Council splits vote on sale of corner property
Tecumseh City Council members authorized city personnel to list city-owned property at 102 N. Maumee Street, across from City Hall, on a 4-3 vote at the Monday, April 21, council meeting. The vote came after discussion on the issue, with council members Gary Naugle, Vicki Philo, and Ron Wimple casting no votes.
City council members asked Tecumseh City Manager Kevin Welch to proceed with a plan to determine the value of the property following interest by Tecumseh business owners who said they would like to open a restaurant on the corner.
At Monday’s meeting, Welch presented a report noting that the property had been purchased in 1999 for $210,000 with the intent for future expansion of City Hall. Two buildings on the property had been torn down.
A certified appraisal by Affinity Valuation determined the value at $131,000, and a market appraisal was conducted by Howard Hanna, producing a value of $132,000.
Welch suggested that the council did not have to make a decision Monday night, but recommended that the members determine whether or not they would be willing to sell the property.
Naugle commented that he might prefer to table the matter for awhile. “That’s almost an $80,000 loss on a piece of property,” he said. “Chances are if the price goes up, we can decide if we want to sell it then. But that’s a lot of money to write off.”
Council member Laurence Van Alstine Jr. said when the land was purchased for potential expansion, conditions were very different, with more employees and space needs, and that the city currently operates a lot leaner.
“I personally can see no reason to continue to sit on a piece of property that apparently is a desirable location and is simply not on the tax rolls,” Van Alstine said, adding that he would support getting it back on the tax roll as a “viable parcel.”
“I would concur with Councilperson Van Alstine,” said council member Jack Baker. “It is less than we paid, but it’s currently not generating any tax dollars whatsoever. One of the things we’ve got going for us is that we have the right to accept or reject any bids that are made, so we can control it. My thoughts are let’s go ahead and put it on the market and see what we can do.”
Welch had indicated that the city would need a supermajority of five votes to actually sell the property when it came down to a specific decision, and added that it could be done with a development agreement. He said other criteria would also be determined by the Tecumseh Planning Commission as to what could be developed there.
“I guess my thoughts are that six weeks ago, it wasn’t for sale until somebody approached us about whether we would consider selling it,” said council member Ron Wimple. He said he was following Naugle’s lead regarding the loss the city would take. “I’m just worried if we get rid of that piece now and we go out looking for other property in the future to enhance city buildings, we’re not going to be able to do anything at that $130,000 price tag. I support Chomp Burger in concept and I think it would be good for the city of Tecumseh, but I just don’t know if that’s the right location for the city to give up their right for future expansion.”
Baker said that he was not sure the government’s role is to obtain and hold on to property. “I think the government’s role is to provide future property owners the means to be successful and to provide services for them to be successful, and I think this is a nice opportunity for us to do that,” Baker said. He added that one of the ideas that came from earlier strategic planning sessions was that underutilized property in the city could be added or returned to the tax rolls. “This is one of those, currently bringing in nothing. We have control of that property, including whether we choose to sell it.”
Council member Vicky Philo expressed a concern that having a restaurant on that corner could add traffic problems to the area, especially with school buses coming and going to the middle school. Van Alstine said it was worse when the high school was down there and motorists would cut through the City Hall parking lot. Welch reminded the members that part of the Planning Commission’s process would include a traffic study.
Mayor Richard Johnson, who voted for listing the property, said he agreed the traffic implications should be reviewed. “Especially with the ability of police cars to get in and out and people visiting City Hall and without it all creating a problem,” he said.
Council member Troy Wright, who also was in favor of listing the property, said he didn’t have a lot of concerns and didn’t think that traffic would be a problem in the mornings — unless it was a restaurant that opened for breakfast.
Baker said he did not see the rationale of not considering the sale today just because the topic was not something the council had discussed prior to six weeks ago. Van Alstine then made the motion, seconded by Baker, to put the property up for sale with a price to be determined.
Offers would be taken from other individuals and businesses, not just Chomp Burger, who had expressed the initial interest.