By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
At its regularly scheduled March 11 meeting, the Van Buren Township Local Development Finance Authority put the brakes on Planning Director Arthur Mullen’s suggestion for sale of property the LDFA owns at 39545 Ecorse Road.
A request for purchase of the 1.16 acres was submitted by Frank Jarbou, the property owner to the east whose property had been rezoned C1 last year for development of a pig-launching facility.
The facility will be located on the western corner of the 39421 Hannan Road property and will monitor the condition of the Michcon gas pipeline running along Hannan Road.
Mullen said he believes the property at 39545 Ecorse Road is relatively undevelopable and he didn’t see any reason to retain it, asking for a motion at the next meeting to approve the sale.
He said proceeds from the sale of the property would remain with the LDFA providing additional tax revenue to help make the Visteon bond payments.
LDFA member Doug Peters, an attorney, said he believed it is a valuable piece of land and recommended adjacent property owners be given the opportunity to compete.
He said even though it is a substandard lot it has a lot of frontage and may be worth more than its size suggests.
Mullen said he received three quotes appraising a different, similar parcel and would like to go with the lowest bid, which is $5,000. He said he believes no one could build on it and the parcel has little value to anyone.
It is not on the tax roll and there is no assessment of its value, Mullen said.
Peters said he does not believe it is a good time to sell, in terms of the market.
“I know you want the deal to go through for whatever reason but my view, in five years this is going to be worth a lot more,” Peters said.
If it is sold at all, he recommended it be sold at auction or be posted to the general public. Peters said he thinks it is of questionable legality to sell anything without putting it out for a public bid.
“This leads to a rat’s nest and is not the way to do business,” he added.
According to a tax information search, Odish Jarbou is owner of seven properties on Ecorse Road in VBT and also owns the southeast corner of Hannan and Ecorse in Romulus. His mailing address is in Novi.
Mullen said there is no written policy for selling property in the township.
LDFA Chairman Michael Dotson recommended a process be developed for sale of property.
LDFA member Richard Gavalier, Vice President of Finance at Ricardo, Inc. based in VBT, recommended an inventory be taken and an appraisal of all the properties in the LDFA district be conducted.
“I agree. Develop a process for maximizing the value for the taxpayer,” Peters said. “I have nothing against Mr. Jabour. I don’t know him. This is not personal at all. I’m just speaking as somebody who deals in real estate.”
Gavalier said, “You’re right. We have to have a process that’s open so it doesn’t look like… If we’ve learned anything from the city of Detroit this should be one of the things.”
VBT Supervisor Linda Combs agreed, saying, “We need to know what we own and what it’s worth.”
Supervisor Combs also reported she had a conversation Cyrus Sakhai, owner of Sovereign Partners the purchaser of the Visteon property. She said Sakhai told her he is much in favor of development on the property.
Supervisor Combs said she told him VantagePort (Aerotropolis) and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) are pushing sites within the VBT community that are available for development and she would give them Sakhai’s contact information if they asked her.
Audience member Carl Johnson asked Supervisor Combs for information sought by Gavalier to possibly invest what’s left of the Visteon bankruptcy settlement into higher yield accounts. Supervisor Combs said she had checked with the auditor who said the LDFA is limited as to the types of investments it can make with the funds.
She said the law provides basically safe investments, such as CDs, money market, and government bonds. No real estate and no stocks and bonds.
“It is currently invested in the right type for this type of funding and we’re doing the best we can as far as returns,” Combs said.
James Williams, Van Buren Public Schools Director of Building and Grounds, attended the LDFA meeting for the first time, replacing Marcus Leon as a representative from the school district.
Absent from the meeting was member Leonard Armstrong. There were four audience members.
Prior to the start of the meeting Director Mullen said, “Per the attorney’s recommendation,” the group needs to turn in the confidential materials he was distributing so it could be destroyed.
The LDFA held a one-hour, closed-door session for a Visteon presentation led by attorney Kaveh Kashef from the Clark Hill law firm.
By Diane Madigan