.
Larry and Kristine Mast of 7370S 1100W in Millersburg were approved for an expansion of a confined duck feeding operation.
Bontrager Feed, 2210 W 700S in Topeka, had a site plan approved to operate a feed supply facility.
Rock Run Repair was approved for a commercial addition to a metal fabrication shop at 11635W 600S in Millersburg. The approval included adding screening between the two buildings on the east side of the property.
Larry and Ruth Ann Weaver had a site plan approved for a fertilizer production operation at 3640W 350S in Topeka. The location will be used to mix ingredients for fertilizer as well as package and ship the product.