By Rosemary K. Otzman
The Van Buren Township Board of Trustees unanimously established Industrial Development District #24 for Costco Wholesale Corporation and then unanimously granted it an eight-year, 50% tax abatement on real and personal property.
The board met May 6 and held public hearings on the issues before the votes, with a bare quorum of four members. Absent and excused were Treasurer Sharry Budd and Trustees Phil Hart and Brenda McClanahan.
Costco plans a 347,720-square-foot building on a 71.56-acre site at the Canton Township border on the west side of Belleville Road, north of Van Born and next to Bayloff.
The 50% tax abatement on its real property for eight years totals a $393,152 abatement and the 50% on its personal property for eight years totals $24,208.53.
Costco plans to invest $40 million in real property and $4.088 million in personal property for a total of more than $44 million.
VBT Assessor Linda Stevenson said the estimated township tax on the real property each year would be $98,288 and times eight years equals $786,304. Half of that is $393,152.
Stevenson said the personal property tax may go away altogether in 2016 if the voters pass the state ballot proposal in August.
Peter Kahn, Assistant Vice President of Real Estate for Costco, said they plan to have 126 new jobs in the first year at a minimum and could easily grow to 200 in five years. He said Costco hires from the community and the average wage is $20.90. He said they will be seeking enthusiastic employees who are looking for careers and want to grow with the company to levels of leadership.
“As they say, ‘We grow our own,’” Kahn told the board, reeling off the company benefits, including profit sharing.
He said the Van Buren Township depot will be the distribution center for Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. This will be Costco’s tenth depot nationwide and the first in the State of Michigan.
He said vendors will bring in their loads of TVs or soups or other items. The products will be pulled off the delivery truck and the pallet put on another truck to be taken to Costco stores.
He said they have dry docks, for general merchandise, and wet docks for the meat, milk, cheese and other items that need refrigeration.
Kahn said once a manager is appointed they will work out a job-hunting procedure and would be happy to work with the township.
When Trustee Reggie Miller asked if they are union jobs, Kahn replied, “No, not in Michigan… but in other states workers are organized.”
Kahn said they would like to be open as soon as possible and are planning for next spring.
Kahn said Costco will give local contractors the ability to bid on construction of the depot. He said it is usually more cost-effective to do that since local companies don’t have to pay for transportation and housing, which drives up the cost.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said there will be an increase in traffic on Belleville Road.
Kahn said the basic hours will be 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., with most traffic around the noon hour when trucks go out to distribute their loads.
He said Costco will work with the community to have its preferred routes and work with the vendors on routes.
Kahn said trucks will arrive in the morning prior to the gates opening, but they have a more than 1,000’ long panhandle, shared with Bayloff next door (they are negotiating an agreement), where trucks can park – two lanes in and two lanes out).
He said they can easily stack 100 trucks before the gates open.
Trustee Miller asked Public Safety Director Greg Laurain if this will cause an added burden for the police and fire departments.
Laurain said 200 trucks will increase traffic, but it depends on the route they will take as to how that will affect the township.
Kahn said the trucks could go southbound to Ecorse and then to I-275 or north to Michigan Avenue to I-275.
Laurain said the trucks could go westbound on Ecorse.
He told Miller he could see no need for more patrol cars.
“I support long-term investment in the community, which will increase the tax base and bring 126 jobs,” Supervisor Linda Combs said, adding Costco is the seventh-largest company in the world.
“Thank you for choosing our community,” she said to Kahn.
John Delaney said from the audience that he should have given his comments before “the sales pitch” and noted Costco has no control over vendor trucks and, “They’ll come however they want to come.”
He said there will be damage to the roads by all the trucks and organized chaos with the parking.
“I really don’t think this is their first rodeo,” Supervisor Combs said referring to the Costco plans.
Trustee Jeff Jahr said a lot of the details will be addressed with the site plan which will go before the planning commission.
Arthur Mullen, VBT Director of Planning and Economic Development, said Costco has a bullpen planned for 46 trucks plus the 1,000 feet outside the gate. He said the planning commission is getting ready to review this.
In other business at the one-hour-and-eight-minute meeting, the board:
• Approved the second reading and adoption of the Rezoning with Conditions from C (Local Business) to C-1 (General Business) of about 1.01 acres at the corner of Sumpter and Hull roads for upgrading of a gas station and party store owned by Joe Nasser;
• Approved a job description for a part-time Human Resources Generalist employee and authorized a candidate search. The former part-time HR employee left for a full-time position;
• Approved first readings of three amendments of ordinances concerning possession of controlled substances, penalties for violation, use, and narcotic paraphernalia, to comply with state law;
• Removed from the agenda the first reading of an ordinance to delete the sentence which states, “Uses for enterprises that are contrary to Federal, State, or Local Laws or Ordinances are prohibited.” This ordinance amendment was based on a recommendation by the planning commission to adopt the “Livonia language” related to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. This “Livonia language” has been struck down by the Michigan Supreme Court in its recent opinion of TerBeek v City of Wyoming as the court found that the Medical Marijuana Act preempted the city’s zoning ordinance. Consequently the township attorney recommended this “Livonia language” should be removed from VBT’s ordinance;
• Approved amendment of the bylaws for the Local Development Finance Authority so it can meet every other month instead of monthly. The LDFA was formed to administer the Visteon Village bonds and finances and there is not enough business now to necessitate meeting every month. Attorneys are working on the Visteon bond problem;
• Approved Zambelli Fireworks Company for the fireworks bid of $10,000 and using the $12,000 “concert donations” grant from Waste Management to pay for the display with the extra $2,000 paying for portajohn rental, spraying for pest control, and DJ services. The fireworks concert is set for Beck Ball Fields on June 28, with a rain date of June 29. Supervisor Combs is collecting corporate donations to pay for the overtime pay for police and fire to handle crowd control. She said she will need about $10,000 for the overtime;
• Approved the Engineering Standards Manual presented by the DPW as a guide for contractors and developers;
• Approved continued negotiations among Detroit Water and Sewerage Department customers aimed at forming a regional water authority to manage the operations of DWSD;
• Approved reappointments of Walter Rochowiak and Robert Cook to the Water and Sewer Commission with terms to expire June 1, 2016;
• Approved the $13,200 contract for services for Fire Reporting System of CLEMIS;
• Approved a resolution against Interdepartmental Employment, effective immediately, whereby township personnel will not be allowed to be employed in more than one job classification, with those already in more than one classification allowed to continue;
• Heard Director Mullen apologize for his outburst at the ad hoc lake committee meeting “for unintentionally impugning” the character of Trustee Jahr. Jahr accepted the apology;
• Heard Timothy King of Ypsilanti again ask the board to sign his petition asking the state to put up the funds necessary to build a memorial at Willow Run Airport to honor the bombers built there during WWII and the employees who worked there. He said he has signatures from Canton, City of Belleville, Wayne, Yankee Air Force Museum, and “your police chief.” Combs said she would sign and Miller and Clerk Leon Wright showed interest in signing, but Jahr was reluctant; and
• Accepted the attorney’s recommendation on the lawsuit Grays v. Jane Tinsley, Van Buren Township, which is Wayne County Circuit Court Case #13-010175-CH. A closed-door session on the matter was held at the end of the May 5 board work/study session. At that same closed-door session the board discussed the attorney’s opinion letter on the Township Ethic Policy.