January 16, 2019ALMONT — The Almont Village Council is postponing the second reading of a proposed ordinance to dissolve the Almont Downtown Development Authority (DDA) until March 19, or possibly later.
Per a conversation Friday (Jan. 11) evening with Council Member Steven C. Schneider, the request to delay the second and final vote was made to Village Manager Mike Connors by Village Council President Steven R. Schneider.
Connors confirmed on Monday, Jan. 14, that the request was made based on the council president's desire to allow more "opportunity to gather and contemplate further information regarding the proposed ordinance."
On Jan. 2, council members voted 4-3 to proceed with the adoption of DDA Ordinance #204 to dissolve the organization.
Those voting in favor of dissolution were Steven R. Schneider, Steven C. Schneider, Dave Love and Gary Peltier, who claimed to have brought the proposal to the council.
Those opposed were Council President Pro-Tem Tim Dyke, Melinda Steffler and Patricia Biolchini.
Dyke, Steffler, Biolchini and later, Dave Love, said they had been unaware the proposed ordinance was going to be on the agenda prior to the council's first meeting of the new year.
After the straw poll, Steven R. Schneider noted the initial vote would represent the "first reading" of the ordinance and that a second and final vote would take place on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
The no voters questioned why there had been no previous discussion about the matter and the urgency to vote before being provided specific numbers and information related to the the potential benefits and/or drawbacks of dissolving the DDA.
Following the Jan. 2 vote, the DDA Board held a special meeting on Jan. 8, during which many DDA supporters rallied in support of the organization's survival and continued service to the community.
After considerable input from attendees, including Patricia Lucas, Lapeer County Development Corp. Exec. Director and Ian Kempf, Lapeer County Commission Vice Chairman; the discussion shifted to the ongoing debate over property and parking spaces recently purchased by Almont Twp. developer Steve Francis, who was at the meeting.
According to DDA officials, in 1996 the DDA entered into a land contract agreement with former owner, Dr. Robert Lane, to purchase the property and parking lot for $55,000.
Lane claims now to have not received all of the payments and that he still owns the property and has a deed to prove it.
The DDA Board, on the other hand, has evidence of payments made to Lane in both its meeting minutes and "statements of revenues and expenses" from 1996. They also claim to have overpaid Lane by $4,200.
"We have a land contract with Lapeer County in their records," said DDA Director Kim Schall. "But the deed was never recorded with the county."
Schall said that procedure was supposed to have been the responsibility of a designated DDA Board member at the time.
When the property was purchased by Steve Francis, the absence of a deed was discovered and the DDA Board hired an attorney to review its documents.
Based on information found in DDA documents, the attorney, Michael J. Whaling of Port Huron, advised the DDA Board to consider legal action.
Mediator hands off
In an effort to avoid pending litigation, the DDA? Board voted on Jan. 8 to encourage a protocol that would allow Francis and Lane to resolve the matter of ownership of the parking lot spaces through a professional mediator.
However, after contacting the Resolution Center in Mount Clemens, it was suggested to Schall to not proceed without getting further input from Whaling, who is currently out of the country until Jan. 21.
Tom Wearing started at the Tri-City Times in 1989, covering the Village of Capac as a beat reporter. He later served stints as assistant editor and editor. Today, he covers Imlay City and Almont as a staff writer. He enjoys music and plays drums and sings with various musical groups in the Detroit Metropolitan area.