Lake Orion DDA gets extension on proposed Lake Orion Lumber Yard property purchase

Lake Orion DDA gets extension on proposed Lake Orion Lumber Yard property purchase

Early redevelopment concept plan revealed at DDA meeting

By Jim Newell
Review Editor
LAKE ORION — The Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority is forging on with a plan to purchase and redevelop the Lake Orion Lumber Yard property and has received a 90-day extension to its previously expired due diligence period.
The DDA also has an early concept plan of what the “gateway to the downtown” could look like if the plan to go out for $5 million in bonds goes through.
Concept plan
Architect Scott Reynolds from AKA Architects presented a draft concept plan to the Lake Orion DDA Board of Directors on Feb 21 of what the Lake Orion Lumber Yard property could look like if the DDA does purchase and redevelops the property.
At a design charrette on Nov. 27, besides more parking, residents overwhelmingly said they would like to see a covered pavilion for a farmers market and event space; more green space; a community garden; public art, historic preservation and water features incorporated into the site.
While increased parking in Lake Orion was the initial motivation for “landing” at the Lumber Yard site, the discussion has expanded to address many residents’ desires for specific community enhancements, Reynolds said.
“As we’ve evolved through it, we’ve discovered that parking wasn’t our only priority but rather a balance of some of the community events that we have going on, the walkability of our community and also just enhancing those existing features that we’ve known and kind of come to love and what really makes us downtown Lake Orion,” Reynolds said. “What could this parcel become and what are we lacking? What do we want our story to become?”
Reynolds, a Lake Orion resident, said the plan is currently at a “high-level conceptual phase…taking a look at what could occur here.”
The development would be a public-private partnership, with businesses or restaurants developing the proposed commercial buildings “into what they need their space to be.”
The 245 parking spaces are the “bigger picture” of what could be done with the parcel, he said. The parking could also be “banked” for development in the future.
“This is not something that we’re coming in and saying that we would recommend or require all of this parking to be built in Phase 1. It’s the idea that we could park it, right? We wouldn’t have to tear down a historic building downtown to create more parking,” Reynolds said.
A proposed open-air pavilion could be a phased project, starting with open or landscaped space “and grow over time to a covered space,” Reynolds said. “We envision opportunities for public art. We want this to be an engaging event space.”
There would also be commercial space – about 20 percent of the property – where businesses could purchase the land. Those portions would then go on to the tax roll.
“I commend the DDA in keeping their sights on the fact that the DDA is an economic investment arm of villages in the state,” Reynolds said.
During public comments, Lake Orion resident Cory Johnston opposed the current design plan.
“It’s important for Lake Orion to have places and people. You already have the traffic. You can’t do much about it. You need to build for places and people. That’s why I moved here. I moved here a year-and-a-half ago. I moved here because I thought this was a place for people. Regrettably, I’m having second thoughts about that because of, no offense to the presentation, that presentation.”
Johnston attended the design charette in November 2022.
“What you have here, what’s been presented – though you can talk (about) all the great things that could be done – is an anywhere-U.S.A. strip mall, K-Mart in the middle of a parking lot. You will not see that pavilion over Leo’s, landscaping and the buildings you’re doing around it. You won’t know it’s there. To get there you have to drive,” Johnston said. “You are creating more driving and more parking, you are not creating a place for people. You will not see it,” Johnston said. “The concept, the talk is good. The concept, as shown, is really, really bad.
Resident Rosemary Ford said the lumber yard property is the last large, single parcel of land in the village and she supports its redevelopment.
“This is an opportunity for us to do something and leave a legacy to our community. And I think with the right planning we can come to a win for everybody, including parking, including the pavilion and a lot of green space,” Ford said. “An opportunity was afforded to you and I think it’s one we should consider because in the long run it’s going to pay off.”
“I know the Joni Mitchell song, ‘Paved paradise and put up a parking lot’ comes to mind for a lot of people. But it’s not going to just be a parking lot,” Ford said.
DDA Bond financing and due diligence period
The DDA had an initial due diligence period – a comprehensive appraisal of a business undertaken by a prospective buyer, especially to establish its assets and liabilities and evaluate its commercial potential – with the Lumber Yard that expired on Jan. 5 that was extended to Feb. 19 so the DDA could get approval from the Lake Orion Village Council to go out for a bond.
The village council did not discuss the DDA’s proposed bond request during its Feb. 13 meeting, with village Manager Darwin McClary telling the council he was not prepared to recommend approving the DDA’s request while some questions remained unanswered.
Those unanswered questions included how the DDA would pay for the bond and the validity of outstanding petitions submitted by resident Harry Stephen last summer to repeal the DDA’s Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district. The village is currently seeking a legal opinion on the validity of the petitions.
The initial bond plan called for a $5 million bond but the DDA is now looking at a $4 million tax exempt bond and a $1 million taxable bond, DDA Executive Director Molly LaLone said.
“That (taxable bond) accounts for 20 percent of the property. Right now, the buildings that we are looking at are taking up approximately 12 percent of the property, so this is giving us the ability to invest and allow developers to invest with us on 20 percent of the property,” LaLone said.
The Lake Orion DDA “further added a protection by pledging TIF revenue specifically to pay off the bond,” LaLone said, adding that they had to prove to the bond team that the DDA could, in fact, accomplish that. “Additionally what we’ve requested from the village council…is that they also sign a resolution stating that TIF revenue is going to be paying for (the bond).”
The tax exempt bond is approximately 3.75 percent interest, while the taxable bond is approximately 4.5 percent, LaLone said.
“We’re looking at an 18-year term. And the total bond interest and principal over those 18 years would be approximately $6,894,938,” LaLone said. “Which is what happens when you borrow money. People want to make money from the money that you are borrowing.”
LaLone also addressed some residents’ concerns about who would pay for the $5 million bond if the DDA were to be dissolved, with many fearing that the repayment burden would fall to the village and then taxpayers.
“The DDA law, set by the State of Michigan, definitely had in mind allowing for development that would be beneficial for a community but it would not end up on the laps of taxpayers if something went wrong,” LaLone said.
“In the event that something happened and our DDA was dissolved, it still does not end up on the taxpayer because per DDA law, if you pledged your TIF funds to pay for a project, those TIF funds stay in place,” LaLone said.
“And those TIF funds are still collected until that bond has been paid off. So, it doesn’t matter what happens to the DDA. This bond and this project will be paid by TIF funds,” she said.

4 Responses to "Lake Orion DDA gets extension on proposed Lake Orion Lumber Yard property purchase"

  1. Cory Johnston   March 1, 2023 at 4:22 pm

    I attended this meeting and made some unprepared comments because I did not know that a member of the public can only speak for 3 minutes, only at the beginning and end of the meeting, and not at all when agenda items are being presented, discussed, and voted on. None of that is on the agenda and they don’t tell you until it is too late to do anything about it. I have over 40 years of experience in the design and construction industry, the last 15 or so involved with government and planning, so this was a bit of a shock.
    There is much that could and should be said about the DDA plan for the Lake Orion Lumberyard project. It is easy enough to look at it and see it is a massive parking lot and perhaps some non-descript buildings for some unknown use. Some people seem to like that. We know it will cost the taxpayers close to $7 million, possible more since there is no defined budget, and we will be paying for it for at least the next 18 years if this is approved. That’s about $2,500 from every person in the Village of Lake Orion, perhaps twice that for every person in the DDA tax district. $5,000 per person, $10,000 to $20,000 or more per family, for a parking lot.
    The DDA Executive Direction says, “…it still does not end up on the taxpayer…” Sorry, but DDA funding is from the taxes on the property of everyone in the DDA tax district, which is about half the land area of the Village of Lake Orion. It is the taxpayers that will have to pay this bill, to an organization that was never voted for by the public, is run by people who the voters do not elect to be on the DDA Board, and which does not answer to the public. It is still not clear if they answer to anyone.

  2. John Enright   March 2, 2023 at 10:52 am

    The ” great and powerful” OZ (Donald Trump ) recently said about Putin and Zelenskyy that if left up to him he would put the two of them in a room “knock some heads together” and make them figure it out. Not such an inane idea if put to the Village Council, The DDA and the Village residents. Give all comers a voice and provide answers then and there.
    The Council Meetings are fruitless for residents , probably an inconvenience for the members and consistently inconclusive without so much foot work for the caring Village resident to find the outcome of a concern they may have that went unanswered during the meetings.

  3. Linda Crane   March 2, 2023 at 7:27 pm

    The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members. Our community certainly has had wonderful citizen engagement in the Lumberyard project. Please continue by attending the informational meeting scheduled Tuesday, March 7, 2023 at 6:30PM; in the Village Council Chambers; 21 E Church Street, Lake Orion, Michigan 48362. Your participation will provide our leadership the opportunity to share the Lumberyard project information and answer your questions/concerns.
    Linda Crane

  4. Greg Rogers   March 3, 2023 at 10:43 am

    This is a fantastic plan and certainly an improvement over the 150+ apartments the previous developer was trying to put in. The only concern I have, I do not see how you get all this done for $5m, i would not want to see a development that is not completed, or looking for future monies to finish it. Keep up the good work DDA


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