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Gary board deeds wrong 8 blocks to panel

People students leave end school day Charter School Dunes Miller sectiGary Ind. Tuesday January 22 2013. The school is one

People and students leave at the end of the school day at Charter School of the Dunes in the Miller section of Gary, Ind. Tuesday January 22, 2013. The school is one of three Gary schools that will not have their charters renewed by Ball State University. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 14, 2014 12:21PM

GARY — Commerce chief J. Forest Hayes on Wednesday said his staff will move immediately to correct a key board’s vote that deeded roughly eight blocks of city property — including much of Lake Street Beach — to the Redevelopment Commission for possible private development.

One of Hayes’ employees said a quick fix is all that is needed.

Hayes, who also is president of the Redevelopment Commission, said the legal description given by his Redevelopment Department to the Board of Public Works and Safety should have listed only the part of the property holding the former Charter School of the Dunes at 860 N. Lake St., about four acres.

Redevelopment Commission members recently said they want to issue requests for proposals from vendors who can develop the four-acre part of the larger parcel into a possible hotel development.

The Board of Works transferred the deeds for the 5600 block through the 6400 block of Indian Boundary Road, all of which were consolidated into one parcel, to the Redevelopment Department, which is overseen by the commission, for development on the department’s request.

Correcting the mistake “really should not be a big deal,” said Redevelopment Director Joe Van Dyk, who reports to Hayes.

“We just need to carve out that (former) charter school property,” Van Dyk said. “It should’ve been a real easy fix. The question should have come up (by the Board of Works) ‘Why is this whole thing being included?’”

Van Dyk said he does not know when the multiple tracts making up the property were consolidated into one parcel.

Hayes insisted the Board of Works is not to blame for the vote.

“There are no intentions on the part of the Redevelopment Commission to develop that entire portion of the beach. That was an inadvertent staff error on the part of the Redevelopment staff,” Hayes said after meeting with board members following their vote. “We plan to make (the four-acre site) the subject of a real estate development project.”

While he attended the meeting in question, Hayes said he does not know how the inaccurate description got into the Board of Works agenda. The board approves most of the daily city business, such as paying bills, salaries, contracts and property transfers.

“However this happened, it will be corrected,” Hayes said.

The city commonly transfers parcels to the Redevelopment Department for private development, but the size and location of the eight-block swath the Board of Works deeded raised a ruckus, especially among city critics.

Redevelopment Department staff now must get an accurate legal description of the portion of the property they want the city to deed to the department, either through a survey or through an official, legal description from Lake County officials, Hayes said.

Then, Hayes must ask the Board of Works to rescind Wednesday’s vote and approve the transfer of only the four-acre site.

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