By Rosemary K. Otzman
At a special meeting on May 1, the Belleville Area District Library Board unanimously approved the Department of natural Resources’ Land Transaction Agreement aimed at getting a site nailed down for the proposed new library.
The meeting was 51 minutes long, but only 21 minutes of that was in public session. The first thing the board did when it opened its meeting was to go into a half-hour closed-door session with attorney John Day and architect Dan Whisler.
The official reason for the closed-door session was to “Discuss Attorney/Client Correspondence.”
About a dozen members of the audience sat on little chairs in the children’s library area outside the meeting room waiting for the board to reopen its door to the public.
The three-page Land Transaction Agreement stated the Belleville Area District Library would purchase the 3.019 acres of DNR property for $395,000 and then “gift” a grant of easement in two areas along the lake to the DNR to ensure the long-term conservation of the property and shoreline for “public outdoor recreation in perpetuity.”
At least one-third of the water frontage must be fishable by the general lpublic.
The gift of the easement to the DNR also would be “to develop structures, trails, improvements and other amenities and facilitate use of the site and shoreline for public water access, fishing and other passive outdoor recreation activities.”
It also will be used “To construct and maintain fishing piers, platforms and trails as needed to ensure sound, safe public access to the easement area.”
The legal description for the land to be “gifted” to the DNR was not attached to the document.
A letter dated April 15 from Ron Corbett, DNR Real Estate Services, said the Land Transaction Agreement was necessary to move this transaction forward to completion.
He said it indicates the applicant will move forward with the terms and conditions of the agreement as stated.
Corbett said once he receives the signed agreement he will move to put a Director’s memorandum on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Natural Resources Commission.
At that meeting public comment will be heard. Then, should Director Keith Creagh approve the transaction and sign the memorandum, a copy will be mailed to the district library within 10 business days.
“Together the Land Transaction Agreement (with the applicant’s signatures) and the Director’s Memorandum (with the Director’s signature) constitute the ‘green light’ needed to consummate the transaction in detail,” Corbett wrote.
When a member of the audience asked the board when the item will be put on the DNR agenda for public comment, she was told that would be May 8.
When the Independent asked library board president Mary Jane Dawson where the public would send letters of comment on this site, Dawson gave a convoluted direction to go on the DNR website and push this button and that button.
The Independent asked if the board couldn’t provide more precise information to the public and Dawson replied, “It’s not our meeting!”
The Independent replied, “But, it’s your project!”
Letters are sought to support the grant applications the DNR will write to help pay for the fishing amenities.
Later in the meeting, board members talked about all the work it took to get to this point. Dawson said State Rep. Diane Slavens was asked for help and they even called the governor’s office for support.
In other discussion, Mary Ban asked about the Van Buren Township and Belleville Downtown Development Authorities, along with the VBT Local Development Finance Authority, that will cut into the millage, if passed, for the library. These amounts are spelled out in the Aug. 5 ballot language.
Belleville DDA will capture $24,891; VBT DDA, $73,050; and VBT LDFA, $30,032. These will be annual captures for the 20 years of the bond.
Cichewicz said the DDAs will benefit when the district library passes its construction bond.
Architect Whisler said there’s been no discussion with the Belleville DDA about adding amenities, but the Belleville and VBT DDA districts meet on the Belleville Bridge and together they could put up a decorative fence to make it safer for pedestrians going to the library.
By Rosemary K. Otzman