The proposed sale of two parcels of township-owned property prompted objections from neighboring residents during the Sept. 28 meeting of the Sumpter board of trustees.
During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Corey Blue told the board members that he lives next door to one of the properties being sold. He said that he agrees the township shouldn't be in the business of owning property but having his house next door to one of the sites would seem to indicate that the area should not be zoned as commercial. Blue said he objected to the property being sold to a developer rumored to be planning a 24-hour self-storage rental facility at the site.
He told the board members that he believed the township motto “Country Living at its Finest” which was a motivating factor in choosing to move to Sumpter. He said he would “jump at the chance” to purchase the neighboring property but has been told that it was not for sale three times.
“It would be nice if the neighbors adjacent had the opportunity to buy the property from the township,” he said. Blue said that turning the area of homes into commercial real estate “doesn't make sense” and suggested that the trustees consult the master plan. He said that there are large oak trees, wildlife and even eagles in the area.
“The people around the property should have the option to buy,” Blue said.
Trustee Tim Rush responded and told Blue that he would have an opportunity to bid on the property.
“It is in a commercially-zoned area,” Rush said. “That happened long before this board. This is a mess we are trying to clean up. I'm glad we are trying to sell it and get it back on the tax rolls and put to good use,” he said.
Trustee Matt Oddy was also in favor of the sale of the property. He said that the land is in the main commercial district and that the current board members agree that the township should not be sitting on the properties.
“This was part of a large commercial piece,” Oddy said. He explained that currently the township has houses in every commercial area. “We have houses between the beauty shop and the funeral home,” he said. “Businesses want a high traffic area and if we want a grocery store or a tractor supply we need commercial zoning. The infrastructure is in the business area,” he said.
Trustee Peggy Morgan was not in favor of the proposed sale noting that if she lived in the area she wouldn't want a storage unit next to her home. “I don't see this as a great idea. I just think its bad,” she said.
Supervisor Tim Bowman disagreed and said that the township had “to start somewhere” to make progress. He said the property in question was “a perfect place for storage units” and could be constructed so that it would not be seen from nearby homes.” He said a buffer could be created so that neighboring homes would not see the business.
Bowman listed businesses already in the area including, he said, a day care center and car lots across the street. This is in a commercial area,” Bowman said. “We need to start developing and create jobs.”
“It's got to start somewhere,” he said of development.
Oddy agreed noting that commercial development is “coming like a train down Sumpter Road.” He said that neighboring Van Buren Township is talking about a commercial area and the development “will be right up to our doorstep.”
“We want to bring business to our community. We want things to improve our tax base to pay for infrastructure. We have to generate growth and have to supplement those funds. This is how we grow,” he said.
Another neighboring resident, Terry Caudill, who said he has lived in the area for 57 years, also told the trustees that he opposed the project, especially a proposed 24-hour storage unit facility discussed at a previous meeting. He said that he did not want to look out his window and see the bright lights of a business all night long.
“I'm hoping this gets shot down,” he said.
Oddy said that the township was only approving putting the land out for bids and the township attorney would prepare a bid package. “Anybody who wants to bring in a business can bid on it,” he said. “The township is requiring a business plan so that it can be considered and reviewed.”
Morgan cast the lone no vote on approving the preparation of the bid packet. Trustee Don LaPorte was absent from the meeting.