Marquette County opposes DNR property purchase

4-2 vote Tuesday

From left, are Commissioner Joe Derocha, Marquette County Board Chairman Gerald Corkin, commissioners Karen Alholm, Bill Nordeen, Stephen Adamini and John DePetro at Tuesday’s meeting of the Marquette County Board of Commissioners. The board voted to oppose a land purchase proposal from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources at the meeting. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — The Marquette County Board of Commissioners opposed a Michigan Department of Natural Resources proposal to purchase land in northern Marquette County with a 4-2 vote at Tuesday’s regular meeting.

The 541-acre parcel, located in Powell Township near the Little Huron River, was nominated for purchase with DNR trust fund money by Brad Carlson, unit manager of the DNR’s Baraga Forest Resource Division.

Carlson nominated the parcel, which is priced at $4.5 million, due to “its unique attributes and potential public benefits,” a letter from Carlson to the board states.

Because the property would be owned by the state if the DNR purchased it, it would lead to a loss in tax revenue, as the parcel yields around $13,900 in taxes annually, with about $2,400 of going to the county’s general fund, according to board documents.

Beyond the issue of lost tax revenue, commissioners expressed a myriad of concerns about the proposed purchase at Tuesday’s meeting.

The DNR’s process for approaching local units about the purchase of the land was one concern aired by board members.

Commissioner Joe Derocha said the process for such a purchase should have begun with Powell Township’s planning commission and township board, rather than the county.

“We have a process in place when it comes to DNR and land purchasing and acquiring more land, and that process starts with the local jurisdiction that the land is in … none of that process took place,” Derocha said.

Another concern shared by Derocha and others was the lack of public road access to the parcel, which could limit the public use and benefit of the lands.

“There’s no public access to it,” Derocha said. “There’s private road access, there’s not a public access. And for that reason, I can’t see supporting this package.”

Due to the lack of public vehicular access to the parcel, commissioners discussed if the DNR’s purchase would have a benefit for taxpayers.

“I don’t see a big public benefit to this property. And spending $4.5 million of taxpayer money with minimal access, I don’t see a big community benefit, so I’ll be voting to oppose it,” Marquette County Board Chairman Gerald Corkin said. “As far as I’m concerned, in order for me, in the future, to support giving land to the DNR, they’re going to have to prove a pretty important public benefit in this county to get my support.”

Commissioner Karen Alholm, who also serves on the Marquette County Planning Commission, said that while the planning commission discussed many of the same concerns regarding the proposed purchase at a recent meeting, they opted to support it.

“I like the idea of saving property for future generations, we can’t always just worry about tax dollars … but we also have a future to preserve here and that’s a beautiful piece of lakeshore property that the state could acquire with our support,” Alholm said.

Due to the need for clarification on some aspects of the purchase, such as Powell Township’s support and the DNR’s plans for use of the land, Alholm made a motion to table the matter for future consideration, which was supported by Commissioner John DePetro.

However, the motion to table did not pass a vote, and Corkin made a motion to oppose the purchase, which Commissioners Bill Nordeen, Stephen Adamini and Derocha voted in favor of, while Alholm and DePetro did not vote in favor of the motion.

During the commissioner comments, Adamini said he would reconsider if the state comes back and indicates the county’s concerns were heard.

“If the state comes back with a plan, which indicates that a good means of access would be provided to the property, and that use by the residents of Marquette county would not be so limited,” Adamini said.