Orr asks Detroit council to approve $1.4M land sale for bridge to Canada

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr resubmitted an order to city council today to sell 301 city-owned properties for $1.4 million for the new international bridge from Detroit to Windsor.

The council has 10 days to vote on the land sale to the state of Michigan. If the council rejects the deal, it must come up with a better plan that achieves similar benefits. In that case, a state emergency loan board would choose between Orr’s plan and the council’s alternative.

The council was scheduled to vote on the land transfer in late July, but Orr pulled back the request after council members and community advocates pressed for a community benefits agreement to be attached to the sale. The properties are tax-reverted and mostly vacant.

A new, non-binding agreement was attached to the land sale and community benefits can be addressed through future agreements required for the bridge project, according to representatives from the state who attended today’s council meeting.

The Canadian government is funding most of the bridge project’s costs. The new, government-owned international bridge from Detroit to Windsor — known as the New International Trade Crossing — could put thousands of people to work in southeast Michigan and revitalize the trade corridor with Canada. It would connect highways in the two cities, relieving traffic congestion for commercial trucks and other vehicles.

Council members still expressed concerns about community benefits despite the state’s assurances today.

Specifically, the makeup of the recently appointed international authority that will approve bridge project agreements was questioned. The six-member board has no representatives who live in the city, much less the Delray neighborhood in southwest Detroit impacted by the bridge construction.

Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins said the board’s lack of a community representative “raises a red flag.”

“When there was the opportunity to make sure, to ensure, someone from this community had some direct input, that was not taken,” Jenkins said.

The three Michigan representatives appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder to the International Authority are Michael Hayes, president and CEO of the Midland Center for the Arts and a former vice president with Dow Chemical; Birgit Klohs, president and CEO of the Right Place, a west Michigan economic development agency, and Matt Rizik, the chief tax officer of Rock Ventures and a former longtime partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers. The other three board members are Canadian.

Snyder wanted to make sure his appointments had a strong background in economic development and project management, Andrew Doctoroff, senior advisor for transportation initiatives for the state of Michigan, told the council today. At the same time, Snyder wants to make sure the community has input in the project, he said.

A community advisory council will be formed to interact with the International Authority overseeing the project.

For community advocates, the project must include requirements for local hiring during construction and for operation of the bridge, and clean-up of any contaminated sites in the neighborhood. A community benefits agreement also could address potential pollution increases and a reinvestment of money from the land sale into the neighborhood for parks and other improvements.

The council will hold a public meeting at 2 p.m. on Monday at city hall to discuss the proposed land sale and the bridge project.

Originally posted by the: Detroit Free Press