News Tip

Lodi Township is blocking sale of property to a small business

Hi my name is Karen Gumtow, I am a part owner with my mom in a small Accounting firm in Saline. Last Sept my company had grown with adding our 3rd and 4th employee, after 30 years in business we were excited that our customer based had grown and we could offer more employment, however we are a home-based business, and the Lodi Township called us out on having too many employees at the house, based on their ordinance rules. We started looking for a place in the Saline Area to move to, and Lodi Township has held off with any violations currently - This is the good part.
We placed an offer on a property (to purchase) at 7706 Saline Ann Arbor Rd, Saline, this property was a daycare which has moved to a new building and this home was up for sale. At the township this daycare was on a "special use permit" in Lodi Township (Lodi owns 9 properties, island - inside the City of Saline limits) the property owner and myself start the process with Lodi in Nov 2019 to get permission for us to purchase as a business location (approx 6 to 7 employees) which normally takes 2 months - fast forward - we still do not have zoning to purchase this property.
We started working with the Planning commission at Lodi and the owner was given directions that they would not give a "Special Use" Permit to my company, even though all other businesses in Lodi are on "Special Use" even in this lsland of properties. They first decided to make this property go to Commercial, didn't happen City of Saline was not happy, this is a residential zone for the City of Saline. Lodi then decides that they would Change their Master Plan to allow for a residential office area, that was Jan 2020 (nothing happened on that subject until last meeting July 28) To be fair they also made progress at that meeting to add "Residential-Office category" to their zoning ordinances. This last addition would mean that if the Board of Trustees (which the Township Supervisor at the Planning meeting stated she has issues with it) has to approve the new category and then it needs to be posted for 30 days and approved after a public meeting. I realize these are all State regulated and they are doing things according to these regulations. If perfect results Sept 1 meeting the new zoning would be available and the property could start the process of getting zoned into it. That is a 3 week process but needs a meeting, I believe by both the Planning Commission and approval by the Board of Trustees (possible Oct dates)
Okay where is my drama you are probably wondering and since there is forward movement what's up with my letter.
Here's the rest of my story: In October 2019 I went to the SBA for a loan, this is a vacant house, it needs everything fixed including: foundation, roofing, kitchen, bath, office.. you name it and my remodel budget is over $80,000 according to the contractor, so the SBA would allow the purchase of the building and the funds for the remodel.. I have checked on other financing and we can't afford standard commercial, 20% down and no build-out, investment property denied due to no kitchen and bathroom issues..so we thought great SBA and the CARES act gave us an even better rate so let's go.. With the last CARES act our mortgage guy says we have a HARD deadline on Sept 27,2020 they MUST payout this mortgage or we lose it. This information was available to us in May, which I wrote emails to both the Supervisor and the Planning commission (Lodi has since had a turn over on the planning commission board, the head guy quit) However both the supervisor and the planning commission denied adding my request to the meetings and actually cancelled meetings. I understand with the pandemic and zoom meeting it became harder to do standard business. The planning commission was aware of the building's condition with an actual member walking though the property and telling the board about the house. We have tried to be as transparent as possible and both the property owner and myself have written countless emails to both the supervisor and planning commission board expressing our time limitation and desire to purchase and get this project started.
I have even reached out to the City of Saline in hopes (desperation) that they could assist, however they lost their City Manager since my request, when they took up my cause, the new City Manager called Lodi Township in regards to either an Annex to the City where they would give a special use permit or a 425 agreement to share and help the cause. The Supervisor was unwilling to help and told the City Manager that Lodi township would fight the Annex and that the 425 agreement would take months since they have never done one (I would assume that is a true statement)
So my question is Why? Why were we not allowed to be a "Special Use"? Why do we have to be the first purchase/business to open the Residential-Office zoning? Even so I love the category but Why are they not making exemptions for our deadline? I have written proof from the SBA Loan officer of my HARD deadline, they wouldn't even consider it. I will not be able to continue my purchase after our HARD deadline when our financing is gone. I currently pay taxes in that township since the business is located in Lodi, so I am a tax paying homeowner and still have no rights and apparently attending every meeting and doing every request from the township has not helped. I feel this is a personal attack on my business and I am not getting fairly treated or timely consideration.

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