Hancock council sets hearing on development district
HANCOCK — On Wednesday evening, the Hancock City Council assembled to take care of several city business items.
City Manager Mary Babcock delivered the administrative report, informing the council that updates to the city’s website are almost complete, and that the new website is expected to be published on or near Jan. 1.
Babcock also reported that the annual Christmas Walk, held last Friday in downtown Hancock, was a great success with attendance that exceeded expectations. Around 18 Hancock businesses participated in the Holiday Window Decorating Contest, and judges awarded first place to The Flower Shop, followed by K.C. Bonker’s and Sew Cranky in second and third.
Lastly, Babcock said that the deadline to register for the upcoming Holiday Home Decorating Contest is Dec. 10.
The council then turned its attention to new business. Councilors unanimously approved the purchase of a 2013 Dodge Pickup truck from Northern Auto, to join the city’s fleet.
The council also established its 2022 meeting schedule. After a brief debate, counselors decided to continue meeting twice per month, with meetings during the first and third weeks of each month.
They have the option of canceling one of the two meetings in the event that there is a lack of business to discuss. The first meeting in January was then canceled.
A decision that required lengthier debate, was whether to schedule a public hearing to consider the adoption of a resolution to establish an industrial development district.
Councilors asked a series of questions to determine what this resolution might entail, before eventually approving the scheduling of a public hearing by a vote of six to one. This hearing will take place on Dec. 15 during the regularly scheduled city council meeting.
Scheduling the hearing is the first step in a process that could result in the establishment of an industrial business and technology park on a 40-acre parcel of land located on Lake Annie Road.
At the upcoming public hearing, the council will consider whether to establish an industrial development district on the land. Doing so would allow the city to offer a tax abatement – a form of property tax incentive – to prospective developers.
Businesses interested in developing the parcel could then submit applications to the city. Counselors reasoned that the establishment of a new business could result in job creation, additional tax revenue for the city, and a large investment in the local economy.
However, the upcoming hearing is only the first step in the process, and will not necessarily result in the city offering a tax abatement to any developer.
As the meeting drew to a close, Councilor John Haeussler took the floor to share his thoughts on a few topics including HB 4722, a bill that was recently passed by the Michigan House of Representatives. If it becomes law, the bill will limit the authority of municipalities to regulate rental properties.
Haeussler reiterated that the bill impacts all rentals citywide, not just short-term rentals and rentals in residential zones.
He expressed concern that the bill could lead to excessive numbers of short-term rentals, given that it prevents local governments from limiting the number of short-term rentals to a quantity that is lower than 30% of dwellings within the municipality.
Finally, Haeussler reflected on the bill’s classification of a short-term rental as a residential, rather than commercial use of property. He reported that recent Court of Appeals cases upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court had defined the term ‘commercial use’, by saying “commercial use of property is intended to generate a profit,”
“Well, if you’re renting it, you’re intending to generate a profit,” said Haeussler. “So, our court system certainly says that rentals are commercial uses of property.”
“But why the legislature is legislating that it is not, is that commercial use is barred by most covenants that are in the form of deed restrictions,” he explained.
Many Michigan neighborhoods, including several located in Hancock, have deed restrictions that prevent commercial activity. But by classifying rentals as non-commercial, HB 4722 would allow rentals to circumvent this restriction.
“What House Bill 4722 does is it tells the local neighborhoods that the agreements you have don’t count, it’s going to trump that agreement,” said Haeussler. “So, the next time we see Representative Markkanen and Senator McBroom, who’s on record as being in favor of this bill, I want to ask why the wishes of residents don’t matter? Why do residents have no voice in the character of their neighborhoods?”
The Hancock City Council will meet again on Dec. 15.