City Council Recap: Short Meeting Ends with New Price for City Property

Lowell City Council met in open session for about 20 minutes on Monday night before going into closed session for about a half hour and then amending the agenda to allow for a vote on the sale of city property. All councilmembers were present for the meeting except Councilmember Marty Chambers.

Consent Agenda and Public Comments

Leading off the meeting was approval of the consent agenda which included approval of the evening’s agenda, minutes from the last regular meeting and the payment of $191,787 in invoices. The consent agenda also included a renewal of the city’s PROTEC membership.

During public comments, resident Perry Beachum noted that Rich LaBombard, the city’s assistant manager and director of public works, must be a “miracle worker.” Beachum had previously commented on how traffic diverted from Riverside might end up using Hunt Street instead. Beachum was concerned about the state of the Hunt/Hudson intersection. However, the Kent County Road Commission recently did work on the intersection, and Beachum thought LaBombard might have had something to do with that.

City Clerk Sue Ullery read into the record a letter from a resident concerned that placing barriers on Riverside Drive at the north side of Elm would require Riverside residents in the 200 block to drive the wrong way on the road to reach their driveways. She suggested placing the barriers on the south side of Elm instead.

Aquifer Study Approved

Earlier this year, a major development was announced for property near the I-96 interchange along Alden Nash. To become reality, it will need to connect to the City of Lowell wastewater facility for sewer service. While the state awarded $17.5 million to the project to get pipes to the development site, the city and Lowell Charter Township have been discussing how to expand the plant’s capacity.

Currently, the wastewater plant can process 1.5 million gallons per day, and local officials had been expecting that an expansion to 3 million gallons per day would be sufficient to meet all current and future needs.

However, during Monday’s meeting, City Manager Mike Burns shared that a business – whose name and type is unknown to the city – is apparently interested in developing a large portion of the land near the highway. This business has significant utility needs, and the city wastewater plant would need to be able to process 6-8 million gallons each day to accommodate this business and other new customers in the township.

Burns said it is unknown whether the city’s aquifer could handle this capacity so a study needs to be completed. The Right Place, a business development organization, has offered to pay for the study, which is expected to cost $38,500.

Councilmembers voted unanimously to approve the study with the understanding that The Right Place will be footing the cost.

Extended Road Closure for Riverwalk Festival

The Lowell Area Chamber of Commerce previously received permission to close several local roads for the 2024 Riverwalk Festival. However, given the current state of construction on Washington Street, it has become apparent that the road cannot be used for the annual car show.

Shannon Kennedy, executive director for the chamber, was present at Monday’s meeting to request that the Avery Street closure be extended a block to Jackson to allow the car show to move there. She noted that there were eight homes and six driveways on that block.

Councilmember Jim Salzwedel asked if Kennedy had already spoken to those property owners, and she said she had not but was happy to do so. “I’d like to have you at least reach out to let them know,” Salzwedel said.

Councilmembers unanimously approved the road closure request.

Manager and Councilmember Comments

During board reports, Councilmember Eric Bartkus noted that the Lowell Area Recreation Authority was working with the state to finalize plans for a trail extension along the Grand River. Bartkus noted that the trail would be constructed in such a way that it would not move even if the area flooded.

For the manager’s report, Burns shared that Main Street would be closed at Washington Street for about a month, starting on July 15. Residents and business owners on Main Street have been notified of the closure, which is required for utility work to be completed at the intersection.

Burns also said that Rich Perry of Solitude Lake Management had a study completed regarding the vegetation in the Flat River. Perry had offered during a previous meeting to have an analysis done. Burns said the findings would be shared with councilmembers at a future meeting.

Also pertaining to the Flat River, a kayak rental service which was approved last year will begin doing business by the boat launch in the near future.

For his final comments of the night, Salzwedel lit the candle on a cupcake and wished Mayor Mike DeVore a happy birthday.

After that, councilmembers voted unanimously to go into closed session at 7:21pm.

Vote to Change Sale Price of 115 Riverside Drive

The closed session was called “to consider material exempt from discussion or disclosure by state or federal statute.”

It lasted about 30 minutes and when the council reconvened in open session, DeVore made a motion to amend the agenda to “add an action item for the sale of city owned property.” Councilmembers unanimously voted to amend the agenda and then voted unanimously to approve resolution 15-24 which amends resolution 34-22. That resolution was passed in December 2022 to authorized the sale of 115 Riverside Drive.

This property was previously used by Lowell Light & Power as a line shack, and the city had agreed in 2022 to sell it to Todd Schaal for $130,000. He received approval in 2023 to construct a multi-family residential building there.

With resolution 15-24, the price of the property drops to $62,000.

Reached by email after the meeting, DeVore said the change in price was a result of an update to the FEMA flood maps which added the property to the floodplain. “It can’t be developed as designed,” he wrote, adding that it would be difficult to appeal the designation and that “there’s substantial risk associated with this purchase.”

The property is still being sold to Schaal, but the sale is now “as-is” with no development agreement required, according to the mayor.

When asked why the conversation about the price change occurred in closed session when all other discussions regarding this property have occurred in open session, DeVore replied: “We needed a legal opinion.”

The meeting adjourned at 7:56pm, and the next regular meeting of Lowell City Council will take place on Monday, July 15, at 7pm in Lowell City Hall.

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