Harris lakefront development legislation nears finish line

IBLC, News & Media

INDIANAPOLIS – Legislation authored by State Rep. Earl Harris Jr. (D-East Chicago) to remove barriers to Indiana's lakefront development is one step closer to being law as it was assigned to a conference committee today.

House Bill 1090 expands lakefront development opportunities by removing current requirements that an oil refinery be located within a municipal lakefront development project and that a municipal lakefront development project must be funded in part with local, state and federal money. This opens up more property for projects and allows those projects to be 100% funded by private investors.

“This legislation serves not as a hand-out, but as a hand-up,” Harris said.

“Lakefront communities, and the city of Gary in particular, are currently reinventing themselves through innovative projects. By lifting the current restrictions on municipal lakefront development, there will be more opportunities for investors like retailers, restaurants, residential complexes and other commercial businesses to come to Indiana and grow. And while this is focused on Northwest Indiana, really the state as a whole will benefit from the economic growth that this legislation will promote.”

Harris also highlighted the economic benefits this legislation will have on Indiana's tourism industry and quality of life. Over two million people visited the Indiana Dunes National Park in 2019. Harris expects this number will rise as new attractions are built on the lakefront.

“After a year of isolation and quarantine, people are going to be looking to get away and travel, so let's give them another reason to come to Northwest Indiana,” Harris said.

“One aim I had with this bill was to allow lakefront communities like Gary to grow their cities and make Northwest Indiana a must-see destination along the lakeshore. It's easy to forget that Lake Michigan is a part of Indiana, but I hope this legislation changes that and allows our state to realize our lakeshore's full potential.”

Members of both the House and Senate will meet to discuss the latest version of HB 1090 and suggest changes within the conference committee. Harris has been assigned as a conferee, meaning he will need to sign off on any changes made to the bill.

“I am very grateful for the bipartisan support I've had on this bill in both chambers,” Harris added. “It's important that we're able to have constructive conversations to make legislation as effective as it can be. I hope to continue having those kinds of conversations as we wrap up with HB 1090.”

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