January 23, 2019ALMONT — Nearly as suddenly as an ordinance appeared on the Almont Village Council's agenda to dissolve the Almont DDA, has it disappeared from the council's purview.
In an unexpected turnaround last Tuesday, Jan. 15, council members backtracked on their earlier 4-3 vote in support of DDA Ordinance #204 to dissolve the DDA.
Those who voted in favor of dissolution on Jan. 2 were Council President Steven R. Schneider, and council members Steven C. Schneider, Gary Peltier and Dave Love.
It was their position that the village collect tax monies currently captured by the DDA and use them to pay for needed infrastructure projects.
The vote was taken over the objections of Council President Pro-tem Tim Dyke and council members Melinda Steffler and Patricia Biolchini, who claimed the matter had not been discussed earlier; nor had they been provided specific numbers or evidence that dissolution of the DDA would benefit the Village financially.
After the initial "straw vote," Steven R. Schneider informed meeting attendees that the vote represented the "first reading" of the ordinance, and that a second and final vote would take place Tuesday, Feb. 5, after a mandatory public hearing.
In response, DDA Board members organized a Jan. 8 special meeting, during which they made their case that the organization's value to the community outweighs any potential financial benefits the Village might realize from its demise.
On Jan. 15, DDA supporters showed up en masse to voice displeasure with the council's sudden move to disband the organization at their first meeting of the year.
After hearing the pleas of Almont DDA Chairman Mike Bohm, downtown business owner Dr. Lois Meek, property owner Jim Toth; Dana Walker, Imlay City DDA Director and member of the Michigan Downtown Association, and others, Steven R. Schneider took the opportunity to interject new information into the conversation.
Change of heart?
Schneider said that given the public outcry at meetings and on social media, the matter of dissolving the DDA had been revisited and reconsidered.
He said Tim Dyke requested that the council have the opportunity to rescind its earlier vote at the Jan. 15 meeting. Schneider said that Clerk/Treasurer Kim Keesler informed him that a vote to rescind could not take place before Tuesday, Feb. 5, the original date set for the second reading of the proposed ordinance.
"This issue is tearing us apart," Schneider said. "I think all of us regret what happened at that (Jan. 2) meeting and the way it was handled."
Numbers tell story
Schneider further noted that newly acquired information suggests there would be no financial gain from dissolving the DDA.
That opinion was shared by his son, Steven C. Schneider, and Village Manager Mike Connors.
"I looked at the numbers and there is no money to be made here," said Steven C. "There would be no economic benefit."
Dave Love, who stressed that his earlier "yes" vote was intended to allow for further discussion of the ordinance, remained unconvinced.
"I voted to see the numbers," said Love, "and I still want to see those numbers."
Connors reiterated that any financial benefit to the village would be minimal and not worth dissolving the DDA.
"It's not financially advantageous," said Connors. "Any captured funds would go back to the county and township. That would take the wind out of the sails of this process."
Steven C. Schneider urged an end to the impasse, along with a future vote to rescind.
"Let's wrap this up," he said. "The numbers are not going to change."
Back on Feb. 5 agenda
While council members did not establish a binding agreement on a future vote, there appeared to be consensus that all of them would would vote to rescind DDA Ordinance #204 on Feb. 5.
"We want a consensus now so people know it would not be ramrodded through on February 5," said Steven C. Schneider.
Property dispute lingers
Though it appears the Almont DDA will survive the recent threat, the issue of who owns 12 parking spaces in the parking lot behind the former Lane-Swayze Clinic remains unresolved.
The property, owned by Dr. Robert Lane, was recently purchased by local developer Steve Francis, who believes the parking spaces are his.
The DDA Board, on the other hand, claims it owns the property based on a $55,000 land contract agreement with Dr. Lane dating back to 1996.
In an effort to avoid litigation and bring the matter to resolution, the DDA Board agreed two weeks ago that the issue be resolved by a professional mediator.
Upon consultation, the mediator suggested the matter of parking lot spaces go back to the DDA's attorney, Michael Whaling of Port Huron, who is currently vacationing out of the country.
Steven R. Schneider, Dr. Lane's son-in-law, said on Jan. 15, that he would refrain from voting on further matters involving the property in question.
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.