South Bend Common Council on Amazon: 'The council has no say in that'
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — On Monday, the South Bend Common Council briefly discussed the public reaction to the Amazon.com delivery center set to open in South Bend this year.
Council members expressed concern after receiving calls and e-mails from members of a local group, No Amazon in South Bend. The group made a Facebook post claiming at Monday night’s meeting the city would be ‘giving Amazon a tax abatement.’
“I think there’s a been a little bit of a misunderstanding in terms of some of the things that are on the agenda tonight,” said Jake Teksha, a South Bend Common Council member.
On Monday, the Common Council approved another speculative building to be built inside of the industrial park near Cleveland Road. This approved ‘spec’ building will be the fourth ‘spec’ building in the park.
According to council members, the ‘spec’ building allows for developers to build property without the immediate promise of a tenant. The ‘spec’ building is made with the hopes of attracting new tenants to the area.
An Elkhart native, who asked his last name not be released for this story, has ties to union groups in South Bend that are a part of ‘No Amazon South Bend.’ He said when asked about the post that Amazon.com is not seeking a tax abatement.
“They were awarded a tax abatement,” he said.
He said the Common Council awarded Great Lakes Capital, which owns the industrial park, $3.1 million in tax abatements. Teshka said the developer did receive the tax abatement, but when it did, the building was vacant and without an interested tenant.
Amazon.com announced in April its plans to run a delivery center in South Bend. The corporation has not released the official site of the center, but state documents show the corporation’s name on a speculative building on Chet Waggoner Court.
“There’s no reason why the City of South Bend should use our tax dollars to bring a company like Amazon,” the man said.
However, the city said Amazon.com has not reached out to the Department of Community Investment about anything, including a tax abatement request. According to the city, the common council approved Great Lakes Capital’s request for a tax abatement at ‘Spec 2’ approximately two years ago.
On Monday, ‘No Amazon in South Bend’ hosted a phone blast, calling the Mayor’s office and elected officials to express their concerns with Amazon.com. However, Teshka said at this point, the council has no say in the matter.
“At this point, the council has no say in that, that’s a private business transaction between the development and Amazon or whoever else would like to lease that building,” said Teshka.
The Elkhart native said ’No Amazon in South Bend’ has grown to 100 supporters, including residents of German Township. He said the group is not against jobs coming to the city, just bad jobs.
He said they would be open to a meeting with either of the groups. And while members of the group continue to express concerns to elected officials, Teshka said the council encourages the group to reach out to both entities.
“Certainly we can use our platforms and try and urge the companies moving in there to the do right thing as any elected official can,” he said. “But as far as actual authority over this we don’t have any say over it at this point.”