The road is now open for Meijer to come to the Houghton area.
In a special meeting held yesterday at the Portage Township offices, the board of trustees unanimously approved a motion to proceed with a property binding relationship between the Township and the city of Houghton.
Earlier this year it was disclosed at a Houghton City Council Meeting that Michigan-based box store, Meijer has shown an interest in opening a future Houghton location. The announcement was greeted with mixed reactions amongst the community, some who strongly support the idea, and some that strongly do not.
The location of interest is a corner lot at M-26 and Green Acres Road, part of which is in Portage Township, with the majority of the 40 acre site landing in the city limits.
This is not the first time municipalities have faced this issue, so the state has created what’s called a PA 425 Agreement. In a nutshell- what the agreement does is combines the two properties into a single title falling under only one of the governing bodies. In this case, the City of Houghton claims authority of the lot for the purpose of taxes, zoning and logistics. The agreement remains contingent on the intended purpose, however. If for some reason Meijer decides not to build the store, the 7.5 acre parcel that’s currently in the township would at some point be reclaimed by the township’s jurisdiction by default.
“If Meijer does not build within 10 years, it goes back to the township. That was added in the negotiation with the city,” said Petersen.
This was the third board meeting regarding the issue. In exchange for the township’s agreement, the city had offered 3 tax mills on the reassessed property value, which would increase substantially once construction begins.
Like most large business dealings, negotiations are to be had, and the township postponed voting on the agreement while contemplating and researching. One township trustee stated that the previous meetings were under attended and those who attended and expressed concerns, were in opposition of the development project.
That was not the case yesterday. With standing room only, a large group of concerned citizens, most of them in support of the Meijer store, urged the board of trustees to sign the agreement, claiming that it was best for the people of both the Township and the City, as well as the rest of the local economy.
Others did oppose, one woman voiced her fear for small business being pushed out by another large retailer.
During negotiations, another trustee stated that the board “shouldn’t settle for three carrots, if it could get four.” An invested party on the transaction paraphrased, asking Houghton City Manager, Eric Waara if he “had another carrot for Bill?” Waara replied by saying “No.” And that he’s “…all out of carrots.”
Petersen said, ‘There’s a lot of nuances that go into this. Who’s going to supply what? Fire protection, wastewater, even trash pickup. That’s why it takes free-thinking individuals to come to consensus and get these issues answered, and it took 3 meetings.”
After more public comment, the board took a vote and all were in favor of signing the agreement, gaining the crowd’s gratitude through applause.
“Basically I think the consensus was: Meijer is one thing that the public in general would like to see sited here, and they voted accordingly,” Petersen said.
Other details will be discussed between the municipalities and the retailer in the near future. Those issues are related to costs incurred with a sewer line necessary for the build.
“The next step is the signature of that agreement and presenting it to Meijer. Meijer would then pursue the land rights and design parameters over the winter months. Hopefully they might start building next year,” said Petersen.