Residents, business owners air concerns

Residents, business owners air concerns

Fraser-Clinton Township Chronicle (MI) Residents, business owners air concerns Fraser takes another step toward a DDA HEIDI ROMAN C & G STAFF WRITER Published: March 14, 2007 FRASER – Residents and business owners in Fraser got a second chance last week to discuss the proposed Downtown Development Authority and its boundaries. The public hearing was the next step in the process of getting the DDA up and running.

Last week, the first portion of the regular City Council meeting was moved to the Activities Center to accommodate the crowd of people who came to hear the presentation on the idea and air their concerns. Planning Consultant Patrick Meagher explained that a DDA’s purpose is to stimulate economic growth and beautify the downtown area with things like fa ade improvements, landscaping, lighting or signage.

A DDA is usually funded by a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan, which captures any tax increases from inflation or valuation from the established base point. The captured taxes get redirected from the general fund and other taxing jurisdictions to be used for public improvement in the designated downtown district.

“A good plan provides a win-win-win situation, and that’s a win for businesses, a win for the city, and a win for residents, ” Meagher said. Meagher believes an effective DDA could make Fraser “a place where you might be able to bring your wife and child, walk through the park, visit downtown and get an ice cream, ” he said.

No action was taken at the last meeting, but the residents’ and business owners’ comments will be taken into consideration over the next 60 days or more before council adopts a DDA ordinance, and then boundaries. At the public hearing in January, when council considered the resolution of intent to create one, many people had doubts about the DDA. While some still had their doubts last week, the atmosphere of the hearing had changed slightly, and one business owner who had previously denounced the DDA was whistling a different tune.

“We came to the last meeting kind of spur of the moment, ” said Michael Torrice, who owns Eye Spy detective agency with his wife, County Commissioner Carey Torrice. He said it was his wife who convinced him to take a closer look into the idea, so he sat down with Mayor Marilyn Lane and City Manager Jeff Bremer to talk about his worries.

“A lot of those concerns involved eminent domain and the city taking landowners’ property for improvements, or doing certain improvements at the owners’ expense, ” he said, echoing some of the doubts other business owners have raised.

“The mayor gave me her word, and her word is her bond, that that’s not going to happen with this administration, ” he said. Torrice expressed concern over what future administrations would do, but said Eye Spy wanted to be a part of the DDA.

But some residents and business owners are not convinced. Sandy Caloia, owner of the Dairy Maid on Utica Road, brought in signatures of others situated towards the south end of the proposed district requesting to be removed. The proposed boundary is focused on the area near 14 Mile Road, Garfield and Utica Road, but also extends in each direction, and towards the railroad tracks on the south.

“We just don’t believe we belong in the downtown, ” Caloia said.

Patrick Meagher, the planning consultant who gave the presentation at the meeting, said those in the proposed district would be able to ask for removal during the next 60 days, but that it wasn’t guaranteed.

“They’re asking to be removed from it, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will be, ” Meagher said. “That’s a decision City Council will have to make.”

Others were concerned about the district’s proposed size. Fraser already has a DDA in place that is not funded with a TIF plan, and therefore is not really functional. The size of it is much smaller than the proposed district, and some felt the city should start with a smaller downtown area and work from there.

“It seems like a rather ambitious, large piece of property, ” said Fred Smith at the meeting. “It just looks pretty mammoth.”

After at least 60 days, and after those properties wishing to be exempt file requests, council will consider the ordinance and the boundary lines.

Lane said she was encouraged by the comments of those who came to the meeting, and asked that those in doubt to take another look.

“I think, that the last four years, this administration has put forth a lot of responsibility. I don’t think we’ve displayed recklessness, ” she said. “I hope that you’d base it on the reputation and the results we’ve provided.”

You can reach Heidi Roman at hrom [email protected] or at (586) 218-5006.

Copyright, 2007, Fraser-Clinton Township Chronicle (MI), All Rights Reserved.

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