Both the Charlevoix Township and Charlevoix County boards approved St. Marys Cement’s requests regarding Brownfield status, tax abatement and a development district in connection with its proposed $130 million modernization project.
The Charlevoix Township Board of Trustees, on Monday Jan. 26, unanimously OK’d a 12-year tax abatement and created the development district necessary for St. Marys to apply for Brownfield Status, which it got from the Charlevoix County Board of Commissioners in a 5-1 vote on Wednesday Jan. 28.
“The company agrees to use its best effort to retain and increase its employment in the township by Dec. 1, immediately following the second year after the issuance date of the industrial facilities exemption certificate,” said Charlevoix Township Supervisor Chuck Center, as he read from the PA 198 agreement between the township and St. Marys. “As a result of the application, the company shall submit a letter to the township that provides a report of jobs created and or retained by the project.”
St. Marys Cement’s proposed project could create 10 new long-term jobs, 300 temporary construction jobs over the course of nearly two years, a $130 million investment in expanding its cement output to help it go from creating 1.4 million tons annually to 2 million tons annually.
However, the company’s parent company is also considering instead spending an undisclosed amount of money to revive its Dixon, Illinois plant.
According to the agreement, St. Marys must also submit to the township assessor and the state tax commission written notification of the completion of the project within 30 days of said completion. And, it shall provide written notification of the final cost of the facility within 90 days of completion.
The company agrees that it will not appeal the valuations placed by the township on the real property subject to agreement.
The agreement states that St. Marys will not appeal taxes they pay for property they currently own.
Center said St. Marys has, for four years in a row, appealed its tax assessment and had its taxes lowered as a result.
“They wrote us a letter and agreed to withdraw their current tax tribunal application and not to have another one as long as this 12-year abatement is in effect on the old property,” said Center.
Richard Madden, an attorney who deals with legalities such as abatements, pointed out that the agreement does not legally forbid St. Marys from filing for an appeal.
“The language which you used, in effect, really follows the statute,” said Madden… “(D)on’t operate under the assumption that the factory cannot appeal an assessment.”
He added, “So long as … the assessment exceeds 50 percent of true cash value they, under this language, have the right and … would not be a violation under this arrangement for them to appeal that assessment.”
Local environmental activist Joanne Beemon said she was concerned about whether St. Marys will listen to what the public wants and not infringe on the state park. She also said tax abatement for big corporations is corporate welfare.
She added that she wants to see a remediaton plan for the site, and wants to be assured brown water is properly cleaned, that cement kiln dust is removed and stack emissions are kept at the lowest levels possible.
Charlevoix Township board member Nancy Rajewski read a letter from Suzanne Wilcox to the board.
“Even if the township would not be effected monetarily today, I believe that any additional tax revenues should be sequestered in the event that the (parent company) does not fulfill its obligation to rehabilitate the site,” Wilcox stated in her letter…. “I treasure the unique beauty of Charlevoix and its location on the shore of Lake Michigan. We should do everything to ensure it can be passed on to future generations in better condition than when it was left to you.”
Rajewski commented that, when the cement plant first formed in Charlevoix, it was guaranteed that when the plant was no longer operating they would remediate it into a lake. She expressed concerns of the cement kiln dust piles mixing with the water and how they should clean the piles.
At last Wednesday’s county board meeting, Charlevoix County Commissioner George T. Lasater (R-District 1) was the lone dissenting vote on the Brownfield authorization. He commented that he probably would have favored the proposal but wanted more time to research the matter.
St. Marys must get final approval for its proposed Brownfield redevelopment plan from state, which could happen as early as March 24.
For the full story on St. Marys Cement’s Brownfield plan and the proposed $130 million project, go to boynegazette.com.