County Moves to Join Pittsfield State St. Project

The Washtenaw County board of commissioners has taken an initial vote to approve participation in Pittsfield Township’s State Street corridor improvement authority (CIA). The vote, taken after about a 90-minute debate at the board’s Oct. 16, 2013 meeting, was 8 to 1, with dissent from Dan Smith (R-District 2).

The resolution would authorize the county administrator to sign a tax-sharing agreement with Pittsfield Township and the State Street CIA, which is overseen by an appointed board. [.pdf of agreement] The agreement would allow the CIA to capture 50% of any county taxes levied on new development within the corridor boundaries, not to exceed $3,850,464 over a 20-year period, through 2033. The purpose is to provide a funding mechanism for improvements to the State Street corridor between the I-94 interchange and Michigan Avenue, as outlined in the CIA development and tax increment financing plan. [.pdf of TIF plan]

The Pittsfield Township board of trustees held a public hearing on the CIA at its Oct. 9, 2013 meeting. That started the clock on a 60-day period during which any taxing entities within the corridor can “opt out” of participation. The Washtenaw County parks & recreation commission voted to participate at its Oct. 8, 2013 meeting. Other local taxing entities in the corridor are Washtenaw Community College, the Huron Clinton Metro Authority, and the Saline and Ann Arbor district libraries.

Dan Smith (R-District 2) attempted to postpone action on participation until the Nov. 20 meeting. His motion failed on a 2-7 vote, with support only from D. Smith and Conan Smith (D-District 9).

D. Smith then moved a substitute resolution stating that the county would not participate in the CIA. [.pdf of D. Smith's substitute resolution] He said he supported the road improvement project, but objected to the TIF funding mechanism. He noted that the county had the ability to invest directly in the project using general fund money. He also pointed out that if the county participated in the CIA, the county would have no control over how its portion of the captured taxes are spent. In addition, the decision not to participate would not necessarily be permanent, he said, because the county board could rescind this resolution at any point. Rescinding his resolution would trigger participation in the CIA.

The vote on D. Smith’s opt-out resolution failed on a 2-7 vote, with support only from D. Smith and C. Smith.

In total, the board debated the issue and asked questions of Pittsfield Township representatives for about 90 minutes. Questions were fielded by supervisor Mandy Grewal, consultant Dick Carlisle, attorney Jim Fink, and Craig Lyon, the township’s director of utilities and municipal services.

A final vote is expected on Nov. 6.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building at 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor, where the board of commissioners holds its meetings. A more detailed report will follow: [link]