Panic on Water Street… MSHDA report raises specter of toxins that could derail development, but is it accurate?

Based on a draft Health Risk Evaluation report made public late yesterday afternoon by Ann Arbor News reporter Tom Perkins, it would appear that there’s some question as to whether or not Ypsilanti’s Water Street Redevelopment Area (WSRA) may be safe for human habitation. At least that’s the sense one might get from the article’s headline, which declares, “Report: Water Street site too contaminated to build $12M affordable housing.” According to city leaders and their environmental consultants at AKT Peerless, however, little of what is mentioned in the report, which was authored by Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) Environmental Manager Daniel Lince, is of merit. Ypsilanti Director of Community and Economic Development Beth Ernat called Lince’s draft report “overreaching” and “absurd” when addressing Ypsilanti City Council last night. Furthermore, she went on to say that Lince has been both “accusatory and demeaning” toward the City’s representatives of late… The thing is, no one quite seems to know why.

To hear representatives of the City tell it, they’re not sure why things went off the rails with MSHDA, and why Lince would go so far as to say in print that “contradictions” and “discrepancies” regarding the remediation work done to-date on the former industrial site leave him with a “general lack of confidence regarding the contamination situation.” It makes little sense, according to the City’s consultants, who were on hand to answer questions during last night’s City Council meeting, given that tests done on the site to-date have shown that they’ve exceeded the safety standards set by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). What really seemed to anger them, however, was Lince’s suggestion that, as the Ann Arbor News stated it, “there is no evidence that the city removed contaminated soil from the property as indicated in a report to MSHDA.” Lince’s suggestion that the remediation was not done, after hundreds of thousands of dollars in EPA grants were spent on the remediation of the site, they seemed to think, was a direct affront to the character of those who did the work. [Ernat says the reports show clearly what work was done, but that Lince didn’t show interest in seeing them.]

IMG_3376

[Download Lince’s report here.]

Stepping back for a moment, I should probably mention why MSHDA is even involved in this, seeing as how the site apparently passes the bar as it’s been set by the DEQ. Well, the controversial Herman Kittle development, which is being planned for the southern border of the Water Street property, has apparently been awarded a HUD grant, and those funds can only be disbursed through MSHDA. And, as that’s the case, MSHDA retains the right to set its own environmental standards. The problem is, according to City leaders, Lince won’t articulate what those standards are. He’s been asked repeatedly, according to Ernat, but only responds that the Herman Kittle project should be moved from its currently proposed site.

I should also add that the City knew going into this that there was still work to be done on the site. [It is, after all, a multi-generation brownfield with a history of “PCBs, PNAs, VOCs and several metals, including lead, arsenic, cadmium and mercury.”] They knew that shallow soil samples would need to be taken across the entire site (to augment the deeper samples which have been taken over the past decade), and they knew that they would need to survey the property again, to explicitly delineate the areas where legacy issues still needed to be addressed. According to the consultants from AKT Peerless, though, they weren’t at all prepared for the response from Lince. They thought, when they submitted their draft paperwork, MSHDA would respond with a list of items that needed to be addressed, contamination levels that needed to be met, etc. Instead, they received a letter suggesting that the remediation may never have happened. What’s more, a copy of said letter was apparently sent to the local press… Which begs the question, “Why?”

Could it be that MSHDA wants to kill this development for some reason? Do they perhaps want to shift the designated HUD funds elsewhere? Has someone within the city, who perhaps doesn’t want low-income housing built downtown, somehow convinced Lince and his superiors to kill the deal? Or is it possible that, given the recent environmental scandal in Flint, that MSHDA doesn’t want to be put in a position where there’s even the most remote chance that one of their developments could abut an area known to contain harmful contaminants, even if they are controlled in a manner prescribed by the DEQ? [I think everyone seems to be in agreement that the 3.1 acres that Herman Kittle is interested in is clean. The issue seems to be the area adjacent to it.]

For whatever the reason, Lince, if you believe the City, rushed back with a formal letter denouncing the project instead of following the standard course of action, which would have been to enter into a discussion on what was needed to move the project forward toward completion. This, according to those in the know, is absolutely unheard of, and it has everyone in Ypsi city government up on arms, worrying not only about how they get the Herman Kittle project back on track, but how they keep this recent news from driving away other interested parties. [Selling this property, as everyone knows, is pretty much the only shot Ypsi has of avoiding bankruptcy at this point.]

For what it’s worth, Herman Kittle, it would seem, is not altogether without blame in this. Apparently, much of the confusion began when their environmental consultant decided to go directly to MSHDA (without first talking with the City), in hopes of expediting things, with 20-year-old materials that predated any remediation work having been done on the site. [This may account for some of the confusion and frustration on the part of MSHDA.]

Councilman Brian Robb released a confidential memo from Beth Ernat during last night’s meeting, in which she recounts the events that brought us to where we are today. The letter, in its entirety, can be found on his site, but here’s a taste.

MSHDAresponse

The bottom line is, for whatever reason, MSHDA, according to City leaders, seems to be unwilling to work with Ypsilanti on the Herman Kittle development. Not only did they issue this uncharacteristically harsh draft report, and make it public, but, when asked by the City what information needed to be provided to get things back on track, they declined to do so. City leaders, for what it’s worth, are attempting to get MSHDA back to the table. And, in the meantime, Herman Kittle, as Ernat notes in the above above clip, is exploring alternate locations on Water Street for their development.

Might this have been the final nudge Ypsi needed toward receivorship? [If this recent report dissuades developers, we may very well default on our loans, which would trigger the appointment of an Emergency Manager.] I guess we’ll have to wait and see. This certainly isn’t helping, though.

[note: For some reason I don’t quite understand, readers of this site have been discussing these new developments on an old thread about a Bernie Sanders potluck in Ypsi.]

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49 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2015 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Ypsilanti Mayor Amanda Edmonds has also poster her post-City Council meeting notes. Here’s what she had to say on Facebook.

    I’m just home from council and unless there was someone I didn’t recognize in the audience (that’s possible), there wasn’t a reporter there from a newspaper. I’m not going to do a big back and forth here in comments– though you are welcome to make an appt during my office hours or come speak at council– but I want to communicate some things. If you had attended, and stayed through the end, you would find that the headline in MLive today about Water Street and contamination is highly misleading. Water Street is a Brownfield. It’s a former industrial site developed twice over. It’s always been that since the city acquired it. That includes PCBs and heavy metals– that’s not new information. Millions of dollars have gone into extensive testing all around the site, and into big chunks of remediation of some parts. Other parts still need remediating, which have to meet different levels of standards based on their uses– residential of course being the highest standard (things need to be the cleanest and safest where people live of course). We know that, as do all of our potential developers. The city’s environmental consultants are some of the most respected in the state, and they have gone through the file cabinets full (literally, a wall of file cabinets *full* of documentation) in preparing an updated draft Due Care Plan for MDEQ to approve, This plan outlines each area of the site, what further remediation or containment steps need to be taken to safely redevelop. Brownfield redevelopment is not new and there are very clear standards and best practices long in place across the country for how to deal with it. Some additional shallow testing will be taking place that will help fill in some gaps from the testing and remediation that’s been done in the last 10+ years. There have been no new tests or research or evidence information brought forward– the consultants for MSHDA (HMA) noted about some additional testing needed and some additional information needed– which is exactly what we expected. This is no change in the course we’ve been on with our environmental consultants. Why is MSHDA event involved in an environmental review (versus MDEQ who is the regulatory body)? It’ because they are a funder that they have the right to do a review– yet unlike MDEQ, MSHDA has no set of standards they are bound to when determining the environmental soundness of a project. A suggestion by a MSHDA staff member that some or all of this remediation never occurred has absolutely no grounding in the facts and extensive records that show otherwise. I call into question other statements made, too, in the letter referenced in the article– it says to proceed with a cautious approach because additional sampling and investigation is needed, as we have and do plan to do. The issue, then, is that it goes on to draw many conclusions after having stated that more information is needed to draw any conclusions. Those statements that question the safety of a child on the site are inappropriately far reaching– because no development will occur before the Due Care Plan is approved my MDEQ– whose standards will dictate how the entire site– now and through its development– will be kept safe through remediation, containment, and other methods. That’s exactly why we go through the Due Care Plan Process. And, MDEQ is known for having very high standards in this way. This situation is frustrating because it suggests that there is something new that would lend a different light to the way we’re moving forward to work to remediate and redevelop Water Street in a way that is attractive and safe for any who would live, work, or visit.

  2. Citywatch
    Posted November 4, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    Based on recent stories about the lack of affordable housing in Ann Arbor, could it be that this is happening because that city wants this development? Am I the only one who has had this thought?

  3. anonymous
    Posted November 4, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    I understand that some people were dead set against the Herman Kittle project, but would they so much against it that they would kill it in this fashion, by promoting the idea that the site is toxic?

  4. Dan
    Posted November 4, 2015 at 9:53 pm | Permalink

    “when asked by the City what information needed to be provided to get things back on track, they declined to do so”

    The letters included several options on what needed to be done to move the project forward.

  5. Dan
    Posted November 4, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    And of course Herman Kittle is exploring other options on water street. They are investing next to nothing and will be guaranteed 20 years of rent and numerous tax subsidies. This is their business model. Mind boggling that the city is so intent on working with these parasites

  6. Peter Larson
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 12:19 am | Permalink

    As usual, Ypsilanti can do no wrong.

  7. Posted November 5, 2015 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Pete, I was just reporting what I was told. I suspect, if I were to talk with Lince, I’d hear a different story. My intention here wasn’t to absolve City government of any wrongdoing, but simply report what had been said. I thought I was clear about that. Sorry if I wasn’t.

  8. Andrew Clock
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    On this one, I’m with Pete.

    Doesn’t anyone ever wonder why we can’t get our city leaders to respond to, well, much of anything in a professional manner?

    “While we strongly disagree with the conclusions of the MSHDA report, the city of Ypsilanti is dedicated to meeting or exceeding all environmental requirements and will work to ensure the highest standard has been met.”

    Seems like it will be much harder to get Mr. Lince to work with us after calling his conclusions absurd and setting him up as the enemy who’s out to get us.

    After all, what I learned by trying to work with Ypsilanti city government is you have to be nice to unreasonable people, no matter how rude and uncooperative those people may be, or they will go out of their way to make your job difficult. Staff should take a page from their own book.

  9. anonyous
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I’ve heard that government employees can be found personally responsible in instances such as this. If this is the case, I don’t doubt that Lince is reluctant to OK a development next to an area known to be contaminated, especially in the wake of the Flint situation. If I had to guess, I’d say this is the underlying issue, compounded by the nonsense about Herman Kittle sending in old materials for approval, etc.

  10. Angela Barbash
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Mark Maynard based on my limited but illuminating experience with state regulators and bureaucrats, this sounds like Lince either is acting on someone’s request to kill the project or he’s going above and beyond because of something completely unrelated to Ypsi – like his job is on the line and he’s trying to prove his worth or something to that effect

  11. Mark Hergott
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    You know… I think this is basic CYA. Water Street is a brown field. Brown fields need to be restored in a specific and careful way. If that is not followed, bad things happen.

    Recently, the state oversaw a grand infrastructure project in Flint that

    BLEW

    THE

    EFF

    UP.

    Children have elevated lead levels in their blood. The state unwittingly helped that happen.

    Now, MSHDA is being asked to help develop a brown field. If the development is not done effectively, children will be adversely affected. Nobody wants that, the city would follow all of the regulations to avoid that, the contractors would do their best to keep the dust down…

    But what if something goes wrong? MSHDA does not want to have what happened to MDEQ happen to them. I can’t honestly blame them.

    With all of that said, CYA just is not how business gets done. MSHDA has to show clearly that the site is unsafe. I honestly don’t think it is the Love Canal, but it ain’t pristine either, so MSHDA needs to get the proof.

    This claim that there has not been enough study, though… it’s a bald faced lie. This is really tiresome.

    Hind sight 20 / 20, the city should not have gotten into the real estate business. We are all brokers, now… and we gotta sell this brown field right quick.

  12. Answers
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Personally, I think that people are hiding behind the “we don’t want another Flint” thing. A local restaurant owner who has long lobbied against the HK development, recently sent the following out on Facebook.

    “We cannot repeat the mistakes made in the Flint water crisis. Environmental quality and safe living conditions are not only a need, but a necessity!”

    I think it’s disingenuous.

    If I had to make a guess, I’d say that the Township killed it with the support of people here in the city who didn’t want it to happen, and that they “Flint” is what they’re hiding behind.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I disagree that this is the final straw that will bring in an emergency manager. I think we’ve been doomed for a while. City Manager Lange’s plan to refinance the bonds has, from the start, been dependent on selling the Water Street land at a higher per acre price than what it’s worth. He apparently thought that, somehow, after selling property for cheap to Family Dollar and Herman Kittle, that others would somehow start paying above market rate for the remaining parcels. That was magical thinking. So, when you say that this MiSHDA report may be the straw that broke the camel’s back, you’re wrong. The camel’s back was already broken. The refinancing never would have worked, because no one would have paid the per-acre price that would have made the math work.

  14. josh
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Anon is right. The price tag I saw was 300k per acre. 300k will get you an acre and a bunch of rental units in Ypsi, so basically batshit insane.

  15. Eel
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Can someone remind me why the Township is so much against this development? How does it impact them?

  16. Erin
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Unrelated to Water Street, but as an interesting side note – the city’s old landfill near Spring Street and I-94 (the site which DTE was looking at a few years ago for installing a solar array) also has high levels of environmental contamination. Although the contamination is migrating due to involvement with the water table, requiring the City to notify adjacent property owners (including myself), no other information regarding remediation has been forthcoming.

    I realize these situations require money and resources, and the City is in short supply of both, but in general it doesn’t seem that Ypsilanti has done much to clean up its brownfield properties.

  17. Dan
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    “Can someone remind me why the Township is so much against this development? ”

    Because the township is smart enough to realize that putting up another low income development to bridge Parkridge and West Willow is bad for surrounding areas as well.

  18. Katch
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    If I understand correctly, several people feel as though this was an inside job, done by people who don’t want the Herman Kittle project to go forward, as they don’t think we need more low income housing downtown. I can understand that. What I cannot understand, though, is the idea that they’d be willing to paint the whole site as a toxic dump in order to stop development from moving forward. That’s a nuclear option that we don’t recover from.

  19. Katch
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Eel,

    You might find this article helpful in explaining the dynamics.

    “Ypsilanti Township official calls the proposed Water Street Flats low-income housing development a “terrible waste of taxpayer dollars” that will be disastrous for Ypsi”

    http://markmaynard.com/2014/02/ypsilanti-township-official-calls-the-proposed-water-street-flats-low-income-housing-development-a-terrible-waste-of-taxpayer-dollars-is-she-right/

  20. kjc
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    if we could just get rid of “low income residents” altogether. why do they need to live anywhere?

  21. Dan
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Katch,

    Why couldn’t MSHDA just decide that they werent going to fund this? why would they need to try to come up with some conspiracy?

  22. Anne
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I’ve worked with AKT Peerless in the past on brownfield boards and projects and I’ve only had very positive experiences with them. They are really the go to experts in brownfield remediation in Southeast Michigan. I’ve also helped with managing EPA brownfield grants. There are strict reporting and testing guidelines. The idea that a clean-up was “faked” is just bizarre.

    As Amanda mentioned their are different guidelines for clean-up levels depending on end-use which corresponds to the number of hours a person would be hypothetically spending on site. Housing has the highest. It’s not a typical for a site to get different designations for different parts of the site depending on the type of clean-up that is possible and the history of contamination. There are standard industry practices for dealing with construction on a multi-use site like this.

    The same environmental paperwork goes to the EPA, MDEQ and went in with the Low Income Housing Tax credit that was awarded for the project. Apparently the study results were sufficient to award LIHTCs so it is bizarre that MSHDA is all of a sudden having such a huge issue with them. Why was none of this caught before now? Back and forth between the state agencies and applicant is not atypical. All involved are used to having to provide additional information and clarifying development plans. Lince’s letter really seems to be out of left field and probably leaves most folks who have worked on brownfield redevelopment projects scratching their heads.

    And Dan – Affordable Housing doesn’t get built without these subsidies, LIHTCs are more likely to be awarded (applications are awarded more points) if the City throws in subsidies as well.

  23. Meta
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    There were to things of interest in Tom Perkins’s article today at MLive.

    First, MSHDA is sticking to their guns.

    MSHDA spokesperson Katie Bach said the authority stands behind the analysis and its recommendations. “We … believe they are based on the best available data on the site and reflect sound and consistent environmental and real estate development practices and principles. If read in their entirety, the reports and the e-mail show how this project could successfully move forward,” she said.

    Second, MSHDA’s consultants didn’t do any additional testing. They merely went though the materials that they had been given.

    MSHDA did not test the soil, but hired a consultant to sift through around 20 years of environmental reports and records associated with Water Street, which is a former industrial district and now a Brownfield site.

    Read more:
    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2015/11/ypsilanti_officials_respond_to.html

  24. Anne
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    And just a reminder that when Affordable Housing is talked about it is not the same as section 8 housing vouchers. I can’t remember what the income guidelines were set at for this development but affordable housing is usually between 30%-80% of area Median Incomes. So in Washtenaw County that would be $48,00 and under. The idea is that the typical household can’t afford to be spending more than 30% of their income on housing. There wouldn’t be housing available for these folks if we just let the normal market forces do there thing. One of the reasons Ann Arbor is seeing a worker short fall.

  25. Dan
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    But aren’t these places required to accept Section 8 vouchers in order to get the subsidies, etc?

  26. Rosie The Riveter
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    Dan is correct. They would have to accept vouchers, and in fact have to set aside a certain number for voucher holders. I believe they anticipated as high as 30% would be section 8.

    I think the issue is not so much income level, as it is income stratification. We have too low of an average income to survive as a city.

    Ann Arbor has the opposite problem. Their average income is too high. That is easily fixable though. We keep making our problem worse.

  27. wobblie
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Those people who argue that the Flint catastrophe is some how responsible are not paying attention to the time line. The Housing Authority letter and report were sent to the city in Sept., I think well before the Flint situation blew up in the press.

  28. wobblie
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    correction, I am wrong. The Lince email was Oct. 23. So maybeit is fallout from the FIASCOE (fucked in ass, situation completely opposite expectations) that was the Flint water mess. Our Water St. FIASCOE is obviously going to drag the city down.

  29. kjc
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    kind of weird when “our problem” is residents of the city who have lower incomes. so then the people who require Section 8 are not part of the “our” right? they’re just the problem.

    i’m amazed at the level of acceptance of Section 8 housing discrimination.

  30. Environmental Eric
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    HUD grants will carry additional requirements for on site AND OFF SITE contamination. This is over and above MDEQ requirements. MSHDA must follow when certain HUD money is allocated. If MSHDA does not follow, HUD can pull funding to the state.

    Look at sections E, D and G.

    http://www.hud.gov/offices/hsg/mfh/map/mapguide/chap09.pdf

  31. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Not necessarily discrimination. More seriously questioning the sustainability of A trend. Depending on what you consider to be essential, “our Ypsilanti” is in danger of becoming emergency-managed-Ypsilanti and all that entails.

  32. Rosie The Riveter
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Agreed. Ypsilanti cannot exist as a super low income city. It is bad for everybody in the city with regard to education, nutrition, safety, you name it. I think we do a great job of handling lower income needs, but that won’t continue if we become exclusively low income, especially in a state under Republican control.

  33. Jcp2
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

    Easy solution. Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti should become one city.

  34. Kjc
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    Like I said. Amazed.

  35. Kjc
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    yeah it’s just that annoying trend of “low income people” and their insidious need for housing. We just can’t let them take over the whole city. We already do a good job for them! And yet they keep being everywhere, like roaches. We need better people!

    if you wanna address income stratification you need a better plan than “no more housing for poor people!” And no “affordable housing where section 8 is allowed!” Otherwise you’re just assholes. Like a lot of so-called liberals.

  36. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 5, 2015 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    I am not a mathematician but I am guessing even if we add in the value of kjc’s beautiful soul the taxable value per capita in Ypsi is still not looking sustainable against basic services and debt repayment.

  37. Brainless
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Hijacking this thread to let you all know that mass layoffs are coming to mlive. Apparently, the brain trust from Grand Rapids and Flint who stole the thing from the Ann Arborites who founded it and ran it for 20 years couldn’t make a go of it – even when hiring children and making them sit at cheap tables.

    Did you know that over 1/3 of all ad money they take in goes directly to sales? Did you know that there are something like four levels of management who all get a cut?

    I’m not exactly sure how deep it will go, but it will be pretty brutal. They are cutting all travel, too (except for executive travel, I’m sure).

    Congratulations go out to Dan Gaydout, a grey haired old man who doesn’t have a fucking clue, and all his shitty minions. You’re next.

  38. Anne
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    In order to qualify for Low Income Tax Credits you don’t necessarily have to designate some of the housing for individuals at the income thresholds that qualify them for Section 8. You get more points in the application process if you are addressing some of the lowest income levels. In this case, HK, appears to be combining this with project based section 8 financing that helps subsidize the construction of those apartments that you aside for section 8 vouchers but those are two different pots of money. In addition for companies that are going to be managing their properties in addition to building them, section 8 is guaranteed revenues and is often at a higher dollar amount than what some of the other affordable housing units will probably be able to rent at.
    However it’s not just affordable housing developers that like section 8 voucher. Management companies/Landlords of a lot of apartment complexes and rental homes qualify to accept Section 8 vouchers because they like knowing that that the check is going to be there every month. Getting off the wait list and receiving section 8 can be a lengthy process (it can take years of sitting on that list to finally get a voucher), but once it occurs finding housing isn’t the issue. There are typically plenty of options. Really the housing shortages lie in housing for folks who don’t qualify for section 8 but can’t afford to pay market rate, which is why in order to qualify for the tax credits you have to be addressing a range of income levels. There is an extreme shortage in available vouchers for section 8 compared to the number of individuals who could qualify, but that is a different issue.
    As a side note there are certain legal offenses (violent crime, drug related crime) that will prevent you from qualifying for Section 8. Also housing conditions themselves must meet a certain standard in order to be able to accept the section 8 vouchers.

    I see folks throw around the term “Section 8 Housing” and Affordable Housing without really understanding what that means and doesn’t mean. Affordable Housing does not equal Section 8 Housing. You don’t build a “Section 8 housing complex”. Section 8 housing really is housing everywhere. On my fairly middle class street here in Ypsi I know of at least two homes that have residents with section 8 housing vouchers. One an elderly women and her son, both with disabilities I think, the other a family. Both homes are well maintained by the landlords and to my knowledge there hasn’t been any issues with the current tenants. Another neighbor whose adult child and grandchild lives at home finally had their adult child qualify for Section 8 and she and the grandchild will be moving into a nice duplex in (shudder) Ann Arbor.

  39. Dan
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Anne,

    The problem isnt inherent to Section 8. It’s when subsidized housing is dense. This was the entire reason for creating the voucher system, to de-centralize the subsidized housing and promote more stable neighborhoods. But this development does not do that. Anyone with a Section 8 voucher is going to apply for a spot here, because it’s brand new, and initially will be much nicer than the other apartments in the area and homes in WW and around Leforge, etc.

    So soon, this development will be majority Section 8, and anyone that was paying the full price there will leave. It’s happened in virtually every complex that accepts Section 8. And in neighborhoods that are virtually all rentals, like WW.

  40. Demetrius
    Posted November 6, 2015 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

    I’m all in favor of taxpayer-subsidized housing for the elderly and handicapped, etc. … but many (perhaps most) residents of subsidized housing are the so-called “working poor.” Instead of more support for subsidized housing, shouldn’t we instead be concentrating our efforts on advocating for more jobs with better wages and working conditions … so these folks would be able support themselves?

    It seems to me that many programs to provide subsidized housing for the working poor are nothing more than corporate welfare for businesses and corporations (an extreme example is full-time Walmart workers who are eligible for Food Stamps and Medicaid), that allow these companies to continue to provide sub-standard wages and benefits, while counting on hard-working taxpayers to help make up the difference.

    In a worst-case scenario … if people are eligible for Food Stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing … and are working full-time for around $8/hour … who is that support really helping? The struggling individuals and their families … or the corporations that are enjoying the benefits of taxpayer-subsidized “cheap” labor?

  41. Scott Heddle
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    When government officials suddenly flip the script from seemingly out of left field, they’ve either been told to do something or, if they have enough authority, stopped liking you. It’s rarely based on performance or compliance. The money’s been taken away or they don’t like you.

    And for those who blame Ypsi govt for buying that property in the first place, someone please post a picture of what was there before it was torn down. I don’t have a picture but it would do you all wonders to see it again. It’s burned in my memory.

  42. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 7, 2015 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    I am just trying to imagine the photoshop wizardry that would need to be involved in somehow making before and after shots of Waterstreet stan-in as a justification for Ypsi’s acquisition of the property. You, my friend, must appreciate the hell out of some garden sculptures.

  43. Councilman Murdock by Proxy
    Posted November 12, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    WATER STREET UPDATE
    Recently there have been reports of contamination issues with Water Street. These are not new issues. The site is a brownfield site meaning by definition that it has contamination issues. Several millions of dollars have been spent in demolition and identifying the type and extent of any contamination. Much remediation has already occurred. There are still contamination issues that we need to address. We know that. There are different clean-up standards depending on the type of development that will be going onto a specific portion of the site. When we have a clearer idea of the specific type of development for the specific site on the property we can determine the best remediation practice to utilize. Some of those costs might be able to be borne by the developer through the brownfield program.
    So where are we at?
    1. As you see by the attached article the County recreation Center is moving ahead and we look forward to construction next year (2016)
    2. We will be providing additional clean-up documentation to the agencies involved (MDEQ who sets the standards and (MSHDA who is the provider of the loan for the Riverwalk Housing.)
    3. The City’s consultant, AKI Peerless, will be conducting more testing throughout the site to provide additional information and to fill in any gaps.
    4. Once we have gathered all the information, we will move forward with a mitigation plan to remove or otherwise abate any environmental hazards.
    5. All along we will be working with MSHDA to satisfy any issues that they may have with the Riverwalk Development.
    6. In the meantime, City staff is working with a variety of potential developers to see what else we can get going on the property and with possibilities of restructuring the Water Street debt.
    A little condensed version of where we are at with Water Street that I hope is helpful.

  44. Brainless
    Posted January 6, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    Hijacking this thread again to say “I told you so”:

    http://www.mlive.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/mlive_media_group_announces_ne.html#incart_river_index

    Best parts about the article:

    1) They buried the lede. “Overall, 29 content positions will be eliminated…” This is a downsizing.

    2) They repeated tout being “No. 1”, while getting rid of people. What, you can’t just lay them off? You have to taunt, too?

    3) That massive dick, John Hiner, still works there. A more sniveling ferret-faced corporate cocksucker you have never met.

    4) They cite their move into the Detroit and Lansing marketplaces. The people who had that idea and lead the charge no longer work there. (Oh, their Lansing reporter just switched to the Detroit News, too. Guess he’s the smart one.)

    5) They cite “Michigan’s Best”. The person who had that idea and lead the charge no longer works there.

    Please please please remember that these assholes also endorsed Dick Snyder in the election. And you know goddamn well that they’ll soft-pedal ANYTHING to do with politics to get their hands on that 2016 election money. Sorry Flint. You just got Grand Rapids-ed.

  45. jcp2
    Posted February 12, 2016 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    So in answer to your headline, yes, they were accurate.

    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/02/city_documents_indicate_lead_p.html#incart_2box_news_ann-arbor

  46. EOS
    Posted February 19, 2016 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Not to worry – the city has a plan. Merely need a 15 year tax increase. Except that just buys the land. What will the tax bill be for the remediation? And for what? A subsidized housing project. Unbelieveable. You can’t make this stuff up.

  47. Dan
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    trying to bump this. Has anyone asked Her Honor or Mr. Murdock why they support this, when they claimed the only reason they supported the original proposal was because it would build a million dollars worth of infrastructure in the area? this proposal would not do that.

    http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2016/04/water_street_contamination_der.html

  48. Peter Larson
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    I can’t really read through all the comments here, so I’m sure that someone has mentioned it, but didn’t this blog and many of its commentors insist that allegations of contamination at Water Street were part of a politically motivated plot by Rick Snyder to take over Ypsilanti and somehow block their democratic support (or some such story, I remember it was complicated).

    Note this was before the Flint story broke. One might get the impression that Ypsi residents are potentially as guilty of poisoning poor people as Flint.

    Certainly, Ypsi residents were more vocal about their wish to keep poor people out of the city. Seems they got their wish.

  49. Peter Larson
    Posted April 7, 2016 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    I see this is appended to an old post. Much of this has already been said.

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] « Panic on Water Street… MSHDA report raises specter of toxins that could derail develop… […]

  2. […] taking off his clothes. I think maybe To and I were beginning to talk about his recent article on the toxicity of Water Street, when, out of the corner of my eye, I caught Colin beginning to unbutton his shirt. And […]

  3. […] MARK: Which brings us to the parcel along the southern edge of the Water Street property that Indiana-based developer Herman Kittle expressed interest in for the affordable housing project they planned to call Water Street Flats. Things, it would seem, were advancing relatively well, in spite of some citizen pushback against the idea of building more affordable housing downtown, when the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority (MSHDA), a few months ago, issued a letter stating that, in their opinion, we didn’t appreciate how bad things were on the site, or have an acceptable plan as to how to move…. […]

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