Council’s decision on housing project was a mistake
On Thursday, May 7, Escanaba City Council erred rather badly in refusing to approve the proposed by the Woda Cooper Company. This project would have included some low-income units, but also some units all the way up to median-income units. Coming out of the COVID-crisis, it would be good for Escanaba to have a project to get the local economy restarted. This project would have employed a hundred tradesmen — carpenters, plumbers, electricians, painters, etc. to build.
Councilperson Moore voted against this project because she wanted high-end, luxury, senior housing. She is correct. Everyone I know wants luxury senior housing in Escanaba. But her vote against this project did not move Escanaba even one step closer to luxury senior housing.
Councilperson O’Connell voted against the project so as not to give the developer tax advantages. Today, the owner of the land pays $5,000 per year in taxes. If council had approved the Payment in Lieu of Taxes agreement (PILOT), the developer would have paid $20,000 per year for law enforcement, firefighting, and trash collection. And this developer agreed to per unit metering of drinking water, wastewater, and electricity which would bring an estimated $80,000 per year to the city. Which is better for Escanaba, $5,000 or $100,000 per year?
The mayor voted against this project, but never said why.
Our city manager and the leaders at Escanaba Public Safety called their respective colleagues in the cities where Woda Cooper has built developments. They found that the company, and Craig Patterson in particular, are parts of a real class act. The company does everything that it legally can to see that their tenants are employed and can pay their rent. There is no crime / drug problem in Woda’s developments.
I think that at the May 7 meeting, the developer was not allowed time to present his case. Our city manager was not allowed to weigh in until the vote was done.
I believe that Escanaba City Council should revisit this development.