By Rosemary K. Otzman
At the Aug. 20 meeting of the Belleville Downtown Development Authority, DDA Coordinator Carol Thompson answered questions on the progress of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality grant delay for Horizon Park, which included a kayak launch.
Thompson said she has been informed that the MDEQ has finished its 30-day review and now wants a 30-day public comment period.
She said the DDA has paid a $100 fee and now the MDEQ wants another $400, boosting the total fee to $500.
“We have to do it to get it done and so we’ll do it,” said DDA member Rosemary Loria. “We have to look at the long-range good.”
Last spring, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed approval of Michigan National Resources Trust Fund grants, including $120,700 for Belleville for Horizon Park upgrades.
The project was to include a floating dock, universally-accessible canoe/kayak launch, parking lot resurfacing, sign kiosk and paved picnic pad on Belleville Lake.
Recently, the Belleville DDA learned that Van Buren Township, which owns the lakeshore, determined it needed to get MDEQ and Federal Energy Regulation Commission approval for the project.
After MDEQ holds its public comment period, if it approves the permit for the project, the township will forward copies to STS Hydropower, operator of the French Landing Dam, and to three state agencies for further review and comments.
Eventually, STS and VBT could ask FERC for approval and then FERC’s public comment period will be held.
Thompson told the DDA at its July meeting that the DNR grant necessitates building the project by 2016 and they hope to be able to build it in 2015. Originally, plans were for construction during the summer of 2014.
In other business at the half-hour meeting on Aug. 20, the DDA:
• Discussed downtown late September decorating for Booville, an event which will run throughout October. Decorations include putting lights on the city tree at Doane’s Landing along with Halloween decorations. Other plans are for the Gateway Sign, Fourth Street Square and Victory Station. The DDA has added $1,000 to its annual decoration budget for Booville. DDA Chairman John Hoops said they are in the “encouraging the downtown to decorate” stage. Steve Jones said the Belleville Area Council for the Arts is sponsoring a decorating contest for 48111 with prizes to encourage decorations throughout the tri-community;
• Discussed leasing outdoor sculptures for 2015, since the deadline for committing to Midwest Sculpture Initiative is Nov. 1. Last year the DDA committed $5,000 to lease six outdoor sculptures, but only had to spend $3,946. The DDA raised $5,650 in cash plus $1,670 in in-kind website upgrades, with the total cash cost $9,596. The sculpture committee will be reorganized to bring a recommendation;
• Heard a report from Joan Bodnar on the 2014 Strawberry Festival and thanked the DDA for its financial support. “I’ve been here for eight year and the last two years were the best as far as weather,” Bodnar reported. “In the years before, we had at least one rainy day.” This year people enjoyed the camel rides, Extreme Aquasport water show (that lasted five and a half hours), the tigers, live broadcasts, and other events. She said several vendors sold out and they didn’t get any vendor complaints. “Everybody was happy,” she said. On the third Tuesday of September the Strawberry Festival Committee will meet to review the 2014 event. In October and November they will start plans for the 2015 festival;
• Heard Steve Jones of the Belleville Area Council for the Arts thank the DDA for being a $2,500 sponsor of ArtAffair on Main. He said they will thank the DDA officially at its next meeting;
• Heard City Manager Diana Kollmeyer report that ropes for the piers that decorate Horizon Park were delivered earlier that day. Some of the ropes at the park have broken down;
• Heard Treasurer Sabrina Richardson Williams ask about the bridge over the ponds at Victoria Commons. She said she thinks the grass is blocking the water flow. Kollmeyer said one employee has been in the hospital for a week so they are short-handed. She said they had talked about painting that bridge; and
• Heard Councilman Tom Fielder say the Belleville Bridge has some medallions that are getting beaten up by the weather. “Should we be sealing Chesley’s balls?” he asked of the stone balls on the bridge designed by the late Chesley Odom. Thompson said the poles on the bridge had been repainted and the fence replaced at Doane’s Landing. Jones said the wrought iron on the bridge is looking rough.
By Rosemary K. Otzman