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Wakefield council grants tax exemption on vacant lake land


October 15, 2019

P.J. Glisson/Daily Globe

A SLIDE FROM a Monday evening presentation by members of the Forward Wakefield Development Corporation shows some of the ideas so far presented for property that used to feature the town's memorial building. The presentation was part of a public hearing during a meeting of the Wakefield City Council, which granted the corporation tax-exempt status on the property for the next three years. During that time, the property will be marketed to potential developers.


Wakefield - The Wakefield City Council voted Monday evening to approve Resolution No. 266, in relation to granting tax-exempt status to the Forward Wakefield Development Corporation for a three-year period.

According to city manager Rob Brown, the resolution now will be sent to the State Tax Commission for final determination.

The council's unanimous vote occurred after three members of Forward Wakefield presented a slide show regarding their goals during a related public hearing.

"Forward Wakefield is an organization that was born in the '90s, 22 years ago," said Tim Lynott, who led the presentation.

Moreover, he added that the memorial building land, which faces Sunday Lake, was deeded to Forward Wakefield last year by Marvin Suomi, who also had tax-exempt status and who now serves as a member of the corporation.

Lynott estimated that the three-year exemption requested would translate to roughly $3,645 in tax revenue, of which he estimated about a third would be the city's sacrifice.

He added, however, that if a qualified entity successfully develops the land, it would create tens of thousands of dollars in tax revenue.

Lynott said Forward Wakefield members have made a concerted effort to push the property, which has the street address of 500 Lakeshore Drive. As a starting measure, a large sign marketing the site has been placed on the property, which lies between the Michigan State Police Post and the Wakefield-Marenisco K-12 School.

In addition, said Lynott, "We've created a website. We're trying to get our sea legs under us to start marketing it."

As indicated on one of the slides, Forward Wakefield already has received suggestions to market the land for business incubators, or for senior and family housing, or for a motel complex with a restaurant and event potential.

"We're really hoping that the city of Wakefield would partner with us," said Julie Hautala, who was teaming with John Siira and Lynott in offering the presentation.

From the audience, Bob Blaskowski asked Forward Wakefield members whether they should consider tapping a community development director, at least part time.

Siira said he agreed that such support would be helpful and added that Gogebic Community College also is lending aid.

"You can't market something that's not procedurally available," said mayor John Granato, who was cautioning that the request for tax-exempt status has not yet cleared the state.

He also pointed out that, while the city can offer recommendations about the land, "We can't tell you how to develop it."

Blaskowski also suggested tapping help from Gogebic County economic development experts.

Forward Wakefield defines itself as tax-exempt, as well as "charitable" and educational."

Its website states, "We are a group of individuals with a specific set of skills whose sole interest is economic development for our town and region."

Among testimonials on the site is one from Vicki Schwab, who said, "As a member of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, I look forward to working with Forward Wakefield on grant development opportunities."

In other news, the council also:

-Voted to accept a donation of $2,200 from AEP Energy Partners and to authorize the city manager to purchase an automated external defibrillator for use in the municipal building's newly renovated community room gym.

-Voted to approve the first reading of Ordinance No. 230, which would prohibit all-night parking on city streets from Oct. 31 through April 1, to allow for snow plowing during those times. A related hearing will take place on Nov. 11 during a regular council meeting.

-Voted to approve the first reading of Ordinance No. 239, which amends the current coning code to note that all appeals regarding decisions of the city planning commission shall be made to the zoning board of appeals within 30 days of said decisions. A related public hearing will take place on Nov. 11 during a regular council meeting.

-Voted to vacate a portion of Peters Street, on the west side of Bedell Avenue, after a related public hearing resulted in no objection. According to city attorney Ray O'Dea, the city will retain an easement for utility purposes.

-Voted to pass Resolution No. 268, which allows for amendments to the 2019-2020 budget.

-Voted to provide routine support to the 14th annual Polar Plunge, as requested by volunteer coordinator Matt Agee. The next plunge, which will raise funds for Regional Hospice Services, will be on March 7 and will be based from VFW Post 9084 in Wakefield.

-Voted to reject a current bid for repair at more than a dozen road sites and instead issue new bids in the spring.

-Learned from the city manager that the recent repair of the electrical substation was successful.

At the end of the meeting, council members went into a closed session to discuss negotiation of a contract in relation to the city's union workers.

The council will meet next on Oct. 28 at 5:30 p.m., and the planning commission will meet today at 5:30 p.m. Both meetings will be in the council room of the municipal building, and the public is welcome.


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