Hamlet Residents Call for Better Housing, More Local Jobs during Comprehensive Plan Input Session

A lack of quality housing options and major employment opportunities are a couple of challenges residents think are facing the Town of Hamlet. More than 20 residents discussed what they like about the town and what they think is missing, during an input session Tuesday, as part of Hamlet’s comprehensive planning process.

Those in attendance generally liked the community’s small-town atmosphere, but weren’t opposed to the idea of growth, noting that there’s little to keep the town’s younger residents from moving away. Some suggested that more local jobs would be a potential solution, but others felt that the bigger issue was clean, affordable housing.

“If you have homes, people will come. You put up a big factory, people will drive to come to work there,” resident Frank Lonigro said. “I mean, they’re not always going to live here. . . . We don’t have really any homes here in town that are not full that are worth living in.”

It was noted that, as it is, people are often attracted to Hamlet by the low cost of housing, but when they’re ready to upgrade to a better home, they choose to look for cleaner and newer options elsewhere. As for what type of housing would work in Hamlet, residents weren’t necessarily opposed to apartments, but they noted that single-family homes might encourage people to stay in the town long-term.

One thing residents said is missing in Hamlet is a place to buy basic items like milk, bread, and cleaning supplies. Town officials reported that the idea of upgrading U.S. 30 to freeway standards isn’t helping the situation at this point, since the uncertainty is discouraging new businesses from setting up operations.

At the same time, residents worry that a declining population is threatening some of the community’s bigger assets. Oregon-Davis Schools were praised for the quality of the facilities and the small class sizes, but it was pointed out that declining enrollment will lead to less funding from the state. Similarly, residents liked Hamlet’s park facilities but said kids often have to go out of town to play sports because there aren’t enough children to have organized leagues in town.

The input session was facilitated by planners from HWC Engineering. The company was contracted by the town council to put together the comprehensive plan, with funding from the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs and the Starke County Community Foundation. Town Council Member Brian Earnest explained that a comprehensive plan is a good thing for communities to have, and availability of the grant funding along with the fact that it’s needed for Constellation of Starke’s Stellar Communities application, make this a good opportunity to create one.

Going forward, HWC will work with a local steering committee to review residents’ input as well as other research, and set priorities. A draft version of the plan will then be presented to the public, before it goes to the town council for adoption. Those who missed Tuesday’s meeting can still offer input by filling out an online survey.