March 25 2016 08:56 AM

Clerk’s mistake may produce more revenue for city

Courtesy graphic

FRIDAY, March 25 — An error by the Lansing City Clerk’s Office may have a silver lining.

City Clerk Chris Swope failed to publish a notice for a public hearing before the City Council on how much in property taxes the developer of the School for the Blind project would pay. The hearing needed to take place before Friday in order for the city to meet a state deadline.

If the city misses the deadline, however, the developer would pay more than twice as much in property taxes — which the developer said Thursday it is willing to do.

The Council has called an emergency meeting at 5 p.m. today to try to beat the deadline, but at least half the members said they cannot attend, so the meeting appears likely to be scrubbed for lack of a quorum.

The failure to publish the notice, however, could have more serious consequences.

Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko said the failure by Swope to publish notice of a public hearing for a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, for the $24.4 million project may jeopardize the entire project.

Because the public hearing was not properly advertised, City Council can’t review and possibly approve a PILOT for 4 percent of the property taxes on the site. The developers told Development and Planning Committee on Thursday afternoon that if they cannot get the 4 percent PILOT, they will go with 10 percent, which does not require approval from City Council.

“Things are looking pretty shaky for the School for the Blind proposal,” Yorko said Thursday night. The School for the Blind property in north Lansing is in her ward.

She said at risk is approval from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which would make the mixed use senior and low income housing project financially viable.

MSHDA scores applications, which are due on April 1, in order to determine which projects are the best options to fund. Obtaining a PILOT from the local city council, officials from MSDHA told City Council on Monday night, shows significant community support for the proposal. That in turn increases the points awarded in an application.

But Council President Judi Brown Clarke said, “This project is still going to happen. The developer has said he will move forward with a 10 percent PILOT. That means more money for the city and is a win-win for everybody.”

The new proposal will bring Indianapolis-based developer TWG Development to the region in partnership with the Ingham County Land Bank Fast Track Authority and Cinnaire. Cinnaire was formerly Great Lakes Capital Fund.