The Bluffton Common Council changed its rules on tax abatements Tuesday and gave the new owner of a former retail operation on the city’s south side a 100 percent tax abatement for five years.

The council also gave preliminary approval to a nuisance, garbage and rubbish ordinance that has been in the works for several months, and approved its annual economic development contract.

The former Pamida store, at the south end of the Harrison Plaza shopping center, has been empty and idle for several years. The Jackson Studebaker Investment Group is planning to use the property for storage and a warehouse, and came to the Bluffton Common Council for tax abatement on the approximately $250,000 for work that would be done inside and outside the facility.

However, Chad Kline, Wells County’s economic development director, asked that the city consider amending its tax abatement rules before approving the request.

The city has had rules in place since 2013 that required tax abatements to be for 10 years at 10 percent a year — 100 percent the first year, 90 percent the second year, and so forth.

Kline said increasing companies are seeking more flexibility in tax abatements. He said Bluffton’s established rates could be a detriment when it comes to enticing entrepreneurs and industries to the city.

“Site selectors want to see a community have flexibility,” Kline said.

So the five council members — Josh Hunt, Roger Thornton, Rick Elwell, Scott Mentzer, and Janella Stronczek — rescinded the 2013 resolution, thus removing the rules that have been in place for seven years.

Back to the original abatement request, the council now had to determine how long and for what percentage it would abate taxes on the property at 1555 S. Harrison Plaza. After some discussion, the council decided on 100 percent for five years.

“We’re thrilled to bring warehousing and storage back to Bluffton,” said Conor Jackson. The company has been using a site in Plum Tree, several miles west of the city on Ind. 124 in Huntington County.

Also Tuesday, the council approved what has been colloquially known as the “junk ordinance” after it had been vetted last week by the Bluffton Board of Public Works and Safety.

The ordinance specifies what constitutes trash in a yard and what measures can be taken to abate it. It is based on a Kokomo ordinance that Building Commissioner Ted Smith and City Attorney Tony Crowell had amended to better serve Bluffton’s needs.

Mayor John Whicker said that ordinance has been posted on the city’s website and received no comment.

The council approved the ordinance 5-0 on its first reading. A second vote on the ordinance will be taken at the council’s next meeting Jan. 5.
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