Village, school future intertwine over real estate

By Susan Bromley
Staff Writer
Ortonville- Plotting a future for the village may require an updated roadmap, and cooperation between school and village officials.
At a joint meeting July 17, the village council, as well as members of the village planning commission and Downtown Development Authority, discussed a wide range of topics, including sewers, sidewalks, roads, and the now vacated Fletcher Intermediate School property that is owned by the school district. No school representatives were present at the meeting.
“We are sitting on a large project that could increase revenue,” said Village Council President Wayne Wills. “Councilmembers don’t think it’s our problem or issue or responsiblity. I don’t like that the school is selling Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School, but the decision has been made. Now, how do we guide so this 10 acres helps the village?”
Contacted by phone on Tuesday, Brandon School District Superintendent Matt Outlaw expressed surprise that no school officials had been invited to a meeting where there was discussion of how the property might be used. The district has contracted with Plante Moran CRESA to find investors for the property. The building was closed at the end of the school year and is being sold after a reconfiguration in the district due to declining enrollment. The district is also seeking buyers for Belle Anne Elementary and a vacant parcel on Sherman. Requests for proposal on the Fletcher property will be sought within the next few weeks.
“The district is open to creative solutions to filling the Fletcher property,” said Outlaw. “The district wants this to be something positive for the community. The key thing the district needs to sell this property is investors… There is likely to be rezoning needed for any of the properties (for sale by the district). We would work alongside the village to get that done. We don’t want to limit our options.”
Currently, the property is zoned for public use. Among the options for the property under the current zoning would be another school, a hospital, municipal offices or an assisted living facility, said Mike Deem, senior planner for McKenna Associates. He added that the village would be at risk for lawsuits regarding future use of the property as something else without an update to the master plan.
“Think about the possibilities for that property— about the tax revenue— you don’t get better property than this,” he said at the joint meeting.
“To be eligible for grants you need an updated master plan and capital improvement plan. Align your goals, it’s not limited to sidewalks and streets. Be prepared for eventualities. You’re at a crossroads, there are a lot of good opportunities. You need a good roadmap for going forward.”
He estimated an updated master plan would cost about $20,000, “give or take $2,500.”
The village master plan was last updated in 2008 and last reviewed in 2015, with no changes made at that time. At the end of 2015, voters soundly defeated a proposal that would have brought sewers to the village, with nearly 90 percent casting their votes against the plan that would have put an estimated special assessment of $25,550 on each residential property.
Deem said at Monday night’s meeting a new master plan could offer two options— one with sewers and one without.
“You’re not recreating the wheel, you’re just identifying what you want,” he said. “You’re not starting from scratch. No one ever thought (the Fletcher property) was going to be anything other than a school.”
Councilmember Tonja Brice pointed out it is not the village’s property to control.
“The district makes the decision,” she said. “We want a vested interest, but the school gets to decide.”
Deem agreed that is the case, up until the district sells to a private entity.
“Plante Moran needs to be aware we are willing to change the master plan to accommodate development and zoning,” said Councilmember Keith Dylus.
The next meeting of the village council is planned for 7 p.m., July 24, at the township offices, 395 Mill St.

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