ISHPEMING - Two representatives from Porter Limited spoke out during public comment at the Negaunee City Council meeting Thursday about the swapping or selling of property owned by the company in Negaunee's Old Town.
Don Schinella, a real estate agent representing Porter, said he sent a letter to Negaunee City Manager Jeff Thornton and Mayor Richard Wills in September proposing a land swap between Porter and the city. He said Wills responded saying that the city was "not interested at all."
In addition, Schinella said included in the letter was a request to be put on the agenda for Thursday's council meeting, a request that he said was "totally denied."
An area of Old Town in Negaunee was recently offered in trade to the Negaunee City Council by a developer. This for sale sign points toward the parcel, which is along Jennings Street in the Old Town area, which for many years was closed off as caving grounds. (Journal photo by Renee Prusi)
"There's approximately over 10 acres of that property that the public utilizes every day," Schinella said. "It's a usable park for the city of Negaunee, and we would like to trade that Old Town Park for property ... just south of the railroad tracks, but ... adjacent to Porter's property."
About half of the block on the north side of Jennings Street in Old Town - a parcel about a half mile long and about 100 yards wide - is owned by Porter, according to Mike Harrington, Schinella's partner in representing the company.
Schinella said he just wanted the public to know that the property was up for sale and he wanted to see if the city was interested in it. He said he was willing to negotiate with the city over exactly how the land was traded or divided up, but that the city wasn't interested.
Schinella said the property is zoned for residential use and that because the city is not interested, they'll be looking to sell it.
"If it's sold, whoever buys it ... can build homes in there, and Old Town won't be the same," he said.
Harrington said it depends on what the city's future plans for Old Town are; if the council would like to see it developed for residential use, then it made sense to refuse the deal because he said that's what would now happen. He said he and Schinella only wanted to alert the public to the fact that the land was for sale because the city declined the swap, not because Porter failed to reach out to the city.
Councilwoman Diana Menhennick thanked Schinella and Harrington for coming and said that while other parts of Old Town already owned by the city should be preserved, she would like to see some development on portions of the property because it would provide additional tax revenues.
"We as an elected body need to decide how big Old Town needs to be," she said. "For me, I would like to see that property have a house on it."
Wills said he was born on Jennings Street.
"I know all about Jennings Street, named after my grandfather," he said. "That's not an area that's going to be built in.
"As far as trading ... I was against that from day one ... because the property you want to trade to us is actually useless as far as the city is concerned."
Zach Jay can be reached at 906-486-4401. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org