HANCOCK – On Wednesday evening, the Hancock City Council met to deal with several city affairs.
City Manager Mary Babcock provided the management report and informed the city council that updates to the city’s website are almost complete and that the new website is expected to be released on or about January 1st.
Babcock also reported that the annual Christmas Walk, held in downtown Hancock last Friday, was a huge hit and the attendance exceeded expectations. Around 18 Hancock companies took part in the Holiday Window Decorating Contest, and the jury gave The Flower Shop first place, followed by KC Bonker’s and Sew Cranky in second and third place.
Finally, Babcock said the deadline for entries for the upcoming Holiday Home Decorating Contest is December 10th. Studio Pizza will host a free screening of The Grinch (2018) on Saturday, December 4th.
The council then turned to new business. City councils unanimously approved the purchase of a 2013 Northern Auto Dodge pickup truck to join the city’s fleet.
The council also set its schedule of meetings for 2022. After a brief debate, the counselors decided to continue to meet twice a month, with meetings the first and third weeks of each month.
You have the option of canceling one of the two meetings if there is a lack of business procurement. The first meeting in January was then canceled.
One decision that required lengthy debate was whether to hold a public hearing to consider adopting a resolution establishing an industrial area.
City councils asked a series of questions to determine what this resolution might involve before finally approving, six to one, the planning of a public hearing. This hearing will take place on December 15th during the regular city council meeting.
Planning the hearing is the first step in a process that could result in the establishment of an industrial and technology park on 40 acres on Lake Annie Road.
At the upcoming public hearing, the council will examine whether an industrial park should be built on the property. This would allow the city to offer potential developers a tax break – a form of property tax incentive.
Companies interested in developing the parcel could then submit applications to the city. The consultants argued that starting a new business could result in job creation, additional tax revenue for the city, and a large investment in the local economy.
However, the upcoming hearing is only the first step in this process and will not necessarily result in the city offering a tax break to every property developer.
As the session drew to a close, Alderman John Haeussler took the floor to share his thoughts on a number of subjects, including HB 4722, a bill recently passed by the Michigan House of Representatives. When it becomes law, the bill will restrict municipalities’ powers to regulate rental property.
Häussler reiterated that the bill will affect all rents throughout the city, not just short-term rents and rents in residential areas. He expressed concern that the law could lead to excessive short-term rentals as it prevents local governments from restricting short-term rentals to less than 30% of homes within the community.
Finally, Haeussler reflected the classification of a short-term rental as residential and not as commercial use in the draft law. He reported that recent appeals court cases upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court had defined the term “commercial use” by saying: “Commercial use of real estate should generate profit”
“Well, when you rent it, you want to make a profit.” said Häussler. “So our court system certainly says that the rental is a commercial use of real estate.”
“But the reason the legislature doesn’t do this is that commercial use is precluded by most of the agreements in the form of deed restrictions.” he explained.
Many Michigan neighborhoods, including several in Hancock, have deed restrictions that prevent commercial activity. However, by classifying rentals as non-commercial, HB 4722 would allow this restriction to be circumvented.
“What House Bill 4722 does is it tells the local neighborhoods that the agreements you made don’t count, it will trump that agreement.” said Häussler. “So the next time we see Rep. Markkanen and Senator McBroom on record for this bill, I want to ask why the residents’ wishes don’t matter?” Why do the residents not have a voice in the character of their neighborhood? “
Hancock City Council will meet again on December 15th.