Ypsilanti City Council members have mixed reactions to Burger King proposal
Some Ypsilanti City Council members say a proposed Burger King doesn't fit the vision of the city's Water Street property. But others argue the city needs visible progress - and any revenue possible - that could result from the deal.
Bravokilo, which owns the Burger King in Ypsilanti Township on Michigan Avenue east of Ecorse Road, presented the council with the proposal at its March 16 meeting. Council members discussed it at a work session tonight and will vote at the April 20 meeting following a public hearing.
Several council members said they were opposed to a low-density “cookie cutter” Burger King that didn’t fit with the development. They suggested higher density, multilevel developments yielding a higher tax return.
Others, including Mayor Pro Tem Trudy Swanson-Winston, said the city needs the revenue, even if it is just a small amount.
“How much longer must we wait?” she said. “We are starting with something and it beats nothing.”
City Planner Teresa Gillotti estimated the Burger King’s taxable value at $450,000 based on similar establishments in the area, which would equate to roughly $29,750 in tax revenue.
City budget documents show Ypsilanti faces $31 million in debt from the Water Street development and must make a $476,00 payment out of its general fund on May 1.
Council Member Mike Bodary said the Burger King would only occupy one out of 38 acres in the development's northwest corner, minimizing its impact on the aesthetics of Water Street.
He added that the city needs the $400,000 from the sale of the property for water and sewer infrastructure.
“It's not my ideal but I'm inclined to support the offer ... It goes along way towards that first step - that first perception - that we’re moving along with this project,” he said.
Mayor Paul Schreiber acknowledged the city's financial concerns, but said he would like to see a higher density development. He added the city needs to address zoning issues to make clear to developers and staff what is desired.
“I can see it from both sides,” he said. “We need some revenue, but I think the fact that we could put something in Water Street that’s going to complement downtown is the overriding concern I have.”
Council Member Bill Nickels concurred.
“Rejecting it - I don’t think it’s a negative, “ he said. “I think what it does in the end is set a standard.”
Council Member Pete Murdock said the Burger King provides no "wow value” to attract further development. He added the tax revenue wasn't close to what the city needs to generate.
“I think we still have some time,” he said. “We’re running out of time, but we still have some time to look at things. At the end of this year we’ll have that site clear and much more ready for development than it is now.”
Revenue from the property wouldn't be available for bond repayment because the DDA and Tax Increment Financing Plan requires another $2 million in taxable value in its district before tax capture begins.
But Gilotti said the revenue would be available for the Washtenaw County Brownfield district for repayment on expenses such as infrastructure and clean up.
Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Reach the news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2530.