By Diane Madigan
Independent Special Writer
There are trees growing in the unsightly fence in the road right of way along Belleville Road and that is one of the reasons Wayne County Roads Division officials are coming out this week to get a first-hand look at the situation.
Complaints about the looks of the old fence led the Van Buren Township Downtown Development Authority to look into its legal status in order to figure out what to do about it.
The fence runs from Harmony Lane north to Sunrise and some of the broken-down fence has barbed wire on top. There are 11 property owners involved in that stretch.
DDA Executive Director Susan Ireland said the county now believes the fence was put in place in the 1940s by Henry Ford around his farm field. Earlier accounts said the fence was put in place in the 1960s by a housing developer.
At its March 26 meeting, the DDA was told by Ireland that the county would be sending a letter to the township about removing the fence.
The day after the meeting, Ireland told the Independent a different person at the county just informed her they cannot and will not send a letter about removal of the potentially hazardous fence.
Ireland said the county told her it will remove the fence although it might take years. But, they will not remove the trees that are growing in the fence.
At past meetings, the DDA discussed what it can do to make that area of its streetscape look nicer, including planting more trees and putting up a decorative fence.
James Kosiba, an eighth grade student working toward an Eagle Scout rank, has volunteered to help with the project.
Election of officers
At its March 26 meeting, the DDA reelected Jere Dolph chairman and Sophie Zoller secretary for the year and new DDA member Craig Atchinson as vice chairman, to take the place of his father Kurt who was vice chairman when he retired recently from the DDA.
The DDA agreed to proceed with its second-favorite place for a billboard on westbound I-94, 3,000 feet east of Haggerty Road, which is available June 3. The DDA’s first choice would not be available until 2014.
Vice Chairman Atchinson, General manager of Atchinson Ford on Belleville Road, said his company currently has two billboards on I-94 and two on I-275. He suggested negotiating a price for the
DDA billboard and artwork. Communication Associates Inc.’s quote of $3,000-$3,500 for a four-week run includes artwork.
CAI, the DDA’s public relations firm, is currently developing a list of 300-500 contacts to distribute brochures and send emails. These contacts include local and national commercial real estate brokers, tenant representatives, and large and small business decision makers.
The DDA also discussed the line “Van Buren Business Pure and Simple” which appears on the DDA website, communications and brochures. Ireland suggested adding, “Invest in Downtown Van Buren.”
DDA member Mark Laginess had a problem with the addition.
“Where is most of what’s in Downtown Van Buren today? It’s in the DDA. If we happen to attract something someplace else, it’s good for the township. The whole township benefits,” he said.
He added that he believed the planning department should also incorporate the mantra to promote business in general.
DDA member Ron Blank asked for website stats and said he had concerns about spending a lot of time and money.
The DDA accepted the $11,840 bid of Pioneer Landscaping to be Belleville Roadside Landscaper. This includes replacement of 18 trees: 2 Maple trees at French Landing Party Store and Walmart, 6 trees at 5/3 Bank, 1 at Applebee’s, 3 at Belleville/Quirk Road triangle, 3 in front of Harmony Lane subdivision, 1 in front of Twisted Rooster, and 2 in front of Meijer gas station. Filled water bags, topsoil and mulching are included in this bid and the job is to be completed 3 weeks from the agreed-upon start date.
Zoo Millage lawsuit
Ireland reported the judge presiding over the Zoo Millage lawsuit has issued a time schedule and he wants to issue his opinion on or before June 15. She said some bills on the issue have been submitted in Lansing.
Laginess said he believes that new legislation signals that the current legislation allows the DDA to capture and not turn over the revenue.
According to Wayne County court records, there have been 23 actions registered on this case in March. Oral arguments are scheduled for May 30.
Public Safety Day
Ireland announced that Van Buren Township Public Safety Day has been set from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Aug. 10.
CAI will assist with initial planning, providing flyers, postcard mailers, posters, directional signage, press releases before and after the event, and photography for use on the website, social media, and brochure update.
The DDA was informed by Ireland that Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano is scheduled to attend a quarterly meeting of Aerotropolis at the Holiday Inn Express. She said he was supposed to attend the last Aerotroplis meeting, but didn’t.
Ireland reported that sidewalk easement talks continue on the I-94 North Service drive from Quirk Road east to the shopping center.
Also, letters are being sent out offering to purchase sidewalk easements from property owners along Belleville Road from Tyler Road to 8701 Belleville Road.
Ireland reported that she has contacted DTE with a complete inventory of light poles that need maintenance.
Ireland reported that Rich Keenan, president of Old Glory Flags and Flagpoles, is negotiating costs with contractors. Before replacing all banner arms, Keenan would like to do a durability test on five arms near the bridge where the winds are strongest.
Laginess circulated photos of fiberglass banner arms he took at ESPN Wide World of Sports Stadium at Disney World, winter home of the Atlanta Braves. Laginess watched the Detroit Tigers play the Braves.
Ecorse/Belleville Road project
It was announced that workers were preparing to shift traffic for springtime work on the Ecorse/Belleville Road intersection project.
Also, Wade Trim’s engineering plan for dead-end turn-arounds and enclosing the drainage ditches on the south side Ecorse Road Service Drives have been sent to the county. Upon approval, landscaping plans in this area will resume.
Health Care Insurance Plan
DDA member Carol Bird wanted to address a health care insurance plan from the township that affects Ireland.
VBT Supervisor Linda Combs explained that the township is currently developing a policy that would require salaried personnel to pay 10% of their health care insurance costs. If approved at the next meeting, the policy would take effect May 1, Supervisor Combs said.
“Does the DDA wish to reimburse her for that because you have covered her health care in the past?” Combs asked.
“I have an employment agreement with the DDA and it includes benefits that are afforded to township employees,” Ireland said.
The DDA agreed to postpone this issue until there is action by the township board.
Absent from the March 26 DDA meeting were Robert Bechtel, who was excused, and Joe Baskin. The Independent reporter was the only person in the audience.
By Diane Madigan