HANCOCK – On Wednesday evening, Hancock City Council met to deal with several town affairs.
City Manager Mary Babcock delivered the administrative report, informing council that updates to the city’s website are nearing completion and the new website is expected to be released on or around January 1.
Babcock also reported that the annual Christmas Walk, held last Friday in downtown Hancock, was a big success with turnout that exceeded expectations. About 18 Hancock businesses entered the holiday window decorating competition, with the judges awarded first place to The Flower Shop, followed by KC Bonker’s and Sew Cranky second and third.
Finally, Babcock said the deadline to enter the next vacation home decorating contest is December 10. Studio Pizza will be hosting a free screening of The Grinch (2018) on Saturday, December 4th.
The board then turned its attention to new business. Councilors unanimously approved the purchase of a 2013 Dodge pickup truck from Northern Auto, to join the city’s fleet.
The council also set its meeting schedule for 2022. After a brief discussion, councilors decided to continue meeting twice a month, with meetings in the first and third week of each month.
They have the option of canceling one of the two meetings if there is no business to discuss. The first January meeting was then canceled.
A decision that required further debate was whether to schedule a public hearing to consider passing a resolution to establish an industrial development district.
Councilors asked a series of questions to determine what this resolution might entail, before finally approving the scheduling of a public hearing in a six-to-one vote. This hearing will take place on December 15 at the regular meeting of the municipal council.
Hearing planning is the first step in a process that could lead to the establishment of an industrial and technology park on a 40-acre parcel of land located on Lake Annie Road.
At the next public hearing, council will consider whether to establish an industrial development district on the land. This would allow the city to offer a tax allowance – a form of property tax incentive – to potential developers.
Companies interested in developing the plot could then submit applications to the city. Councilors believed that starting a new business could lead to job creation, additional tax revenue for the city and a significant investment in the local economy.
However, the upcoming hearing is only the first step in the process and won’t necessarily result in the city offering a tax break to any developer.
At the end of the meeting, City Councilor John Haeussler took the floor to share his thoughts on a few topics, including HB 4722, a bill recently passed by the Michigan House of Representatives. If passed into law, the bill will limit the power of municipalities to regulate rental properties.
Haeussler reiterated that the bill affects all rentals throughout the city, not just short-term rentals and rentals in residential areas. He expressed concern that the bill could result in an excessive number of short-term rentals, as it prevents local governments from limiting the number of short-term rentals to less than 30%. housing in the municipality.
Finally, Haeussler reflected on the bill’s classification of a short-term rental as a residential rather than a commercial use of the property. He reported that recent Court of Appeals cases upheld by the Michigan Supreme Court had defined the term “commercial use,” saying “The commercial use of a good is intended to generate a profit”,
âWell, if you hire it, you intend to make a profit. “ said Haeussler. âSo our court system certainly says rentals are commercial uses of property. “
“But why the legislature legislates that this is not the case is that commercial use is prohibited by most conventions which take the form of restrictions by act,” he explained.
Many neighborhoods in Michigan, including several located in Hancock, have deed restrictions that prevent business activity. But by classifying rentals as non-commercial, HB 4722 would allow rentals to bypass this restriction.
“What House Bill 4722 is doing is telling local neighborhoods that the deals you have don’t matter, he’s going to trump that deal,” said Haeussler. “So the next time we see Rep. Markkanen and Senator McBroom, who are officially in favor of this bill, I want to ask why the wishes of the residents do not matter? Why don’t residents have a say in the character of their neighborhoods? “
Hancock City Council will meet again on December 15.