Phase Update

Project Update: Where did the fall go?

All-sports lake in heron lake

Hard to believe that this fall has already gone, but the snow this past week certainly helped! In honor of this quick season change, and to reduce the good natured pestering that I have received about my lack of updates, I am posting another now. Those on our mailing lists already received the majority of this information but I wanted to make sure everyone is up to date. You can download the pdf attached to that mailing here:

Nov 12th – Looking South From North Bay

Since that last mailing list update, I’ve continued to have people contact me for a project updates and recent images. I’ve dropped the ball again but rest assured that our updates and frequency will be increasing. And even this past mailing list update occurred at another hectic cross roads, coinciding with the two year anniversary of commencing development work. As I shared then, this project has shown me that as we reach these milestones, Heron must adapt to meet the new needs.

What a difference 75 days makes!

What a difference from the snow picture above! Indiana only needed 75 days this year to make that happen. Above, my kids are making full use of a ‘2 person’ tube, at least as a handy swim platform. I’m not sure what it would take to pull it!

New Heron Team Members

As shared in the prior mailing list update it was obvious that Heron was demanding more time than our team could give. It was encouraging that our planning was progressing and even with the delays of a large complex project the regional impact was increasing. Since I first started pursuing the Heron project in 2013 it has grown in leaps and bounds and now it is time for our team to do the same. We announced that our team was growing!

Mike Thomas Associates (MTA) is our new residential marketing team and Xplor Commercial is our new commercial marketing team. Their collective experience and structure will provide the backbone to meet our unique needs. MTA will be overseeing and providing marketing, sales support, and perhaps the most encouraging for me is site tours! I have truly enjoyed all of the tours that I have given, meeting everyone, and discussing the details of the community planning. But it was time for me to focus on the final lake improvements, community planning, commercial start-up, and sitewide amenities. Please reach out to MTA’s Andrea Zehr or Jay Price for any information about the site or their decision to represent this community. I know that they have received a warm welcome and lots of inquiries. We are excited to have them on board!

Special Open House

MTA and Lakewood Park Christian School have a special open house this Friday, Nov 22nd from 2PM-4PM. There will be cheese and crackers with information about the school and the Heron Lake project. It is being held at the Buescher Model home on Lot 1. Having Lakewood so close to the Heron Lake project is a great positive for families looking for alternative education options for their children.

Moon rise over a foggy covered Heron Lake
Sandy beach placement within The Springs.

Beaches are in the Springs!

A number of the houses under construction were finished this fall and we are happy to have more families on-site. Other onsite activity included the beaches within The Springs being placed in anticipation of the lake restored to normal level this upcoming summer. Being able to truly utilize the space between the house and lake has always been a driving design factor in our community planning. And we are seeing large patios with yard to spare, inground pools, and other outdoor living spaces being placed in this 80ft wide strip.

Our tour pontoon got quite a work out this summer. We also included a number of tubing and skiing trips for those interested in experiencing the lake. When they are available again this upcoming year, please come for a spin.

Home of the Year

Congratulations on Bob Buescher Homes being awarded Home of the Year for the Best of Home Design contest. Come visit Andrea Zehr or Jay Price at this model home and experience it for yourself.
Timberlin house on Lot 4

Thank you everyone for your responses and feedback on our new marketing and sales team. As I said earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed meeting everyone during the early phases of the Heron project. It was a pleasure to share the vision and receive feedback on our planning. Your comments and thoughts did not go unnoticed. We have tried to provide the lifestyle and community that we value most. And we stand committed to that vision and those goals, regardless of the delays and Indiana weather!

The resident swan families lifting off for an evening flight

In this upcoming year I look forward to moving my family to Heron and enjoying the fruits of everyone’s efforts over these past years. It has been a concerted group effort by so many individuals and families. And it reminds me that during this season of reflection we truly have plenty of blessing for which to be thankful. I hope and pray that the same is for you this year and that you have a pleasant Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

My very best regards,

Stephen Brown

Managing Partner

Waiting for that sunny day.

These past months have been an absolute whirlwind. Between preparing construction documents for our sections to be constructed this year and trying to keep up with inquiries, we have been thankfully quite busy. However, the web update could wait no longer. Even if the sunny day that surprised us wasn’t ideal, we were going to get those drone photos that everyone keeps asking us for.

Show us the houses under construction.” This is common request and we have complied, see below.

North facing comparison

The image above shows the current homes under construction with the marketing sheet perspective for comparison to the right. Note the apparent size comparison between the houses, Bob Buescher’s model home on Lot 1 is only slightly smaller in square footage than the house on Lot 19. And Lot 19 isn’t even a third of the way up the lake! It is quite exciting seeing the house starts and we are looking forward to a few more in these upcoming weeks.

“Show us what the houses look like from the north basin.” This is another typical request. Given the length of the lake and distance to travel around, very few people make it all the way to the northern end. Unless you’ve been on a tour, you probably haven’t been on the 3 mile loop all the way around.

South facing view comparison

As you can see from the image comparison above, the other reason we don’t typically post a lot of pictures from the north end is because you can’t see the homes to the south. They are basically a mile away and quite difficult to pick out of a picture. But hopefully the comparison above will demonstrate relative sizes and new perspective for most of you.

Thanks to everyone that have provided feedback on our townhouse planning and also attended the roundabout hearings. We still have not fully committed to the roundabout but hope that it will be possible. That intersection treatment is the best solution for this unique location.

Our website and marketing package is currently being overhauled with the new sections that will be available for transfer this year. We are looking forward to sharing our updated planning and timelines soon! Join our mailing list to stay up-to-date and don’t forget to schedule your free tour. As the weather permits your tour may also include a boat ride. Enjoy the sun while it lasts!

Heron Property Taxes & Assessments

This update is somewhat unusual as we will have a brief discussion about the property taxes and Resident Assessment at Heron Lake.  In short, combined the property taxes and Resident Assessment at Heron Lake should be cheaper than just the taxes at your current lake house.  To find out how and why we planned it this way read below.  Otherwise, skip to the last paragraph for the brief update and look for the pictures!

Two of the more common questions we receive during tours concerns property taxes and our Resident Assessment.  Typically our tour guests are used to paying taxes on a secondary residence in the public lakeband that does not benefit from a homestead exemption.  In fact, along with actual projected site maintenance expenses, the homestead exemption was a primary factor in determining the target amount for the Resident Assessment at Heron Lake.

Lot 1 under construction

We did not want any homeowner to pay more for their combined property tax and Resident Assessment than a single secondary residence tax payment in the public lakeband.  Meaning that combining houses from Allen County and the public lakeband would always result in a major reduction in property taxes but what about the other recurring costs?  We wanted the recurring cost of living at Heron Lake to be less than the public lakeband and offer so much more in return.  Remember that this Resident Assessment covers lakeshore maintenance, trail access, marina access, etc. and other items/services not being provided in the lakeband.  So what impact does a homestead have?

Springs marina under construction. The far shoreline is 3/8 of a mile away.

Here are a handful of telling data points about the homestead exemption by county in 2017.  In Allen County the nonhomestead residential taxes were 19% of the overall residential taxes.  In DeKalb County this was 26% and in Steuben County this was 64%.  That means that in Steuben County the nonhomestead residential taxes account for twice as much revenue as the homesteads!  Whereas in Allen County the homesteads are over 4 times the revenue of the nonhomesteads.  Surprisingly, the amount of nonhomestead taxes in Steuben County was greater than the total residential taxes in DeKalb County.

These exemptions are not created equal as the reduction is not the same from county to county.  In Steuben County the average difference in your tax bill caused by the homestead exemption is a 9.3% reduction, in Allen County it is 12.5%.  In DeKalb County this homestead exemption is on average a reduction of 25.3%.  By analyzing these rate reductions and our overall maintenance planning, we are able to tell those people on tours that your tax bill on a secondary house in the lake band should be greater than your combined tax bill AND your Resident Assessment at Heron Lake.  And we will save this concept for another discussion:  Your tax rates at Heron will not be treated as if you are on lakefront, because the lake is privately owned, not owned by the State.

Crushing equipment for recycling the concrete on-site.

If you made it this far through the boring numbers and tax discussion, congratulations!  Here are a couple updates to reward your persistence.  We are excited to see our recycling efforts proceeding with material piles on site.  Watching the crushing and cleanup just reinforces how far along the site has come from four years ago when we took possession.  The homes under construction continue to progress and there should be a couple more started shortly so stay tuned.  The electric, data fiber, and natural gas are all being installed now as well.  Our site has City of Auburn water, sewer, electricity, data fiber, and NIPSCO for natural gas.

Electrical and fiber work for connections to the homes.

Thank you for your interest in the Heron Lake project, don’t forget to schedule your tour!

Roundabout Planning Underway!

We are pleased to announce that two weeks ago Heron Development received provisional approval from the Redevelopment Commission (RDC) for matching TIF funds to aid in our construction of a proposed roundabout.  These funds, up to $225,000, will be used for construction pending the additional approval of the final construction plans and permitting by the various agencies.  Heron is excited about the opportunity to improve this intersection and help aid in regional development and growth.  This intersection treatment, seen below, will accommodate all forms of traffic and allow for better traffic flows in the future as they continue to increase.  This roundabout is much larger than the roundabouts on Union Chapel Road in Allen County, instead using sizing currently in practice around Indianapolis.  This will provide our primary commercial entrance and we anticipate that it will commence construction next spring and be completed by early summer.  Thank you to all that appeared at the public meetings, met with us individually, or otherwise provide feedback and comments!

Proposed Roundabout

On other news, Bob Buescher Homes broke ground with trenching footers for their model home foundation today!  This model is going in at Lot 1 in The Springs.  We are excited to see the model homes start construction.  Stay tuned for other updates and keep your eyes open for other foundations being placed.  Should you have any questions about the Buescher model home please don’t hesitate to contact them at the number shown in the picture.


The other house in the picture is a private home being built by Timberlin on Lot 5.  It quite amazing to see the homes starting to take shape.  Don’t forget to schedule your tour and see the transformations occurring around the site!

Springs – Lot 1 – Bob Buescher Homes

More houses starting & regional advertising underway!

Thanks to everyone that has downloaded the Community documents since the last post.  Those documents detail the Architectural Review process, Lake Rules, Community guidelines, and so much more.  We are excited that our Architectural review process has been receiving positive feedback from owners and builders.  The points based system seems to resonate with those looking for unique housing and building for their specific lifestyle.   Looking forward to reviewing many more houses!

House construction in The Springs

We receive many inquiries about the lot sizing and what can be done on the Lake Yard side of the house.  The picture above shows a house currently under construction in Section 1 of the The Springs.  This four car side load garage layout shows what space is left in the Lake Yard and the ability to place patios, pools, and other features on the lakeside of the house.  Our community has been designed to provide ample Lake Yard for true all around enjoyment of the water.  Typical public lakeband lots have 30% of this depth in the Lake Yard making it difficult to accommodate patios, pools and outside living spaces.

Auburn area billboard

Key an eye open for our regional advertising.  There have been a few billboard postings, both traditional and digital boards, all around the area.  We are excited about the community starting to come together and look forward to additional lots being developed this summer.  Thank you to those that have sent us pictures of the various advertising boards!

Angola area billboard

Over the upcoming weeks we anticipate additional house starts and commencing construction of Section 2 of The Springs.  This final section of The Springs will have 11 lots and will complete the north shore lakefront lots until the Reserva townhouses are started later this summer.  Thank you for your interest and feedback on the Heron Lake project, don’t forget to schedule your tour!

More site documents available soon, houses starting!

Due to the great number of requests for our Architectural Control documents we will be posting those to the website shortly, thanks for all of the requests!  We have been pleased with the initial Architectural reviews and application of our points based system for new house review.  The feedback has been quite positive and we look forward to adapting it as needed.  As we tell most people on tours, traditional Restrictive Covenants tell you what not to build.  Our points based system tells you what to build, and clearly defines areas of long term impact for the home owner.  If you have any questions or would like additional information please let us know!

Concrete pouring in the Springs

Seeing the house construction across the lake has been very enjoyable.  Having houses for size comparison across the lake has really helped with the perception of the size of the lake.  In the photo above one can easily see the two redi-mix concrete trucks and workers placing a basement floor.  Our first section of the Springs has 20 lakefront and 13 non-lakefront lots.  Watching them getting filled up is quite exciting!

House staking in The Springs

During tours lately we have had a lot of questions about the various stakes in the ground and markers around The Springs.  The picture above helps show a number of these common construction site stakes.  Immediately visible are the pink flags.  These denote building corners for the placing the foundation of a house.  Most people are surprised at how small a house feels without the walls!  Once the house starts going vertical it starts to feel like a house.  Off to the right hand side are approximate locations of property lines.  Constructing a house within the lot can be quite a challenge, knowing outside spacing is critical.  At Heron we kept the side yard setbacks 40% wider than typical public lake properties.  People need space and you’ll appreciate the extra width when you hop on your riding mower!  In the top middle of the picture you can observe a couple pieces of equipment.  Now that the roadway and other items are installed (look for green pipes sticking out of the ground for city sanitary sewer taps, blue for city water tap locations) the other utilities are now on-site getting their facilities installed.  Over the upcoming weeks natural gas, data/fiber, and electricity will be placed on site.  They rely on property corner stakes, as well as more critical right of way and easement locators.  It can be a sea of colors and stakes when you get to this stage of construction, and each stake is critical to a successful development.  It is this combination of trades and services that truly makes a successful development.  Seeing the various stakes and markers just drives home how many different aspects of construction have to come together on any site.

We look forward to even more activity in the upcoming weeks, don’t forget to schedule your tour and see if Heron Lake is the community for you!

Houses under construction!

These past few weeks have been quite busy.  There haven’t been any updates because we have all been scrambling to prepare for the activity this spring.  The first lot closings are occurring and house foundations are starting!  The initial house outlines have been staked on-site and seeing these stakes has helped demonstrate how truly deep the lakefront lots are.  These lots are designed for primary residences, so you can live, work, and play at the same location.  Imagining the lake yard spaces and how they will be outfitted is exciting!


House staking – March 2018

This progress also means that we have had a number of homes go the Architectural Control Committee (ACC) for review and initial approvals.  This process has raised a number of recurring questions that we will be addressing below.  Should you have any questions on specific items please don’t hesitate to reach out to the ACC:

  • What is the minimum square footage for houses in the Springs?  The minimum building footprint is 1,800 square feet.
  • After I sign the Purchase Agreement for an available lot, how long until I have to close on the lot? 6 months, then 18 months to start construction.
  • If I reserve a lot in a future section, how long do I have to decide if I want to actually commit and purchase?  You have until the lot is available for build-out.
  • Can I have a pool or patio in the Lake Yard?  Yes, as long as the pool is in-ground and the patio elements do not substantially impede the visibility of the lake for your neighbors.
  • Can I harvest the lake water for irrigation?  Yes, we encourage residents to use the lake for irrigation purposes.  For novel uses such as this we offer additional points.
  • Do you want the homes to all look the same?  Do we have flexibility in house style and outfitting?  We do not want all of the homes to appear the same.  We want and encourage variety and appropriate contrast between homes.  We highly encourage all home builders to arrange a meeting with the ACC prior to a formal application.  We want to discuss our planning and goals for the site.
  • What type of house can we build on the non-lakefront lots? Are we limited to a selection of builders?  The non-lakefront lots are similar to 85ft wide subdivision style lot.  They are slightly deeper than typical lots in our region.  You can build the house of your choosing and even select your builder.

Don’t forget to schedule your tour and see the site transform this spring!

Heron FAQ Updates

Over the past month the Rules and Restrictions for the Heron Lake PUD have been available for review.  We have received a couple common questions concerning the specific details of those documents.  The list below are the responses to those questions:

1 – Is the 200HP engine & 45MPH speed limit a fixed restriction?

These have been the most commonly asked questions.  The simple response is no, they are not outright restriction, they are guidelines that may be waived by Heron Property Management.  Being a private lake there must be some criteria by which HPM could restrict access and activities for the safety of those on the water.  For this purpose no boat may be launched without an ID issued by HPM, that is the prior written approval component.  So to have a watercraft on the lake requires HPM approval, there is no unrestricted or unevaluated access to the lake.

For example, if you have a boat that exceeds the guideline of 200HP, HPM would note that excess in our ID files and also that we had requested you pay special attention to your watercraft activities given the size of your engine.  Now go have a great time on the lake.  The same is true for the 45MPH speed limit, the overall safety of those boating is our primary concern.  And we can move that guideline in both directions.  We anticipate, given feedback, that there will be calm periods sporadically throughout the summer where motorized traffic will be prohibited to allow canoeing, kayaking, or other non-motorized activities to fully enjoy the lake.

In short, HPM retains the ability to enforce safe activities on the lake and will not allow unrestricted or unsupervised access to the lake.  We have published guidelines for safe operation and will give substantial leeway for residents to enjoy the water in their own fashion.  The Residents will have say in the uses that are allowed on the water, that is the beauty of a private lake.

2 – Does the marina allow for public access?  Are you selling boats?

No, the only people with access to the water are Residents at Heron Lake.  That would be landowners that are current in their assessments/fees/dues.  The marinas are essentially in-land docks to allow non-lakefront lots, and those that don’t want the hassle of dock placement, to have direct access to the water.  The northernmost marina will have seasonal maintenance services offered and we will have re-fueling options but do not intend to have outside sales or services offered.

Thanks to everyone for your comments and feedback!  We also really appreciate the response to the exhibit from last week that detailed the difference in sizing for traditional public lake lots and our development.  It is thought provoking to consider what might have been if this site had been developed during the bungalow era.  Don’t miss out on your chance to experience the site during the winter and schedule your tour!