GB Township committee to consider immediate improvements to northern corridor

GRAND BLANC TWP. — As Grand Blanc Township administrators and elected officials begin to move forward with a new strategic plan, they are considering whether to use some details of an aggressive 2008 plan as a guidepost.

“It appears, through discussion, that right after the document was put together, we hit recessionary times, so the plan wasn’t really carried out at that point,” said Supervisor Scott Bennett. “It included everything from a professional study to focus groups. It’s very detailed. I love the ideas in here … (but) it’s kind of overwhelming.”

Both plans address the northern sector of the township, particularly along Saginaw Street and Dort Highway where officials hope to make significant improvements.

Bennett said he plans to meet with property owners along Saginaw Street, between Hill and Maple roads, to get feedback on some of the proposed beautification projects.

“A number of the things (in the plan) take their cooperation,” he said.

Among those initiatives are walkways, decorative fencing and lighting, and flowers.

“The goal was community vitality,” Bennett said.

Clerk David Robertson said he believes the meeting with stakeholders is a good jumping off point because “this would require considerable private investment in order to realize the vision.” However, township officials should also consider what the township can do to incentivize that participation.

“What do we need to do to make it more likely for them to invest in their own property?” he asked, adding, “We have our role to play and the plans that we have for the DPS building and fire hall (on the old golf course), are arguably a public contribution to the overall area. But it’s still heavily weighted toward private investment.”

According to Superintendent Dennis Liimatta, one of the recommendations of the 2008 study was to create a corridor improvement authority and tax increment financing district in order to capture any new tax revenues in the area.

“One of toughest parts about doing that … is the northern corridor is really built out. So, I just caution the board … it will take several years to have positive financial flow into that TIF district. It works the same as a DDA does, but it will take some time.”

Liimatta suggested the board set up a committee to work with the township planner and review the 2008 plan to determine whether it is still relevant and reflective of the current vision.

“I love the look of it, but it’s a very aggressive plan,” he said, noting that it calls for high-ticket items such as feeder roads and underground utilities.”

Bennett agreed that the 2008 plan is “very exhaustive” and TIF funding likely would be slow to realize. He suggested, however, that township officials look for some simple yet effective fixes as they launch efforts to revitalize the northern welcome mats and encourage private investment. He said he would like to see some private investors take over and improve the vacant buildings in that area.

“There may be some low-hanging fruit,” Bennet said. “As you come across Maple Road on Saginaw Street into Grand Blanc Township, the buildings on both sides that welcome you, they both look horrible. If I could wave a magic wand … what would I do to make the biggest improvement in the quickest way? It would be to do something with those two buildings, the biggest eyesore on the stretch.”

Bennet and Trustees Paul White and Sarah Hugo will comprise the committee that will review the 2008 plan and identify major points that the township can begin to pursue right away.