Vote 2015: City Council Candidates Talk About Vacant Land, Empty Buildings

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 10/28/2015 - 01:10

On Nov. 3, City of Saline voters will elect three candidates to City Council. The candidates are incumbent Linda TerHaar, Lee Bourgoin, Jack Ceo and Heidi McClelland.

You can see their answers to all of the Saline Post's questions by clicking on their names, below:

Today's question is"

Despite the improved economy and the work of many officials, there are still vacancies and underutilized commercial buildings and property downtown, on the west end, and at the shopping plazas on the east side. What approach should the city take to find the right tenants?

Jack Ceo

The city’s part in making Saline attractive to possible business tenants is to continue to provide excellent city services, and to make this an attractive place to live and work.  Property owners share in the responsibility by setting rental and lease rates at reasonable levels, and keeping their parking lots and outdoor lighting serviceable and in good working order.  The city’s Main Street efforts, and the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce and other business partnerships in Saline need to also be supported by the city in any reasonable requests they make for assistance and cooperation. 

Linda TerHaar

It is not the City’s job to find or choose tenants for privately-owned property. The City should continue to promote and support a good climate for business, using all of the many economic and community development tools at our disposal.

Lee Bourgoin

Underutilized facilities such as the commercial properties are suffering for the same major reason that led to the hospital moving out, for the same reason the schools have a lesser amount of operating funds, and the same reason that existing community businesses do not have more customers.

All have suffered due to our own governmental procedures thwarting the community housing growth that has been knocking on the door, seeking to continue the beneficial expansion of our community.  Not all communities always benefit from expansion, but right-sizing our community would.  Jump-starting housing development growth is one key element in lowering city taxes back down.  Lower taxes make all houses and commercial buildings instantly become more valuable, easier to sell, and easier to support while using them.

The high population growth accompanying the community housing growth would increase the number of school children, so that the schools would benefit by getting more state funds due to a higher student count.  Taxpayers would benefit from a lower tax rate due to a greater tax base, because the current city facilities as well as its operations are run on proportionately too small a tax base.  The hospital would not likely quickly return even if they saw a growing customer base, because of big lump-sum costs in relocating.

It’s not the city’s job to find tenants, that’s a job for a real estate professional in conjunction with a property owner.  But it is the city’s job to have a pro-business environment without a level of resistance that thwarts progress.  One of the four Saline Main Street teams is on economic development, which does seek to attract businesses to the city and to beneficially repurpose existing spaces.  From the city’s point of view it is the Mayor’s role to provide a message relating that the city staff will be supportive, as the Main Street team speaks to property owners plus their realtors plus potential interested businesses.

As equally important as commercial properties are those currently labeled industrial, mostly owned by the city.  These need to be reoriented towards a better future use.  The industrial sector in America has shrunk as jobs have fled. State government recently gave industrial owners a $1.8 billion reduction in personal property taxes that industries had been paying to communities. Then the state government has been considering how to additionally tax citizens about that same amount for roads.  Without the future personal property taxes from industry for the community, the city should reorient the land it owns to better community-suited functions that will more profitably absorb this land.

Heidi McClelland

The City needs to encourage new business in both the east and west side of the city, how to do that will take open communication between the proposed and existing business owners along with the Mayor and City Council.  I don’t know that I have all the answers to that at this point but I think the Mayor is on his way to encouraging the discussion with business and property owners. 

Tran Longmoore's picture
Tran Longmoore
Tran Longmoore is a veteran community journalist. He is founder and owner of TheSalinePost.com. He is co-publisher of The Saline Post weekly newspaper. Email him at [email protected] or call him at 734-272-6294.

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