Source: Sherman Publications

Council to explore proposal to turn municipal complex into townhouses

by CJ Carnacchio

July 31, 2013

A proposal to turn the Oxford Village municipal complex (18-22 W. Burdick St.) into a townhouse development will be further explored and the findings brought back to council at its Aug. 27 meeting.

“I would like to see us move forward with this,” said village President Tony Albensi, who noted he’s excited about the amount of foot-traffic this type of residential development could generate in the downtown area.

“Getting this property back on the tax rolls, that’s pretty exciting to me as well.”

Burton-Katzman, a real estate developer with offices in Bingham Farms, Michigan and Sarasota, Florida, submitted a proposal to purchase the municipal complex and turn it into an estimated 30 to 35 townhouses.

Council discussed the proposal at length during its July 23 meeting.

Charles M. DiMaggio, senior vice president of project development for Burton-Katzman, estimated that such a development would have a value of $4 million to $5 million and generate between $80,000 and $100,000 in property taxes.

DiMaggio noted the offer doesn’t have an expiration date.

“We understand this is going to take some time,” he told council. “Hopefully, while it’s taking time for you to sort all that out, the markets continue to improve and we both end up at a very good point.”

But not everyone on council was as enthusiastic about the idea as Albensi.

Councilwoman Sue Bossardet expressed concern over the impact on downtown businesses, particularly those in the southwest quadrant, should all that free public parking in the municipal lot no longer be available to customers and employees.

“They fill this lot on certain nights,” she said. “If that disappears and it’s only parking for residents, then we have a problem over there.”

To Albensi, the benefit of more people living in close proximity to the downtown area and the additional property tax revenue for the village’s coffers “outweighs any parking concerns.”

Councilman Elgin Nichols explained that he was against this proposal at first, but after wrestling with it for a while, he believes “it’s a viable option” that should be explored further.

Nichols noted the aging municipal complex already requires “a lot of maintenance” and “there’s going to be more in the future.”

Albensi added that the municipal parking lot is “in dire need of some work right now.”

The decision of whether to sell the municipal complex and the 2 acres it sits on rests solely with the five council members.

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

The vote doesn’t mean the property must be sold, it just means the village has permission to do so should officials decide to go that route.

The complex 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.

If the village were to sell the complex, it would have to find a new home for its offices, which means either moving into an existing building or constructing a new facility.

Some possible relocation sites for the village offices were mentioned.

They include properties the village owns at 98 S. Glaspie St. and 32-38 E. Burdick St.; the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center (i.e. Vets Hall) at 28 N. Washington St., which is owned by the township; and the vacant downtown property on the west side of M-24, north of Burdick St., between Sisters Hair Care and the Healthy Smile Center. That last site is owned by Chuck Schneider.

“I’d be willing to consider any of those,” said Councilman Dave Bailey.

Nichols found the township’s potential willingness to rid itself of the Vets Hall to be a “tantalizing” prospect for the village because there’s room to expand it.

Albensi believes “there’s plenty of room” at the village’s water treatment plant on S. Glaspie St. to construct an addition to accommodate the municipal offices.

“There’s a lot of space in that building alone that’s not being used,” he said. “I don’t think we really need much room.”

Bossardet prefers to keep the village offices in the center of town.

“I would hate to move our seat of government to the outskirts of our village,” she said.

“Over there on Glaspie, (it would be) lost in the sea. Much like how I feel the township offices (are) out there on Dunlap (Rd.).”

Bossardet said when it comes to old or historic areas, the seat of government “is always within or a short distance from the downtown.”

“It’s in a walkable area,” she said. To Bossardet, relocating the village offices to 32-38 E. Burdick St. is a potential option.

Money for construction and moving expenses is another big consideration for council.

“I would like to think that if this property were to be sold . . .some of those (revenues) could be used for moving the village offices. But I would hate to see all of them or even more (money) used to build a new village office,” Albensi said.

As part of its proposal, 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.

Bailey speculated the “only place” out of the above options that the village could potentially move to and not spend more than the sale proceeds is the Vets Hall.

“Because there, you don’t have to build a building,” he said. “But maybe I’m wrong. I’m not a real estate person, so what do I know.”

Councilwoman Maureen Helmuth expressed her concern about how much it would cost the village to move all of the police department’s dispatch equipment and telephone lines to a new site.

“That’s not going to be cheap,” she said.

“If we didn’t have (a dispatch center) here, that would solve part of the problem in terms of expense,” Nichols noted.

When asked what sort of timetable Burton-Katzman would be working under should the village accept its offer, DiMaggio told council, “I would envision construction on this site (18-22 W. Burdick St.) not beginning until you’ve totally relocated to wherever your new facility would be at.

“Once you’re there and you’re settled and operating, then we would come in and begin the demolition on this property and the development.”

DiMaggio estimated the townhouse project could take eight months to build.