SOUTH BEND — Dozens of county residents rallied outside the County-City Building Tuesday night as a part of ongoing efforts to persuade public officials to rethink plans for an industrial park near New Carlisle.

The rally, organized by the St. Joseph County Open Space and Agricultural Alliance, then shifted to the St. Joseph County Council meeting, where residents implored the council to host public hearings on plans for development near New Carlisle and cut spending on projects related to the industrial complex in the 2020 budget.

The county has proposed an industrial park — the Indiana Enterprise Center — on 22,000 acres of mostly farmland near New Carlisle. So far, the county has approved contracts totaling $3.3 million for studies and planning.

A master plan for the facility hasn’t yet been released, but remains under development. Originally, the plan was expected to be finished in summer 2018.

The project has drawn scrutiny and ire from New Carlisle residents, farmers, environmentalists and others who say it is an unnecessary and destructive development not in line with the interest of county residents.

Earlier this year, a map acquired through a public records request laid out the land acquisition plans for the county, including parcels planned for acquisition, unbeknownst to some property owners.

Andy Oldham, a farmer from New Carlisle, said during the rally that he doesn’t “know anyone who wants the IEC” in the area.

“The government’s place is not to buy or eminent domain land for development,” Oldham said. “We need representation of what people in New Carlisle want, not what economic development (people) want.”

The group of residents hailing from New Carlisle and other communities in the county made three demands of the County Council: A public hearing on the Indiana Enterprise Center, a request that the council take planning away from “elite interests,” and a plan to cut 2020 spending for IEC-related expenses.

“The biggest concern for us is lack of public input,” said Garrett Blad, who grew up in the New Carlisle area and now lives in South Bend. “This has been happening largely behind closed doors with a few people … It’s been a very undemocratic process.”

Other activists against the development cited the high-quality soil in the area, potential damage and pollution to water aquifers and the benefits of carbon capture from farming as opposed to industrial pollution.

“The farmers aren’t going away,” Blad said. “The people of New Carlisle aren’t going away. We’re only seeing this movement grow.”

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