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Posted on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 2:16 p.m.

Pittsfield Township says its $30M State Road plan is independent but similar to Ann Arbor's efforts

By Amy Biolchini


South State Street at the intersection of Morgan Road on Tuesday, July 23. Under a plan developed by the Washtenaw County Road Commission and Pittsfield Township, the road would be widened to four lanes with a narrow median to make it a boulevard-style configuration. The intersection of State and Morgan would be converted into a roundabout.

Daniel Brenner I

Pittsfield Township trustees voted 4-0 in a special meeting Wednesday morning to create a tax-capturing authority to help fund a future $30 million improvement to its industrial South State Road corridor.

The township's plan is similar to but independent of the city of Ann Arbor’s master planning efforts approved July 16 that determined a vision for its own South State corridor.

Anticipating a continued trend in rising property values in 2014 and the possibility of new development along the road, the creation of the corridor improvement authority is the first step for Pittsfield Township to capture a portion of the proceeds from property value increases due to inflation and new development in a tax-increment finance plan.

Funds captured in the TIF will be used to provide a local match to federal grant funds the township is pursuing to pay for a projected $30 million overhaul to South State Road south of Ellsworth to just north of West Michigan Avenue. The project will include the addition of two roundabouts, widening the road to four lanes, adding bike lanes and constructing pedestrian walkways.

Township Supervisor Mandy Grewal said the improvement is necessary to accommodate the changing demands of the industrial businesses in the corridor when it comes to transportation options. Widening South State Road would allow for express bus service to the area.

For both Ann Arbor and Pittsfield Township, State — street or road, depending on which side of Interstate 94 you’re on — serves as a major north-south route. Industrial and office parks are predominant on State both north and south of I-94.

The city’s new master plan for South State includes turning it into a boulevard configuration between Eisenhower and I-94 — which is the same recommendation the road commission gave to the township for South State between Ellsworth and West Michigan Avenue.

Evaluating traffic patterns in the Ann Arbor portion of the corridor to see if roundabouts are an option is listed in the city's master plan — an item the township is pursuing in its own overhaul of South State.

Goals in the city’s master plan also include making the corridor more friendly to alternative modes of transportation, which is also part of the township’s motivation for change.

The city's master plan also recommends exploring the development of a district on South State in which the businesses would pay special fees to fund improvements, which is the main difference between Ann Arbor's vision and Pittsfield Township's approach. The TIF plan the township is pursuing would not add to the costs that the businesses pay.

Grewal said she views South State Road differently than Washtenaw Avenue, where Pittsfield is a part of the four-jurisdiction entity ReImagine Washtenaw that is taking a regional approach to planning parameters for future developments so they work congruently.

“We haven’t had those multi-jurisdictional visions for State Street,” Grewal said.

Between I-94 and Ellsworth Road, South State serves as a dividing line: to the east, Ann Arbor; to the west, Pittsfield Township.

The township wants to improve the road south of Ellsworth Road in a section that shares no borders with Ann Arbor, which is why Grewal said she did not engage Ann Arbor officials in a dialogue regarding the township’s plans for State Road.

The Washtenaw County Road Commission has been working with the township to develop the redevelopment plan for State Road. Road Commission officials made it abundantly clear to the township that it did not have funding available to help make the overhaul a reality, leaving the township up to its own devices, Grewal said.

Grewal was one of four votes to unanimously approve creating the corridor improvement authority at the township’s special meeting Wednesday morning.

Trustees Frank Lotfian, Gerald Krone and Patricia Tupacz Scribner voted for the resolution as well with little discussion. The three trustees absent were Michael Yi, Alan Israel and Stephanie Hunt.

The board also voted 4-0 to appoint five individuals to a board that will oversee the corridor improvement authority. That board will first meet Aug. 7 to begin developing a TIF plan that will have to be reviewed by the other seven jurisdictions that collect tax revenue from the properties within the zone of the corridor improvement authority.

A corridor improvement authority is similar to a downtown development authority but not identical. A DDA has the ability to ask for a dedicated millage, whereas a corridor improvement authority cannot collect its own taxes.

The corridor improvement authority is under the direct supervision of the township board, whereas a DDA’s board has more jurisdictional authority to work independently, township officials said.

Pittsfield Township will be pursuing a TIF that will capture 50 percent of increasing property value due to inflation or new development on properties within the corridor improvement authority. The taxable value of the properties in the authority is about $130 million this year.

Officials are taking care to place a 20-year sunset on the TIF, as well pursuing language to ensure that the funds captured by the TIF will only be used to fund the State Road Improvements.

The township has the ability to leverage up to 100 percent of the increased property value, but officials said they’re be pursuing 50 percent because they want to work in partnership with other entities that collect taxes from Pittsfield Township - including Washtenaw Community College, County Parks and Recreation and the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.


Milo Simon

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 7:57 p.m.

Nicely detailed articles Amy. Have to agree with Willie. Plan is well thought out, sufficiently tailored so money doesn't get used for other projects. Limited life span - just long enough to repay financing costs. Seems like a model others should follow. Seriously like the bicycle and walking paths added to that stretch. Not even Jackson Road is structured that well.

Willie Reid

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 7:40 p.m.

Again, I say bravo board. I commend you for the good work you've done representing Pittsfield Township. If only all governmental entities were run as well as ours.

Basic Bob

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 7:16 p.m.

This is why we needed to double the public safety millage, to free up cash to pay for a four lane boulevard to Upper Saline. It will fit in nicely with the runway expansion.

Milo Simon

Wed, Jul 24, 2013 : 7:58 p.m.

Dude - what's your fixation on getting the airport expanded?? Seems every comment you advocate for it. Doesn't your plane fly elsewhere? It isn't happening, so let it go.