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| 3 min read | by Doug Marrin | dmarrin@thesuntimesnews.com |

On Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, Dexter City Council held a special meeting to discuss the acquisition of the property on the corner of Mast Rd. and Huron River Dr. to potentially be developed into a public access point to the popular Huron River.

The special meeting was held due to the urgency of the matter. The City was given a deadline of Friday, Oct. 4 to make an offer on the property before the owners put it back on the open market.

The 1.75-acre lot was up for sale over the summer with no takers for the listed $419,000 asking price. It was taken off the market at the end of August with plans to put it up for sale again on the open market in October.

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“One idea proposed now is that we put an offer in and then figure out what ultimately gets done in 90 days,” said Mayor Shawn Keough during the discussion. “The way the offer is prepared, it’s more of an exercise in buying time to flush out if there’s interest on either the city’s behalf or another entity to do this before it goes back on the public market.”

A week earlier, Mayor Keough and Councilmember Paul Cousins met with the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC) to discussion possible purchase of the property. The HRWC was founded in 1965 and for the past 54 years, the environmental organization has dedicated itself to river protection. They advocate, mediate, and protect the river and its ecology for the environment and public use alike.

For years the intersection has been a popular spot for paddlers and tubers because of its easy access to the Huron River. On sunny summer weekends parked cars line the narrow shoulder of Huron River Dr. with vehicles overlapping onto the road narrowing the traffic lane. Pedestrians carrying their river flotation and supplies add to the congestion as they load and unload their vehicles. Even though ‘No Parking’ signs have been posted, people continue to park along the road even with tickets handed out. The adjacent property could provide relief to congestion and increase safety.

The City Council’s goal for the meeting was not to make a decision on purchasing the property but to decide whether or not to make an offer on the property. It may sound like the same thing, but it’s not. The City Council was looking to authorize entering into a sales contract for the property, aka make an offer, with the contingency the City has a 90-day due diligence period to determine how to fund the purchase as well as feasibility studies for its intended use. If the City’s issues are not satisfactorily resolved at the end of the 90 days, any earnest money put down would be returned.

Looking at the map, there is an island in the river that is owned by the Huron Clinton Metroparks Authority. Access to the river would be from this island and HCMA has stated their support for this. The stream separating the island from the property is too shallow for launching.

The subject property (dashed yellow line) abuts a side stream (light blue line), however it is does not directly abut the Huron River (dark blue line). • The light green areas represent property that is owned by the HCMA. • The red circled areas on the north side of the Huron River, directly to the east and west of the Mast Road Bridge represent public road ROW, which is under the jurisdiction of the Washtenaw County Road Commission (WCRC).

If the City’s offer for the property is accepted, then the City would use the 90 days, among other things, to discuss with HCMA any interest on their part in purchasing and developing the property.

“I think one thing we need to think about and discuss is do we want to own the property? Or would we care if another non-profit public entity owned the property like HCMA, the Metroparks,” said Mayor Keough.

This would be the best of all scenarios for the City. While developing Huron River access is in alignment with the City’s Master Plan, the opportunity comes at a time when there are other irons in the fire, or paddles in the water. The property, its potential use, and the development needed to get it to that point are all unknowns that temper any rush to make a decision.

“There are certainly a lot of things that have not been flushed out,” Mayor Keough said of the property. “If we owned this today, where would it fall on our priority list of things to develop?”

The City is currently developing the Mill Creek Phase II project which extends the Mill Creek Trail to Creekside Intermediary School. After that, there is Phase III which will take it further into the school campus. The City is aggressively pursuing improvements in pedestrian safety. And of course let’s not forget a new firehall, city offices, and sheriff’s substation are in the works.

Councilmember Scott Bell was straightforward in his assessment of the situation. “I’m not going to get behind this until I know what the cost is. I know there is due diligence in the form of engineering, assessments, and feasibility studies and such, but I want to know who’s going to pay for all that and what is that cost going to be?”

With that, the City Council went into closed session where they ultimately decided to make an offer of $325,000 for the property which is just above its appraised value of $320,000.

The offer has been submitted to the landowners.

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