Two brownfield plans – both for projects located in Ann Arbor – were given approval by the Washtenaw County board of commissioners at its July 10, 2013 meeting, following public hearings on each plan. The projects are at Packard Square (the former Georgetown Mall) and 544 Detroit St. The Ann Arbor city council had signed off on the plans at its June 17, 2013 meeting.
Since the city of Ann Arbor joined the Washtenaw County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority (WCBRA) in 2002, brownfield projects located in the city must receive approval by the county board. The state’s brownfield program offers incentives for redevelopment of property that’s contaminated, blighted or “functionally obsolete.”
The 544 Detroit St. project is seeking brownfield status so that it will be eligible for brownfield tax increment financing. The site plan calls for a three-story “flatiron-style” building, located at the triangle tip of Detroit and North Division, just southwest of the Broadway bridge – the site of a long-abandoned gas station in the Old Fourth ward Historic District. The new building would include offices on the first floor and residences on the upper two floors.
According to a staff memo, up to $698,773 of local and state taxes will be captured for eligible activities, administrative costs, and the Washtenaw County brownfield redevelopment authority local site remediation revolving fund over an estimated 25-year period. The county’s annual millage revenues on that site is estimated to increase from about $277 now to $6,150 after the period for brownfield tax increment financing is completed. [.pdf of 544 Detroit St. brownfield plan]
For Packard Square, located at 2502-2568 Packard St., approval related to an amendment to the project’s original brownfield redevelopment plan, which the county board approved after much debate on May 18, 2011. At that same meeting, the board approved a $1 million grant application to the state Dept. of Environmental Quality for brownfield cleanup at the proposed $50 million development. That grant was later awarded to the project. The project entails building more than 200 apartments and 20,000 square feet of commercial space at 2502-2568 Packard Street.
The amendment to Packard Square’s brownfield plan would add two eligible activities that qualify for brownfield tax increment financing: underground parking and urban stormwater management infrastructure. Those activities are now eligible for TIF, following changes by the state legislature to the Brownfield Redevelopment Act 381 in December 2012. According to a staff memo, the total TIF-eligible activities will now be $3,582,222. Over the 14-year period of the plan, up to $5,840,557 of local and state taxes will be captured for eligible activities, administrative costs, and the Washtenaw County brownfield redevelopment authority local site remediation revolving fund. This amount is unchanged from when the plan was initially adopted.
County millage revenues from the property will increase from about $8,701 annually to $64,138 after the period for brownfield tax increment financing is completed. [.pdf of Packard Square brownfield plan amendment]
Both plans had been recommended for approval by the county’s brownfield development authority at its June 6, 2013 meeting.
Public hearings were held for both projects at the county board’s meeting on July 10. In addition to representatives of the developers, the only other speaker was Thomas Partridge.
Commissioner Ronnie Peterson (D-District 6) raised some procedural concerns about the approval process. He felt the public hearing should be held prior to the initial vote at the board’s ways & means committee meeting. Peterson also objected to taking the final vote on the same night as the initial vote. [Typically, an initial vote is taken at the ways & means committee – on which all board members serve – followed by a final vote at the regular board meeting two weeks later. For most of the year, the ways & means committee and regular board meetings are held every two weeks, in back-to-back sessions on the same night. During the summer, those meetings are held only once a month.]
To protest the process, Peterson cast the sole vote against both brownfield plans on the initial vote at the ways & means committee meeting, but joined all other commissioners in supporting the plans in the final vote at the board meeting.
This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]