In August of 2013, the Superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore asked if the NPT would be willing to acquire, hold title, and ultimately donate a 27.5 acre parcel (the Munson property) that surrounds the Park's visitor center but is not currently contiguous to the Park boundary. Much of the property is forested wetland. The visitor center is leased space in a County visitor center outside the Lakeshore boundary. The project was being funded by Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), a subsidiary of NISOURCE Energy as part of a $1.5 M environmental enforcement consent decree.
The NPS has authority to acquire property contiguous to the existing boundary. They wanted to have this parcel protect it from development and to develop exhibits on restoration methods being used throughout the Lakeshore. There was also a 9.64 acre property the NPS would also need to acquire that is contiguous to the existing National Lakeshore boundary and would connect the 27.5 acre Munson property to the National Lakeshore. This would enable the NPS to seek a boundary change to include both properties and then accept title to them. The NPS wanted like NPT to acquire to both properties, sell a portion of the 9.64 acre Route 20 (Canonie) property to the adjacent Discovery School, and retain the remaining 4.81 acre portion along with the 27.5 acre Munson parcels. NPT would hold title to the remaining 32.5 acres until the NPS is able to modify the Lakeshore boundary, and then donate them to the NPS to be preserved as part of the National Lakeshore.
During the Winter of 2013/2014, NPT negotiated and signed an MOU with NIPSCO to acquire these properties using funds provided by NIPSCO and to retain ownership until the NPS has effected a boundary change and accepts title to the properties from NPT as a donation. NIPSCO has approval from EPA for this acquisition as part of the settlement including NPT’s administrative costs of holding the property until it can be transferred to the NPS.
Under the MOU, NIPSCO transferred $716,200.00 in funds to NPT cover the costs of acquisition, including the purchase price as well as any due diligence and NPT staff costs.
In the Spring of 2014, NPT proceeded with the following acquisition efforts:
- A subsidiary LLC, wholly owned and operated by NPT, was established to hold title to the properties.
- A purchase agreement was negotiated and signed for the 10 acre Route 20 (Canonie)property.
- A title company was retained and Title searches and Insurance obtained on both properties.
- Environmental Site Assessments meeting NPS standards were completed on both properties and determined acceptable to the Park and the Discovery school.
- A survey was initiated on the Route 20 property to divide it so that NPT can sell part to Discovery School.
- On May 15, 2014, NPT closed on the 9.64 acre Route 20 (Canonie) property and 7 of 8 lots, comprising 26 acres, of the Munson Place property. NPT also applied for Property Tax Exemptions for the LLC on all properties.
- On June 30, 2014, NPT completed the sale of part (4.83 acres) of the Route 20 (Canonie) property to the Discovery School. NPT retained 4.81 acres.
- We then provided a letter to the Superintendent of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore indicating our intent to donate the properties to the NPS, asking the NPS initiate the process to modify the park boundary to include the two properties, offering to make them available for park visitor use, and asking for the park’s assistance in monitoring the them pending transfer of title.
- We received a reply from Park Superintendent Paul Labovitz agreeing to accept the donation and indicating that the request for a boundary change was being initiated.
- NPT then worked with NIPSCO & Lake Erie Land Company to eliminate the billboard lease on the 8th and last lot of the Munson Place property.
- On April 13, 2015, NPT closed on the last lot of Munson Place.
- We developed and filed a Conservation Easement on all of the properties assuring protection of them until the title is finally transferred to the United States to be part of the National Lakeshore.
NPT then successfully appealed a Porter County denial of Tax exempt status for the properties and received a property tax refund of $22,500.00 from the County.
We worked with the NPS to facilitate approval of boundary change to include to properties. Final notice to the Congress was issued by the Department of the Interior in the Fall of 2015.
The NPS Lands Division is currently contracting for an updated Environmental Site Assessment and arranging for a new title search and policy.
We expect to close, transferring title to all the properties to the NPS, in the Spring of 2016.
NPT will arrange a donation ceremony/press event with the NPS and NIPSCO at Indiana Dunes upon closing. We plan to include students from NPT’s Buddy Bison School Program in the Ceremony.
At the completion of the project, NPT expects that there will be significant funds remaining from the original NIPSCO grant. These funds will be used, with NIPSCO’s approval, to fund an additional conservation project at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Contact: Dick Ring at: firstname.lastname@example.org , 240-476-0640