Washtenaw County board of commissioners working session (May 5, 2011): Continuing a debate that began at their regular board meeting the previous day, county commissioners spent part of their most recent working session getting more information about a brownfield proposal for the Packard Square project in Ann Arbor.
Tony VanDerworp, left, talks with Washtenaw County commissioners Conan Smith and Dan Smith before a May 5, 2011 working session. VanDerworp is director of the economic development & energy department, which manages the county's brownfield program.
The board had been asked at its May 4 meeting to give initial approval of a $1 million grant application and $1 million loan from the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources and Environment, for brownfield cleanup at the proposed Packard Square development. The board was also asked to authorize designation of the county’s full faith and credit as a guarantee for any loan that might be awarded, up to $1 million.
It was that guarantee that raised concerns among some commissioners, who were uncomfortable putting the county potentially on the hook for a private developer – especially as the county faces a $17.5 million deficit over the next two years.
Also was a concern that the developer – Bloomfield Hills-based Harbor Companies – had not paid off back taxes owed on the site.
Commissioners discussed having county staff talk with representatives of the city of Ann Arbor, to ask whether the city would be willing to back the loan, rather than the county. The site plan and brownfield plan for Packard Square had been approved by the Ann Arbor city council on Monday, May 2.
Subsequent to the May 5 working session, the county board announced that it will hold a special working session on Tuesday, May 17 to continue discussion of the Packard Square project and a possible change to the county’s full faith and credit policy. That meeting is set to begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Washtenaw County administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor.
In addition, the Packard Square grant and loan application, along with the project’s brownfield plan, is on the agenda for initial approval at the board’s May 18 meeting. A public hearing on the brownfield plan is also scheduled that night. [Full Story]