Property deal closer to being done in GR


    A proposed property swap between Kent County and the city of Grand Rapids moved forward last week when city commissioners approved a lease agreement with the county for five parcels on the city’s southeast side.

    The contract also gives the county an option to buy the properties and convert them into parking lots for its new Human Services Complex at 121 Franklin St. SE. The building opened in June and the county needs more parking spaces to support the traffic to it.

    Under the agreement, the county has a year to purchase the parcels and can do so in one of two ways.

    First, the county can transfer ownership of its former human services building at 415 Franklin St. SE and its two parking lots to the city. The building was once home to Grand Rapids Christian High School and now houses the Paul I. Phillips Gymnasium, which is supported financially by both the county and the city.

    Second, the county can pay the city $19,677 for the properties. The city’s asking price works out to be $1.50 per square foot.

    The lease agreement calls for the county to pay the city $98 a month and gives the county the right to immediately begin construction of the parking lots. The city gets to keep all rent revenue and the five parcels if the county fails to buy the properties, which are located across Franklin Street from the county’s new building.

    The term sheet for the actual land exchange hasn’t been completed. It has been on the city commission’s agenda twice this fall and has been tabled both times, including last week. The city is considering the site for a new development center.

    “We are continuing to have positive and productive discussions,” said Eric DeLong, deputy city manager, last week.

    City commissioners also agreed last week to a six-month moratorium on issuing permits and licenses for the sale of medical marijuana within city limits. Planning Director Suzanne Schulz said state rules require the city to have sites for dispensaries under land-use law and the city’s zoning ordinance has to be amended to include that use.

    Schulz said she has already spoken with the police department and would be going to the planning commission with some suggestions next month. She said she was concerned over public safety and with the city’s overall character.

    “We did this with outdoor furnaces and electronic billboards. We have not had any requests for dispensaries yet,” she said.

    Schulz said completing an ordinance change normally takes between five and six months. “Our intent is to look at the medical facilities in the ordinance. For us, the primary concern is the dispensaries,” she said.

    Commissioners also raised the cost of some construction permits and inspections fees last week. Neighborhood Improvement Department Director James Hurt said the increases were the first since 2004. He added the hikes were minimal and not all items were being raised among hundreds listed in the city’s construction code. One example is an application for an electrical permit, which includes two city inspections; it is going up from $30 to $40.

    Hurt said enforcement fees also were rising because more enforcement was needed. “Over the past few years,” said Hurt, “we’ve seen an increase in illegal construction in the city.”

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