On November 1, 2005, Ypsilanti resident and developer Bob Doyle delivered a letter to Mayor and City Council describing in great detail a history of the Water Street project and concerns with the current plan. The information in Bob’s letter even surprised me. The city has never released such detail about the project and Bob deserves a great deal of thanks for all his hard work and research. This is a must read for anyone that lives or works in Ypsilanti that is concerned about the financial health and the long term future of our community. [Read Bob Doyle’s Letter about Water Street]
Long time readers know that I too have been deeply concerned about the financing and plans for the city of Ypsilanti’s $18 million Water Street Project. Bob Doyle has also been concerned about the project and in 2003 he and his wife hosted a series of meetings with the Mayor and city council members, city officials, local architects, planners, attorneys, business owners, and neighbors to ask questions and offer ideas to keep Water Street on track. [See letter from May 2003]
All but one council member met with Bob and his group to discuss the issues. (One council member from Ward 3 said the project was too far along and refused to meet or discuss the issue. Remember, this was back in 2003.) While great information was exchanged, nothing ever came from those meetings and the city continued to bunker down and disengage from the community, all the while costs continued to escalate and the project missed deadline after deadline.
The project came to a halt in December 2004 when, after three years of trying to negotiate a development agreement, the developer was fired by the city. Still neighbors held out hope and the city continued with their positive spin that firing the developer was a good thing. After not one developer submitted a proposal in August of 2005 and the city announced a $725,000 pay-off to the former developer, many in the community became alarmed.
The city then sent a letter to the State, asking that $336,000 in Water Street grant money be diverted to build an elevator at the Riverside Arts Center and asked that the due date for some of the current loans be pushed back four years. The city is still waiting to hear from the state. While I applaud the city for asking the state to delay when we have to start paying back the loans, there is no excuse for taking $336,000 away from a Water Street project woefully over budget and some four years behind schedule to build an elevator downtown.
And if it couldn’t get any worse, at a recent Town Hall Meeting, the city confirmed that residents and property owners in the Water Street area would pay an additional 2 mills in taxes to the DDA above and beyond the already highest property taxes in the county.
Folks, we should be very concerned. How can the city hope to sell any Water Street homes when they pile on an extra 2 mills in taxes, divert money from the project to build an elevator downtown, and continue to threaten residents with an income tax? (The city is hosting another Town Hall meeting next week about an income tax.)