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Municipal complex site to be appraised

Council mixed on idea of selling, moving

The Oxford Village municipal complex at 18-22 W. Burdick St. (click for larger version)
July 16, 2014 - Oxford Village officials are having an appraisal performed on the municipal complex located at 18-22 W. Burdick St. and the approximately 2.08 acres it sits on.

But there are mixed feelings on the council as to whether the village should sell the site to a private developer, who wants to turn it into housing, and build a new municipal hall elsewhere.

"I think we need to look at staying here," said Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth.

"I can't see how we could continue putting money into an old building," said Councilman Elgin Nichols.

"Perhaps, it's the historian side of me, but I've never really been an advocate for tearing down buildings," said Councilman Bryan Cloutier.

"I have never outright approved of this concept," said village President Dave Bailey. "I have also not tried to oppose it. I have tried to have an open mind on it, but I still do not support it. Right now, I'm neither supporting it nor opposing it . . . I feel that this isn't the way to go, but I still have an open mind. I could be convinced."

Last week, council voted 3-2 to hire the Milford-based Horizon Appraisal Co. to conduct an appraisal of the municipal complex site for an amount not to exceed $1,000.

The appraisal is being sought in light of the Bingham Farms-based Burton-Katzman's interest in purchasing the village site, tearing down the existing buildings and constructing 30 to 35 townhouse units on it.

"That is consistent with the plans that the village has put together for this piece of property," said Charles M. DiMaggio, senior vice president of project development for Burton-Katzman.

He was referring to the 2005 Downtown Vision Plan prepared for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA). It indicated the property could accommodate "approximately 40 townhouse condominiums."

The municipal complex currently includes the village offices and council chambers, police station, community meeting room, old fire station, old township hall and office space currently leased to the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department and the Oxford Chamber of Commerce.

As part of its June 24 letter of intent, Burton-Katzman offered to pay market value – as established by a mutually agreed upon appraisal process – for the village property.

However, it was noted that no matter what the value was determined to be, the purchase price would not be less than $7,000 per approved residential unit.

For example, if 30 townhouses were approved for the site, the village would receive no less than $210,000 for the property.

"If the appraisal is more than what we have indicated in our letter of intent, we would buy it for the greater amount," DiMaggio told council. "If the appraisal came back less than what we have in this letter of intent, we would buy it for (the minimum amount stated) in the letter. So, you have a minimum purchase price even if the appraisal came out less."

In November 2012, village residents voted 921 to 675 to grant the municipality the authority to sell the property, which is currently zoned multiple family residential (RM-2).

The vote doesn't mean the property must be sold, it just means the village has permission to do it if necessary.

"Just because it can be (sold) doesn't mean we have to," Helmuth said.

Nichols said initially he was "very much" in favor of the village hall staying put, but then he investigated some of the repairs that need to be made and now, "I have a tendency to lean in the other direction."

"Has anyone addressed the expense to bring this building up to decent code?" the councilman asked.

"Not in detail," replied village Manager Joe Young. But Young noted there are a number of large items that need to be addressed including aging air-conditioning units, structural issues, carpeting, the parking lot's poor condition, the fact that the building is not handicap-accessible "in all cases," and its lack of energy efficiency.

"This building does need some attention," he said.

Given that, Nichols said, "I think it would be better to build (in) a new location."

Nichols indicated the advantages would include having a new village hall that operates more efficiently and garnering additional revenue for the municipality in the form of adding a new residential development to the tax roll. "The community could use the funds," he said.

But not everyone shared that view.

"Call me crazy, but I, personally, am not thrilled with the idea," Cloutier said. "I understand the logistics behind why you would like to have this done, but I'm not crazy about the idea of moving out of the building and tearing it down to build residential."

Right now, many downtown businesses and visitors utilize the parking lot behind the municipal complex. "Where are we proposing all these people park when they come downtown?" Cloutier asked.

Young explained the Downtown Vision Plan calls for building multi-story parking decks in three out of the four downtown quadrants. As for how much it would cost to build these, the manager said an estimate was obtained a few years ago and it was $3 million each for a three-to-four story parking deck.

There's been some talk about the village possibly moving its operations onto the property the DDA owns at 32-38 E. Burdick St.

But Helmuth didn't see the advantage because either way, property is staying off the tax roll. And if the village moves its municipal complex, she said it would be "an incredible expense" to move the dispatch center's radio antenna and police station's holding cell.

That's why Helmuth advocated keeping the complex on the existing site.

"We could build a new building here, if that's the way we want to go. There's plenty of room here for a footprint," she said. "We're here. I think it's silly to move."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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