Williamston City Council addresses development potential

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The Williamston City Council meeting on Monday night addressed different plans to improve development in the city.

The Redevelopment Ready Committee, presented by Brett Hanlon at the meeting, is a foundation for community development. The three steps to becoming certified through the RRC are Engagement, Evaluation and Certification. The city of Williamston is nearing the end of step two.

Brett Hanlon, RRC planner, presents information about RRC to the council. Photo by Sophia Lada

The two best plans for engaging as an RRC are through community plans and public outreach. 

When City Council Member Gene Smith asked if the certification would cost anything, City Manager Corey Schmidt said the certification would only cost staff time.

Smith, who became a city council member last July, said: “The biggest benefit being no cost to the city. If you get that kind of benefit bringing development to your city, and you do it without adding cost to your residents, then I mean you’re winning all over the place.” 

“Our staff here is actually extremely efficient, and so the way I look at it is it’s a small upfront investment on our behalf for a long-term gain,” said Smith.

Once certified as a RRC, there are a lot of benefits, said Hanlon. Some of these benefits include a “transparent, predictable, and efficient development experience,” according to the RRC website.

The I-96 Industrial Park is a place that would potentially attract more businesses if Williamston were to become certified as a Redevelopment Ready Community. “If nothing else, it provides that initial credentialing that developers might look at to say ‘hey that’s a community that’s taken the steps necessary to make it easy for me to do business in Williamston,” Smith said.

Williamston is meeting 50% of the Redevelopment Ready criteria and is in the process of completing another 33%. “It helps us be able to market what we have here in the city better, it gives us that extra tool,” said Mayor Tammy Gilroy. “We have some great available development-ready sites, so it’s just that one extra thing that we can say we are a part of. It makes us more marketable. I think we are putting together a really good future for our open development areas and industrial park.” 

Schmidt will be working with his staff, the City Council and the Downtown Development Association to make sure they are checking those boxes off to meet the rest of the criteria and benchmarks, said Gilroy. 

Resolution Adopting Property Exemption Guidelines

The council also reviewed the Resolution Adopting Property Exemption Guidelines, which provide the process for someone seeking poverty assistance. It applies to all municipalities and is fairly routine across the state. “The resolution is something we do annually, and it is dictated by the state of Michigan,” said Gilroy. “If someone was in hard economic times and felt like they were on the line of poverty, it would help lower their property taxes.” 

Gilroy said this resolution is beneficial for the Williamston community. Although Williamston is comfortable financially, she said the resolution is helpful to have in case a resident begins to struggle financially. “We are considered a well-to-do community, we aren’t a disadvantaged community,” said Gilroy. “So I like the fact that we do have the option for our residents because we want to be able to help when we can, we are a close-knit community and when residents have fallen into hard times, people have been right there to help them back up.”

The council understands that there is a need for more businesses to add employment opportunities and economic value. Also, a need to create high-quality places for activities and in the traditional downtown. These incentives are all under the Economic Development Incentive Policy, which was discussed at Monday’s meeting.

“Tonight the feedback that we heard is that is there a way to make our schedule a little bit more favorable,” said Schimdt. “So we will take a look at some of our comparable communities, make some final tweaks, and then bring it back for council to reconsider to approve.” 

The focus of the meeting was to add more development in Williamston. The incentive schedule still needs a few more changes, and Schmidt said he will be working to fix some numbers. “We need to have some lower dollar amounts on there to look more desirable to someone that would want to come in and build,” said Gilroy. “Any new growth to the town is going to help generate tax revenue and put more money in our operating budget. It really is a win-win when we are able to bring more development into town.”

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