Township board seeking grant to buy Pirates Park

FLINT TWP. — The third time proved the charm for a proposal for the township to acquire Pirates Park amusement center on Miller Road.

The acquisition hinges on winning grant assistance from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to purchase the 38.7-acre recreation center.

The board turned down similar proposals circa 2008 and 2014, citing the ongoing expense of maintenance and operation.

But after listening to a presentation by Nicholas P. Lomako, senior vice president of Wade Trim in Detroit, the township board unanimously approved a resolution to pursue the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant for an estimated $1,500,000 – 75 percent of an estimated $2 million total project cost.

The remaining 25 percent local match – an estimated $500,000 – would be paid by a public/private partnership between the township and the property owner. The owner has committed to a donation of 10 percent of the appraised, DNR approved fair market and the township would pick up 15 percent of that cost.

Lomako called it “an exciting project.” Speaking as a professional planner, he said it has been proven that community vitality is supported by qualify of life which includes recreation.

He noted that park development is in keeping with the township’s existing Master Plan and Parks and Recreation Master Plan..

He distributed a handout showing aerial views of the property boundaries and also a site development plan that could include former and new uses such as a go-kart track, mini-golf course, batting cages, fishing and canoeing and a dog park.

About eight residents spoke during a public hearing about the grant, mostly voicing reservations or objections.

Gerald Roberts asked what happened to proposal the township approved in 2015 from a developer who wanted to buy Pirates Park to build a hotel, car storage facility and other amenities.

Tracey Tucker, township economic enhancement director, said the project fizzled because the developer lost his financial backing.

Barbara Motley said she opposed the development because Miller Road is already very heavy and she did not want her taxes to rise because of the township burdened with a property it cannot use.

Chris Pangerl cited affordability of the project and concerns about security and insurance. It could be a “big drain” on township resources, he said.

David Arceo noted that part of the site was used as a landfill about 30 years ago.

Tucker said that one proposed use of the park would be to bring in concessionaires who would be responsible for development and other costs.

Randall Stewart, assistant township supervisor, said public input would be sought on ways to develop the property. He described it as a “perfect project” for the township’s newly forming Downtown Development Authority.

“We are starting to lose a lot of businesses.” he said, noting that the park’s acreage is large enough to support many different interests.

Trustee Frank Kasle voiced concerns about ongoing costs and the upfront costs of about $330,000 the township would pay as part of the local matching funds. He sought assurance that the township was not committed to accepting the grant, if it is awarded, and suggested that coming months be used to “do some homework” to get a better handle on how the site would be developed. He also noted that it will be several years before the DDA generates enough money to help with site development.

Township Supervisor Karyn Miller said the project has received letters of support from Adam Zettel, Swartz Creek city manager, and Win Cooper, president of Cooper Commercial. Mundy Township is also sending a letter of support and state legislators Phil Phelps and Jim Ananich has been asked for letters of support, she said.

Lomako said the state grant application is due to the state by April 1. The process will include a site visit by a trust fund representative during the summer to compare the township project to other grant applicants. A notification letter would come in November or December. If successful, the property acquisition would be finished by the first of next year.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund is offered annually for local communities and state agencies to seek grant assistance to purchase and develop land for public outdoor recreation or natural resource protection.

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