Nike Site Development Plan was Missed Opportunity

The following article was written by Tim Lake and published in the January 23, 2020, edition of the Monroe News.

REPRINTED from Monroe News
Monroe Media Group

One of the primary pillars of the Monroe County Link Plan is “Preparing for Investment.” The Link Plan identified eight Priority Development Areas (PDA’s), including the Nike Missile site, and concluded the site’s highest and best use is Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL).

Given the site’s historical use as a military and Nike missile base, as well as the presence of contamination regulated under the state superfund system, most of the site is not even suitable for the uses of agricultural and residential as permitted by its current zoning classification.

Not only did Frenchtown Township fund the Link Plan, both the township planner and the planning commission, in addition to Monroe County’s Planning Commission, support a rezoning to light industrial. Nonetheless, the Frenchtown Township Board turned down the rezoning despite good faith efforts by InSite to rezone with conditions that far exceed the township’s zoning code.

Unfortunately, the board took a final vote on the matter by placing it on the agenda during the meeting without any invitation to InSite or opportunity to negotiate mutually agreeable terms for the proposed rezoning. The township board, in the absence of the supervisor, denied the rezoning, and board members stated they were not interested in the rezoning to light industrial unless InSite was able to identify the end user of the property. A user will not commit to a site without assurances the zoning is approved. Prior examples of the delays in rezoning within the township only places doubt in the mind of potential users and economic development.

So where are we today almost a year down the road? InSite indicates it remains interested in the property; the land is still available for sale as it has been for the last several years. And the township referred the matter to its insurance company’s attorney. All the while, Monroe County has 26 qualified individuals for each available logistics position, and wages in Monroe County remain stagnant despite the longest period of economic expansion in United States history.

Meanwhile, along the I-75 corridor north of Detroit, Amazon expects to develop the Silverdome site and bring 1,500 jobs with it including positions paying $60,000 to $80,000 per year. The clock is running as we rebuild I-75 through Monroe County ahead of the $5 billion Gordie Howe International Bridge that will exponentially position Monroe County for economic prosperity, but only if we are willing to create the environment for business to come to Monroe.

The BDC believes citizens of Monroe County and specifically citizens of Frenchtown Township would welcome a development that provides over 200 new jobs to their community and has the potential to transform the area as a modern gateway to I-275 and I-75. The site is at the edge of the township, has direct access to the interstate, and is ideal for this type of development without disruption to residents and businesses.

The BDC will continue to work to create an environment for economic vitality by working with our local communities to streamline the development process, effectively and intelligently plan for new development sites, and continue to advocate for the County of Monroe and its existing businesses who provide new opportunities for our citizens including jobs and commerce that move the county forward.

Elected officials must be responsive partners and advocate for the best interests of all its constituents and support economic development that is in line with regional initiatives such as the Monroe County Link Plan. A handful of opponents should not steal the opportunities that can exist to all citizens.

When considering the rezoning of the former Nike Missile site, the Frenchtown Township Board missed the mark in meeting the needs of all the citizens of its community. We encourage the Frenchtown Township Board to reach back out to InSite and consider the negative impact of its actions and work for an equitable solution consistent with its professional staff and recommending bodies that advised them this would be a worthy development. Our citizens looking to gain employment, provide for their families, and remain in our county deserve no less.

Tim Lake, president and CEO of the Monroe County Business and Development Corp.

This is part 4 of a 4-part series that was published in the Monroe News in the past month. All articles are posted on the Monroe County BDC website under the Media tab. Links may also be found on our FaceBook and LinkedIn company pages.