Lake Orion DDA lumber yard redevelopment project takes next step forward, sale negotiations up next

By Jim Newell
Review Editor
LAKE ORION — Plans to purchase and redevelop the Lake Orion Lumber Yard property have taken another step forward after the Village of Lake Orion successfully sold $5 million in bonds on behalf of the Lake Orion Downtown Development Authority.

The village sold the bonds at the end of June and the DDA had the funds issued to them on June 30, said Molly LaLone, executive director of the DDA.

Even though the DDA will use the funds and repay the bonds, the village must issue and sell the bonds for the DDA because the DDA is a sub-department of village government.

“We completed everything by the end of June,” LaLone said. “I’m very pleased. I’m pleased that we have the ability to use those funds to purchase the Lake Orion Lumber Yard property and to create a lasting legacy for Lake Orion. Now that we have the funds we need to negotiate the final sale.”

The Lake Orion Lumber Yard is on the corner of Broadway Street and Lapeer Road and proponents of the redevelopment have seen it as an opportunity to create a “gateway” to downtown Lake Orion.

“Our purchase agreement, prior to the due diligence phase is $2.4 million,” LaLone said, adding that of the $5 million in bonds, $1.5 million are taxable bonds and $3.5 million are tax-exempt bonds.

LaLone and the DDA board have maintained – and presented repayment documents to the village council – that it can repay the $5 million bond and interest within a 20-year period, the life of the bond. The DDA will use the taxes it captures from the DDA district to repay the bond.

According to village documents, the estimated annual debt service is estimated at $385,000 annually and will be repaid through the DDA’s TIF (tax increment financing) capture. Additionally, the village is also pledging its full faith and credit to provide for the repayment of these bonds should the DDA be unable to fulfill its repayment obligation.

LaLone said she was happy with the village council’s decision during its April 24 meeting to authorize issuing the bonds for the lumber yard project. The council voted 4-2 to issue the bonds, with Councilmembers Nancy Moshier and Michael Lamb casting the nay votes.

If the DDA can negotiate a successful purchase with the owners of the Lake Orion Lumber Yard, the next step would be clearing, cleaning and then developing the property.

“We have a master plan for the property of what we would like to get done, and we are working on the first phase, which will come from bond payments. But what we’re expecting to do, in our first phase, is to completely clear the property and to address the environmental concerns,” LaLone said. “And then add parking. That’s what we’re expecting to be able to get done immediately.”

The DDA board approached the purchase initially with the intention of adding more public parking in downtown Lake Orion, an issue that is a constant complaint among residents and visitors to the village.

Another plan for the property is to create an event space. During a design charrette in November 2022, residents overwhelmingly favored creating an event space and more parking. Currently, many events in downtown Lake Orion are on the streets and in parking lots, reducing parking options during those events.

The DDA also plans to have three areas of the property that can be leased to private businesses for development.

“We’re hoping to set aside property for private-public partnerships and have the funds from those transactions. From the proceeds from that we’re hoping to add, this would be phase two, we’d add the event space. But, as soon as we can clear it, it will all be event space. Eventually, we’re hoping to add a permanent covered event space.”

It will likely be late next summer, however, before people will see more available parking at the site.

“I think most of the activity is going to happen next summer. And by the end of it we’d have extra parking,” LaLone said.

The full development of the site would likely happen over time, possibly years, as the DDA has funds to add enhancements. Besides parking and event space, residents wanted to see gardens, historical markers, pathways and other features.

“Yeah, they wanted to see gardens, enhanced park space, enhanced areas along the (Paint Creek) trail. They take time,” LaLone said. “Thank you to the community for their support, for helping us get there.”

One response to “Lake Orion DDA lumber yard redevelopment project takes next step forward, sale negotiations up next”

  1. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no official announcement of this, no documentation of the actual cost to the taxpayers, nor any of the terms of this bond other than it is for somewhere around $5 million.
    Contrary to this article and the DDA executive director, there is no Master Plan, just talking points. The plan that is continually presented is merely a preliminary concept. At the March 7, 2023 Project Information meeting conducted by the DDA Executive Director and Project Architect, the architect states at 0:36:31 in the ONTV recording that “These are preliminary concepts. It wasn’t meant to be what we are actually building.” The recording of the meeting is available on ONTV for all to listen to. For some reason, the meeting doesn’t show up on the Village website calendar as having occurred. I wonder why?
    The information for the April 24, 2023 Village Council meeting, where this bond was approved by the council to proceed with only the Village Manager’s approval, has the bond payment at $402,500 the first year, not $385,000 as stated in this article. The cost goes up in subsequent years. After paying the bond payment and the DDA fixed costs, there is only $68,790 left for programs. This amount is even less in subsequent years. You can see all of this on page 200 of the meeting information packet which is available on the village website.
    At another meeting where the environmental report was discussed, it was said that the development plan would change based on the existing soil contamination. If a new plan exists, I have yet to see it made public while the old one is presented again and again, as recently as the June 20, 2023 DDA meeting and titled DRAFT DESIGN CONCEPT, as it always has been (Packet Pg. 23). Hardly an approved master plan and still without any known cost estimates for what any of it will cost. Packet Pg. 82 for this same meeting implies that $346,367 taxpayer dollars may have been spent on this project prior to the bond being approved, including possibly $44,500 in architectural fees to get the Draft Design Concept that the architect said wasn’t meant to be what they are actually going to build. Fortunately for them, no one seems to care what they are doing or at what cost.
    The DDA and Village have an opportunity to work with MDOT and take advantage of the property that is between the Lumberyard and Meek’s Park. I put them in touch with the MDOT property manager who was eager to find a beneficial use. This could greatly enhance what could be done with the lumberyard. If anyone with the DDA or Village government has pursued this opportunity, they are keeping it a secret.
    But it is better to ignore all of this, keep believing wonderful things are going to happen and that somehow the benefits of this will far exceed the cost. We should also ignore all the warnings from the village manager about special assessments, increased costs, maybe even new millages.
    It is all in the public record if anyone wants to bother reading it instead of only the pretty color mailings from the DDA and their ongoing marketing campaign. Maybe if we just have more “free” parking at the taxpayer’s expense, everything will be fine.

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