Friday, September 4, 2020

Four Generations, and counting?

It's Never Too Late To Voice! Save the Farm!

Scheeringa Farms & Produce
9436 Cline Avenue
Highland, Indiana 46322

This blog is my personal opinion, and not that of the Scheeringa's or Stracks. The dated events at the bottom of this blog are from meeting minutes from the Town of Highland's website.

Four generations on their property, and 3 generations of farming on the same leased land, with a gentlemen's hand shake should we ever sell, the Scheeringa family would have the option to buy first. So all of these years the Scheeringa's have been working and living on that hand shake. Something  "American Pickers" would be proud of.

October 1960, Nick Van Til and Ernie Strack opened their first store together in Highland. Their vision being to bring the freshest food to the community of NW Indiana. They still do today, from the stones throw away Scheeringa Farms & Produce.

The Strack's care about what the customer wants. They are dedicated to the communities they serve. They employ people of NWI. They are proud of what they do, and they back that up by a phone number and E-mail address for Jeff Strack right on every grocery bag so you can contact them. That is quality.

I wish the Town of Highland council felt the same about their own community. They are wanting to pull the land out from under the Sheringas, without the Scheeringas say and their right to bid on the land. I will say this, President Mark Shocke has been a supporter for the Scheeringa's keeping the land. For unknown and appearance of underlying reasons, I will even say shoddy reasons, the Highland Town Counsel is ramrodding the sale of the land to Russel Construction of Davenport Iowa to build a senior complex on it, with a cost to the taxpayers which the amount they are not fully divulging. Me, it sounds like the Town of Highland Town Theater episode all over again.

The Scheringas fully support the right of the Stracks right to sell to whomever they want. The land is owned by Griffland Center Inc., who owns the buildings, road, and farm field. The Vice President of Griffland Center Inc. is Jeff Strack, with the involvement with other family members in Griffland Center Inc. What I protest is that the Scheringa's have not been given a place at the table to make an offer as the families shook on years ago. The Highland council seemingly not wanting to recognize the Sheringa's rights to make an offer to Griffland Center Inc., all for the good of spending Highlander's tax money to support a new road, lighting, sewers, to bring in something that will generate jobs and create revenue. Jobs? In the emergency meeting of August 31st, 2020, they said this place would bring Highlander's jobs. How many job opening are there? Is there a guarantee that x-number of jobs will be set aside for Highlander's? Typical business, "get the most qualified for the least cost". Something tells me there will not be too many Highlander's hired. Revenue? This is a retirement home, limited income people, and in a location where there is not very many places to spend their money if they had money. Perhaps they will provide a taxpayer paid bus from the home to downtown Highland.

(Click on each image to enlarge.)

And . . .

Note the address above, 2244 45th Street. That is the Strack's office near Highland Gyros.

Jeff Strack has placed his E-mail address and phone number at least on the paper groceiry bags. I urge you to send him an E-mail asking that Griffland Center Inc. give the Scheeringa's a chance to bid on the land.

Please realize the market these investors are perceiving. Baby boomers either have retired, are in the process of retiring, or will retire soon. That is a very large population to market to, and time is of the essence if you want to cash in. There is already Sheffield Manor Assisted Living in Dyer, Symphony of Dyer which is new, and Cedarhurst of Dyer opening soon.There is Hartsfield Village in Munster, and nameless others in surrounding communities. I can understand why Russel Construction picked this site. It is a greenfield site. Costs a lot less for them to build their. A lot more profit for them after they are done and walk away.

The question is, what are our needs today and tomorrow? Investors are interested on monetary returns. They will build and force sell anything to make a buck. As consumers, we need to be aware. As consumers, what do we want? Do we want to leave our home to live in a strange place, that maybe, just maybe, there will be someone kind there to help take care of us. Or, do you want to remain in our familiar home, perhaps stay indoors, to arrange our own in-home care with someone we can trust, and what will not break your bank. Where are we trending? I foresee my family keeping our home, perhaps with a reverse mortgage, and in-home care. This is where we are comfortable, among family and friends. I am a baby boomer. I will not need senior citizen housing, thanks.

Speaking of breaking the bank, this development is touting $3,500 to $5,500 per months depending on the plan you chose. The people of highland that are for this state a reason of "being closer" than going elsewhere. But look at the cost!

Bottom line, no matter how the Highland town council wants to paint this, this IS NOT a good project for the citizens of Highland. It IS NOT a good project for the surrounding community of citizens who enjoy this farm. We DO NOT need this senior citizens housing. Oh, by the way, there are plenty of other places in Highland to build this.

Like most land that we had enjoyed traveling to and seeing, that has now been sold for development greed, Scheeringa's Farm (the land they do not own along a possible 40 feet of land they do own) could most likely follow the same fate. It does not have to if we care enough to say NO! NOT THIS TIME! The Highland Town Council has the ability to not go through with finalizing this re-zoning.

Here are some photographs I took today. If you have not been there before, this might be the time to go, before the land is lost. (Not the house, the land they farm is what is at stake.) If you have enjoyed this farm, the animals, the hay rides, the fresh produce you can buy there or at Stracks, please support them by letting the Highland Town Council know what you want. Here is the page to the Highland Town Council.

Note, these photographs also include our local NBC 5 Chicago News. Chris Coffey, Investigative Reporter, was kind enough to come out to "see" and report. I have to admit, I was a bit captivated by the process, so you will see more photographs of that perhaps.

Note too that NBC 5 Chicago News gave their report on this at 5:00 PM this day. A final statement by NBC reported the Town of Highland stated citizens new about this a year ago. Well, a year ago plans were not presented, and the petition was removed. So everyone thought it was over with. Then came July of this year, when the petition came back. In the middle of the pandemic. Followed by an "emergency" meeting this past Monday evening that seemed like everything was being railroaded down the citizens of Highland's throats, without public say. The Highland Town Council voted to proceed with the re-zoning, even with all the No!


July 17, 2019 the petitioner's first proposal. Two council members had concerns, with some hesitancy to move forward. In the end the petitioner was granted a Public Hearing for rezoning and subdivision with a 5-1 vote. Commissioner Shocke voting no. (Meeting minutes.) (NOTE: This is where it begins to mention negotiations with Jeff Strack (of Griffland) through attorney Glen Patterson. Page 2, 3rd paragraph from the bottom of the page.)

August 21, 2019, a continuance of the Public Hearing was requested because the engineering documentation was not complete. Roll call vote 7-0 for the continuance. (Meeting minutes.)

October 16, 2019, request for another continued hearing for November 20th.Roll call vote 4-1. Commissioner Shocke voted no. At that time Attorney Wyllie for the petitioner was asked about how many continuances have been requested. Wyllie responded he did not have the answer and left. The public's first time to attend and ask questions was this meeting, however nobody stayed to answer. So with respect to the Public Hearing, nothing was heard. (Meeting minutes.)

November 20, 2019, after many continuances and citizens complaints the petition was withdrawn. Still no Public Hearing. (Meeting minutes.)

February 26, 2020, "Developer unveils new plan for Highland senior living center, attempts to correct social media misinformation." This notice could not be found on the Town of Highland website. Note the cost! There is no way I could ever afford this!!! (9/5/2020, I updated to add this, given by a reader.) (Link to Chicago Tribune coverage.)

May 6th, 2020, David Smith of the Russel Group and attorney Jim Weiser show a proposal with modifications. (Meeting minutes.)

June 3, 2020, request was made by the petitioner for a June 17 preliminary meeting. Concerns were made regarding being able to actually meet because of the Pandemic. In discussion was how to obtain 40 more feet from Ken Scheeringa's land. Outcome was it would have to be either voluntary, or taken by Eminent Domain. (Study session minutes.)

June 17, 2020 meeting on Zoom, however no posting could be easily found (not posted in a high traffic area, easy for anyone to find). So nobody was really informed in order to attend, and probably not at all familiar with Zoom. A public hearing was requested for July 15th, and was granted with a 7-0 vote. (Meeting minutes.)

July 15, 2020 Public Hearing during the pandemic. The few citizens who new about the meeting and who could attend voiced their complaints and concerns. Some citizens voiced their concern about eminent domain to take 40 ft of Scheeringa's property. Please note: "Mr. Ken Scheeringa of 9613 Kleinman Rd. commented that there was a discussion with him when the Senior Living Facility was on the agenda in 2019. He continued he has not heard anything since then. He said the discussion was with a different group of people due to there being an election and there are now some different Town Council members serving. He said he is surprised that no new conversations has taken place. (Meeting minutes.)

August 31st, 2020, with 300+ in attendance using zoom, 7400 views and 1400 comments on Facebook, the overwhelming majority against, the counsel voted in favor of rezoning, perhaps purposefully over looking amendments trying to be made by a counsel member. Looks like abuse of power by the other counsel members. (Meeting minutes not posted as of 9/7/2020.)

So, the Town of Highland replies to NBC 5 Chicago News that the citizens of Highland new about this a year ago. In last Monday's meeting the Town of Highland Counsel indicated there were many citizens in favor of this in the last meeting. What meeting? Given the above, that is very difficult to believe. 

August 31st was called as an emergency meeting, just making the very last moments of the required period (48 hrs?) to give notice. Sounds fishy. Short notice, however the citizens of the Town of Highland broadcasted loud and clear through social media that if you want a voice in this you need to attend the meeting. This voice came, it was loud and clear, stating NO. Furthermore, people were cut off from commenting so that the counsel could vote, YES.

This is far from over. It is not a done deal. There is a Facebook protest group of 658+ members and a petition at the farm stand. A meetup to discuss a protest is set for 6:30 PM this coming Tuesday the 8th, at the Main Square Park (weather permitting, alternate location TBD). Also, call or E-mail Jeff Strack and ask that the Scheeringa's be given the opportunity to buy the land as agreed upon. Again, please be polite. The Scheeringa's respect and support the Stracks in any direction they want to take.

(Protesting Highland's Town Council)

Updated 9/10/2020 3:41 PM to site difference between Griffland LLC, and Griffland Center with Jeff Strack as V.P.  Griffland LLC has nothing to do with this project.

No comments: