Morenci city council 2012.10.10

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Morenci could soon join a growing list of communities choosing to take advantage of the state's Commercial Rehabilitation Act to encourage improvements in downtown property. The act became law in 2005.

The owner of commercial property participating in the program could have property taxes generated by the investment abated for 10 years.

Improvements to property would likely lead to higher taxes, explained Morenci mayor Keith Pennington, but participation in the program would lock in the existing tax rate before the rehabilitation began.

Examples of eligible improvements include interior and exterior appearances, floor replacement, new heating and ventilation equipment, improved roof structure and other changes required to restore or change the property to an "economically efficient condition."

Vacant property that was used for a commercial purpose within the past 15 years is also eligible. Land and personal property are not eligible for the abatement.

When a council committee discussed the issue, Pennington said, a suggestion was made to consider including aesthetic regulations for downtown property. At this time the city has no guidelines on the appearance of a building.

The first step in the process would be to establish a rehabilitation district or districts. The properties covered by Downtown Development Authority (DDA) could be used, for example, and another district could include the commercial property on the east edge of town, from the skating rink to the Dollar General store.

Pennington said he and city administrator/clerk Renée Schroeder recently presented the idea to the DDA board.

"They were encouraging us to adopt the commercial rehabilitation district," he said, "however they did not encourage us to attach any aesthetic strings to that."

"I like the idea of attaching the aesthetic strings," councilor Brenda Spiess said, "only because I think this is an excellent way for us to partner with our businesses to have a downtown that we are all proud of. We’ll help them do the upgrade while giving them some benefit in return.” 

Pennington noted that any improvements that aren't part of the rehab zone would not have to follow any aesthetic rules, but the tax break would act as an incentive to conform to guidelines on appearances.

The mayor said he wants the planning commission to become active again to examine the issue of aesthetics. Whether it's the planning commission or council, he said, he wants the process to be clearly thought out.

"I don't want aesthetics to become a stumbling block."

Pennington said the rehab act would apply for anyone wishing to build on vacant property in the district, such as beside the Observer office or next to the Pizza Box. It could also abate taxes for an expansion of the grocery store.

Council will continue discussion at its next meeting. Council member Tracy Schell would like to see a district in place by the end of the year. Once a district is established, property owners and taxing units must be notified of a public hearing. After a hearing, the plan must be presented to the county commissioners who have 28 days to approve or veto the project.

If the rehab project is put into place, Pennington said, council would consider each application on a case-by-case basis.

CONTRACT—Council approved a contract with the police union by a 5-0 vote, with councilors Jeff Bell and Rebecca Berger absent.

INSURANCE—Schroeder reported that Blue Cross insurance costs are expected to rise 6.6 percent—a substantial amount, but less than the rumored double-digit increase.

PUMP—Council approved the expenditure of $18,387 to replace a high-service water pump that distributes water throughout the city and fills the water tower.

PEDDLERS—Council was given a second reading of a proposed ordinance governing peddlers and solicitors. Spiess said she liked the current proposal, but would like to remove the requirements for registering with the city. She doesn't think that process should be part of the law.

FIRE DEPT.—Council approved the removal of Kyle McClain from the roster of fire department employees due to missed meetings and work detail.

PARADE—Council learned that the annual holiday lighted parade is scheduled Dec. 1.

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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