Decision to dissolve Buchanan DDA postponed

BUCHANAN – People wanting to save the Downtown Development Authority got a two-week reprieve at Monday’s Buchanan City Commission meeting. Coming into the meeting, commissioners had appeared set to dissolve the DDA due to declining revenue and conflicts with current DDA members.

Monday’s meeting began with a public hearing to receive comments about the dissolution proposal from residents. It was the second public hearing on the subject, with the first being hosted June 22. As has been the case over the last few months, the commission meeting was hosted virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fewer people spoke at this week’s public hearing but what they said seemed to be powerful enough to persuade a majority of commissioners to agree to postpone a decision for two weeks until the July 27 meeting. The motion to postpone was approved on a 4-1 vote, with only Dale Toerne voting no.

Commissioner Mark Weedon brought up the idea of postponing a decision after hearing the comments made during the public hearing.

“You’ve made a compelling case,” he said to those who asked for a reprieve for the DDA. “I don’t know the answer but I’d like to make a proposal to table this for an additional two weeks to sit down with people.”

“We’ve seen a lot of compelling reasons as to why keep it,” he added. “Maybe dissolution has brought them out from the shadows. If we don’t give them the opportunity for two weeks maybe we miss out on something that could have been saved. I didn’t come into the meeting with that intention, but I have a gut feeling that we can accomplish something.”

He was particularly impressed with comments made by Jen Tabor. Tabor has a guitar strap manufacturing business in the city that is internationally known and would like to open a retail business on Front Street. She said she would like to take advantage of the DDA’s grant/loan program to renovate that building.

“I cannot fix the building myself. The only way I’ll be able to do it is to get a loan grant,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate that this (the move to dissolve the DDA) is coming. I’m not individually wealthy but I want to create jobs in Buchanan. Without the help from the DDA, the storefront will be vacant for years.”

Others speaking included Monroe Lemay, Alan Robandt and Fran Terry. Lemay is running for city commission this fall and asked for the vote to be postponed to give people the chance to come up with a way to save the DDA. She also suggested that the city pursue becoming a Michigan Main Street community.

Robandt owns a downtown business and presented a petition to keep the DDA signed by 128 people. He questioned why the city commission is acting now when two new commissioners will be elected in November and a new city manager hired. He said new commissioners could vote to reinstate the DDA but would not have any money to work with then.

 

Terry is a DDA member and served on the ad hoc committee that studied the DDA for the last several months. She said a special DDA meeting has been called for Wednesday.

“We’re trying to prove that we’re willing to work with the city and move forward,” she said. “We’re just asking you to give us a chance.”

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