Property transfer raises more controversy over proposed industrial park in Clare

By Pat Maurer
Correspondent

After extensive public comment and discussion among the Clare City Commission Monday evening, the board held a Public Hearing and then approved a resolution for the transfer of two parcels totaling 200 acres on Colonville Road from Grant Township to the City of Clare.

Under the Urban Cooperation Agreement (UCA) between the City and Grant Township, adopted in 2008, any property owner within the geographical boundaries of the area designated as District I may request a transfer of the jurisdictional control of the property to the City which moves the property to District II. When a request is received both governmental entities are required to post a 30-day notice of a public hearing to receive comment about the request. Then the governmental units are required to enter into an agreement to transfer the control of the property. The term of the transfer is 83 years, but both the City and Township are “required to review and renegotiate the terms of the agreement to comply with state and federal law every 15 years. During the term of the agreement the Township receives one-half of the taxes levied on the property for the first full year and after that the same amount as levied on other township properties each year.

Former Mayor Al Demarest expressed his concerns over potential plans to develop an industrial park on 60 acres of the property with the help of an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant totaling $2,680,860 towards the estimated $4,468,100 cost of the developing infrastructure (sewer and water) on the property.

The EDA grant award must be accepted by City officials within 30 days according to the U.S. Department of Commerce letter announcing the award.

Demarest argued against the proposal saying, “This City Manager has taken the City on this ride for nine years.” He questioned when the annexed property would be on the city tax roll, what the zoning will be and if the property would receive an “Ag” designation if leased for farming.

City Manager Ken Hibl said it was “too soon to tell” when the property would be on the City’s tax roll, and added that the property would be zoned part industrial and part commercial.

Demarest said, “You must take title of the 60 acre parcel. Then it comes off the tax roll.” He asked what agreement the City had come to compensate the property owners – The Northern Group – for the transfer of ownership.

Hibl replied “The property is being deeded to the City at zero cost.”

Demarest noted that development of an industrial park on Colonville Road would mean the City would assume a 50 percent responsibility for the road. “It is not possible to do this project for $1.7 million,” he said. We can expect an increase in our water and sewer fees.” He also took issue with an earlier statement made by Hibl – that this [project] would take care of the City’s economic needs for 20 years. “That isn’t true,” he said.

Commissioner Tom Koch said to the other board members, “The four of you sitting here have a responsibility to the citizens. We have to figure out where this million dollars will come from.”

Commissioner Bob Bonham responded, “We haven’t made the decision yet. If it is proven to me that we can afford this, I will vote then. I want to see all the facts first.”

Mayor Pro-tem Jean McConnell agreed. “We can’t make a decision now. We don’t have all the information.” She continued, “I understand your position on this for the past nine years.”

In another matter, Hibl asked the Commission for “guidance” on the proposed Brookwood/Briarwood Special Assessment Project.
At the last meeting, the Commission “declared the necessity” of a proposed special assessment street improvement project to Brookwood Drive and Briarwood Streets. The improvement, which would pave a portion of the gravel road, will cost approximately $85,000. The two property owners who would be assessed for the project, Gary DeShano, who owns more than 50 percent of the property and The United States Department of Agriculture, owner of the other affected property, formerly Briarwood Limited had objected to the improvements.

At Monday’s meeting Hibl suggested a 15 year assessment at 4 percent for the two property owners, which would make the project easier to finance for them. He also asked the Commission if they would pay a portion of the costs and if part of the gravel portion should be closed off to all traffic except emergency vehicles.

Bonham said, “I don’t think we should close the gravel portion because of the two fire hydrants.” He also said that the $15,000 Hibl suggested as part of the project cost should not be used. “That $15,000 should be used towards funds to pave the rest of the street.

McConnell suggested that the first assessment payment be deferred for a year as another way to help the property owners manage the assessment.

The project would be done next year with the first of the 15 years of assessments due in 2015.

Other business at the Clare City Commission meeting included:

*During his City Managers Report, Hibl said 23 applications have been received for the position of Airport Manager. Dick Acker, manager for the past 14 years will retire at the end of the month.

*Hibl also presented a preliminary evaluation for improvements to the Dunlop Road Bridge received from Gourdie Fraser, city engineer. The crossing will be limited to one lane, and bridge railings will be replaced, he said.

*The Commission approved an Intergovernmental Agreement for the Fire Chief’s Training Council. The agreement includes five county fire department. Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman, who is also chair of the Council, said the group has been established for several years, but never formalized. The agreement will allow the Council to be the agent for a recently awarded $10,000 from the State for training personnel.

* Darren Acton, Glenda Carmoney and David Prawdzik were reappointed to the City Planning Commission for three years.

*The Commission approved the slate of candidates for the Michigan Municipal League.

*Bills were also approved totaling $133,643.73.

“This City Manager has taken the City on this ride for nine years.” Al Demarest at the City meeting meeting

“The property (60 acres proposed for the new industrial park) is being deeded to the City at zero cost.” City Manager
Ken Hibl

“We haven’t made the decision yet. If it is proven to me that we can afford this, I will vote then. I want to see all the facts first.” City Commissioner Bob Bonham

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