Local News

Port Huron adopts policy for selling city-owned land

Photo courtesy of JIm Bloch. The 88,775 square foot city-owned parcel at 3550 Electric Avenue, where the River District grocery store burnt down in 2013.

By Jim Bloch

The city of Port has a new policy to classify and dispose of city-owned land.

The city council unanimously approved the policy at its regular meeting May 13.

The purpose of the policy is “to define the classification and inventory of city-owned real property; whether, how and under what circumstances such property may be made available for sale; defining the process to prepare a property for disposition; defining the permissible methods for disposition and requirements for sale; (and) defining the use of proceeds and other matters relevant thereto.”

To date, the occasional sales of city property has been somewhat haphazard.

“We thought we should have a more formal policy in place,” said City Manager James Freed, as heard on the recording of the meeting posted on YouTube. “Some people want to buy land off us and speculate with it. Or they want to buy land off us and not use it.”

The policy outlines the conditions under which city property may be sold. It specifies that the buyers must be “responsible parties.” The sold parcels must maximize land use. The parcels for sale should be priced such that the city is able to recoup the costs it incurred while owning the property. And the land must be used in a manner consistent with the city’s Master Plan.

The policy lays out eight types of property: “Buildable Property: Vacant land that has the size, access, topography and infrastructure to accommodate development as provided in the City’s Zoning Ordinance; Excess Property: Any property not needed or required to be used nor anticipated to be needed or required for a governmental purpose; Improved Property: Property which has either an economically viable structure or a structure needing significant improvement; Non-buildable Property: Property that does not have the size, access or topography to accommodate development; Non-residential Property: Property that is zoned primarily for uses other than solely residential use; Residential Property: Property zoned primarily for residential use; Significant Property: Property reasonably expected to be of high value, or property known to or anticipated to be critical to the needs of a governmental partner or desired future development within the city; Vacant Property: Any property that does not contain a structure.”

Each classification of property comes with its own specific guiding principles. For example, one of the goals attending the sale of residential property is the construction of affordable owner-occupied residences; another is enhancing the general condition of neighborhoods while preserving neighborhood character; a third is increasing the value of real property and maximizing city revenue. On land sold to build a house, the house must be built within a year.

The city’s planning department is charged with preparing city-owned properties for disposition, including establishing fair market values for the parcels.

One of the largest buildable lots for sale by the city is the 88,775 square foot parcel at 3550 Electric Avenue, just south of the Suarez car lot, where the River District grocery store burnt down in 2013.

The new policy runs eight pages.

The council voted 6-0 to adopt it. Mayor Pauline Repp was absent.

Jim Bloch is a freelance writer based in St. Clair, Michigan. Contact him at bloch.jim@gmail.com. 

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