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Three Rivers DDA holds meeting

April 16, 2010 by WLKM 

The Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has deferred action on applying a tax levy on the entire area now included in the DDA district – the original district and areas along South Main Street and West Michigan Avenue that were added in 2002.

During its April meeting Thursday morning (April 15th), the DDA Board unanimously approved a motion to table a proposal for a budget calling for a levy of 1.9167 mills on the entire district. The motion also mentioned “taking on the same budget” used during the last year “until the time that we are confident that the legal advice we have gotten is correct and then we can move forward and make a decision on that.”

The “legal advice” is an opinion from Michael O’Connor, an attorney retained by the DDA to address the taxation-within-the-DDA-district issue. According to City Attorney Pat O’Malley in a verbal report at the outset of the meeting, O’Connor has concluded that equal taxation throughout the district is required. O’Malley said he thinks that O’Connor “has made a careful study of this” and said that, after a review of his opinion, “I don’t find any fault with that.” O’Malley added, “So now, knowing that, I think this board has an obligation to say, ‘We’re going to do what appears to be the right and proper thing at this time.’”

At the time the DDA district was expanded in 2002 as part of a development plan for the Bentwaters apartments, the DDA and Three Rivers City Commission determined that a tax levy would not be applied in the expansion area, only in the original district.

The tabling motion came following a public hearing in which a total of 13 people spoke over a period of about a half hour. They shared a mixed bag of comments regarding the issue, ranging from several calls to dissolve the expanded district to support for levying millage in the entire area. DDA Chair Donna Grubbs also shared information submitted by three other persons who were unable to attend the hearing.

One of the speakers, former Mayor Tom Lowry, suggested that it was “a little premature” to act on the matter. Lowry said, “My fundamental concern here today going forward is that, whatever correction is made better be as legal as humanly possible so I would ask you to table this until you get a written opinion from the State of Michigan. I don’t care if it takes four months to do that.”

A public hearing notice sent by City Clerk Lindsay Howes in advance of the meeting said, “The property tax millage rate proposed to be levied to support the proposed budget will be a subject of this hearing. It went on to say, “The original DDA District (District 1) property owners are paying a 1.9167 property tax millage rate. During the public hearing, the Board members of the DDA will consider implementing the 1.9167 millage rate in both the original DDA District and the expanded DDA District (District 2).

The notice also said, “As a constituent of the DDA, there are programs in place to assist you and your business. The programs include:

• Revolving loan fund – available to businesses for a variety of reasons including inventory, equipment, or building updates;

• Low interest façade loans – available for exterior building work and some interior projects;

• Façade grants – available through the State of Michigan, currently a 75 percent grant with a 25 percent match;

• Rebates for signs, awnings, and painting;

• Sidewalk maintenance including snow removal, sweeping, and cleaning.”

The next DDA Board meeting is scheduled for Thursday, May 20th, at 8 a.m. in the Commission Room at City Hall.

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