By Meghan Christian
Flint City Council (FCC) approved a brownfield abatement plan as part of a proposed downtown hotel development project along with three job descriptions and qualifications at their meeting July 9.
They also unanimously approved a plan for repaving Court Street from Crapo Street to Center Road.
Fourth Ward Councilwoman Kate Fields was absent from the meeting.
First proposed at the Sept. 20, 2017 FCC meeting, the hotel development project aims to bring a 101-room Hilton Garden Inn hotel with a full service restaurant to downtown Flint using the parcels of land located at 352 S. Saginaw St. and at 116 and 126 W. Kearsley St. According to Tim Herman, president of Uptown Reinvestment Corporation and the redeveloper of the project, the hotel would bring opportunity to the city.
He said the hotel would bring roughly 70 new jobs of varying educational and professional requirements, “providing employment opportunities for area-residents and channelling new income and much-needed tax revenue for this community.”
However, before the project can begin, the site needs to be properly redeveloped and its brownfield status dealt with. According to Glenda Dunlap from the City’s planning and development department, a brownfield is a site “where there are known contaminants” or a project “where the former use of this site is something that could make the property contaminated.” So even though there is a building on the site — the old Genesee County State Savings Bank — the presence of asbestos and the fact that the site has been vacant for 20 years qualifies it as a brownfield that must be remediated.
The brownfield plan the council approved allows the developer to be reimbursed for any costs incurred during the removal process, from prepping the plan to the actual abatement of any harmful substances. According to Dunlap, the developer’s reimbursement for accepted costs would come from the taxes the project is expected to bring to the City.
Tom Wackerman, from ASTI Environmental, said the requested reimbursement would include demolition costs, lead and asbestos survey and abatement costs, some public infrastructure costs and site preparation, as well as preparation of the plan itself, some environmental assessments and interests.
He added the costs, which he called “extraordinary,” should be eligible for reimbursement. “These are expenses that wouldn’t occur if this particular project was done on a greenfield — there wouldn’t be demolition, there wouldn’t be asbestos abatement, there wouldn’t be lead, there wouldn’t be infrastructure costs,” Wackerman said.
According to Dunlap, the developer’s reimbursement for accepted costs would come from the taxes the project is expected to bring to the City. “How they are reimbursed is that right now, this project generates $250,400 in taxes and whether this project is approved or not, we will still get those taxes,” Dunlap explained, “but after the redevelopment of this project, we are expecting $530,000 to come to the city as taxes, so out of that incremental value…we are expecting that the developer will be reimbursed for eligible expenses that are listed in the brownfield plan.”
According to First Ward Councilman Eric Mays’s estimation, the amount of costs that could be eligible for reimbursement might be as high as $2.5 million. Wackerman then explained to FCC that while the amount of possible reimbursement is a large figure, the amount still has to be approved by the council. “So what you are voting on right now is the ability for the applicant to move forward and make those expenses, but you will have final approval when the…reimbursement request is made to you at the end of the project.”
Fifth Ward Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter, whose ward the hotel would be located in, voiced her optimism for the project. “I’m excited. I think it’s going to be good. We need to start looking at the big picture on how we can move our city forward and I think that will be a good thing for the city,” she said.
While all of the council members present approved the brownfield plan and some voiced support of the project as a whole, other members touched on their hopes that these kinds of development opportunities could spread to other parts of the city as well, not just the downtown area.
“I’m going to support this, but I’m going to be looking for some projects where…the residents of this community…need to be a part of that growth,” Seventh Ward Councilwoman Monica Galloway said.
“I’m gonna support it, but I’m going to hold our new economic development team’s feet to the fire as it relates to economic development projects not just downtown, but all around town,” First Ward Councilman Eric Mays said.
FCC also unanimously approved job descriptions and qualifications for the following positions: chief planner, city treasurer, and city assessor. However due to some council members still having questions, they postponed the actual appointments of those positions to the next governmental operations committee meeting.
Two residents, Arthur Woodson and Pastor Allen Gilbert, spoke on the job descriptions during the public hearings on the positions, voicing concerns regarding the lack of information being available to the public.
“There’s a lot of stuff being said and we the people…we don’t have the information that everyone has,” Woodson said. “There’s a lot of stuff, like the hotel, and we aren’t able to see a plan… How can we comment in a public hearing when we don’t have the paperwork to even read or research to comment?” he added.
In other business, the council postponed approval of the scoring rubric that will be used to rank applying medical marijuana facilities, per an ordinance that was enacted on May 14, to the next governmental operations committee meeting.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at email@example.com.