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ModSquad last won the day on June 15 2012

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  1. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    ...aaaand the Eastown Neghborhood Association has already started an online campaign to stop the ordinance.
  2. ModSquad

    Wealthy Street Mega Thread

    Shipping Container Buildings Proposed for Corner of Wealthy and Fuller This will go over like a lead balloon with the Historic Commission.
  3. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    The answers lay between what is possible and what is practical. Whenever I would communicate to City leadership the need for any changes or modifications to zoning I could alway plan on getting a very long dissertation from Suzanne about why my requested change was not needed because whatever it was I proposed was already possible in GR. Included in her response would be a detailed step by step description of how one would go about getting the type of building approved. The process always includes an application for either a zoning change or usually a special land use permit. The latter being the suggested course of action 90% of the time. If the form of what I would be proposing to build fit within the form based code (or as Suzanne often calls it “form based lite”) but the function did not fit I would be required to submit an application for a Special Land Use. This basically requires me to pay an application fee (I think it’s $1,500) and usually hire an architect to do a site plan and preliminary elevations to show my proposed development. Depending on the size of my project this can cost a pretty penny, architects don’t work for free on spec projects. Once the application goes in then you get on the merry-go-round with the notification to the neighbors of the proposed development. So when Suzanne states in the article that 90% of all applications are approved, instead of coming to the conclusion that there is then no need for a change in zoning, to me the question that should be asked is how many potential projects are never brought forward because our process is either too risky or cumbersome? As it relates to the public outcry from the proposed zoning changes put forward by GR’s HOUSING NOW initiative, from my perspective everything seemed to be moving along fine with the suggested changes which would have allowed more density in traditional neighborhoods to be built by permit. In fact affordable housing groups, non-profits, neighborhood groups, and developers were all around the table developing these ideas. It was not simply a group of developers huddled together making these changes as the neighborhood associations eventually charged. Everything changed, however, when (whether intentional or unintentional) Suzanne at a meeting with a group of neighborhood association leaders chose to use the terminology “Build By Right” when referring to these changes. Let’s be clear they are the same thing. But to a neighborhood association and neighborhood activists, developers having the right to build without a long drawn our community input proceed is grounds for a fight and that’s what we got. I remember quite clearly a battle cry went out on social media literally during the meeting with Suzanne, Suzanne is 100% correct in that article. But to me it’s a matter of semantics it “can” get approved and developed, but will it in the current system?
  4. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    Unfortunately that’s exactly what is going to happen.
  5. ModSquad

    Hey, what's that?

    I have it on pretty good authority that it has something to do with a Bitcoin fraud. Not sure if it was the folks from GG themselves or someone using their facility and equipment. A lot of computers were seized.
  6. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    I could spend hours replying to everyone’s comments here. And I really do not want to rehash the same old arguments. This will be my last comment on the KCLBA The Kent County Land Bank Authority was authorized through the execution of an Intergovernmental Agreement. This agreement authorizes the County Treasurer to partner with the State of Michigan Land Bank Authority to launch the Kent County Land Bank Authority. The legislation is crystal clear about the make up of the Board of Directors. It is the County Treasurer as Chair, a County Commissioner, an elected official from Grand Rapids, one other City elected official, and a Township elected official. The legal status of a County Land Bank is a “Corporate Body Public” meaning it is basically a corporation owned by the government. The “government” according to the IGA is the Michigan Land Bank Authority and the County Treasurer. The legal structure is also very clear that this Board of Directors is responsible for all aspects related to running the organization and lays out its basic duties. My point here is that the County has absolutely no say in how their land bank operates. In light of this the County Commission recommends that the KCLBA not get involved in the development of affordable housing...seriously? The KCLBA is a vital tool in creating more affordable housing but the County Commission tells the board to stop this activity. Who in their right mind instructs this with the housing crisis facing our region? Important to note that the legal structure of a land bank is the same as the Convention Authority, the Airport Authority, and even the Convention Authority. Can you imagine if the County Commission started messing with the Airport Authority or Convention Authority? Speaking of “Mission Creep” why doesn’t the County Commission question why the Convention Authority is looking at building a 400 room hotel? How is this not competing with the private sector? In regard to tax foreclosures, the KCLBA only took in tax foreclosures upon request for a partnership with a local unit of government by them exercising their legal right of first refusal. This is the reason land banks were set up. It is in the legislation that partnering with a “land bank to acquire, clear title of, and dispose of real estate is a valid public purpose.” In regard to the 5/50 tax payment, a large number of projects for which the KCLBA collected these 50% tax payments for were new construction on vacant lots or redevelopment of homes that had little to no taxable value. When the projects were done through partnership with the KCLBA the increased taxable value was exponential. Additionally, if you read the Michigan State study done of our work it showed signifintly increased property values of homes sold in the neighborhoods around land bank projects. They even went so far as to calculate how these homes around our projects sold at prices higher than the market, so it took into consideration market conditions thus eliminating the arguement that this would have happened with out our intervention. Last, the County Commission refused to intervene with the County Sherrif’s Execution of a contract with ICE for detaining folks they arrest. The reason the County Commission gave was that te Sherrif is an elected official and it is not right for the Commission to tell an elected official what to do. Yet since the inception of the KCLBA the Commission has intervened and inserted itself in the operations and the decisions of the County Commissioner. In fact, in an unprecedented move, the County Commission did not speak with their representative on the KCLBA Board, or the County Commissioner to let them know this vote was coming. Then they broke their standing rules to rush it through Committee to a vote on the next meeting. Additionally, in both meetings when County Commissioners had questions for the County Treasurer about the actions he was not allowed to speak or answer the questions. He was relegated to a 3 min comment like anyone else. I have never seen an elected official treated so poorly in my life. Last, Chair Saalfeld has stated over and over and over that the KCLBA was formed only to deal with blight. Frankly this is simply not true. It is a straight forward motion to authorize the County Treasurer to enter into the IGA with the State land bank to operate with all the authority and actions granted a land bank in the State of Michigan. No one can convince me that this was nothing but pure lane duck BS politics with no regard to the legal structure of the organization, its partnerships with local units of government throughout Kent County. I am done, and will not speak on this issue again. Goodnight.
  7. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    Saalfeld is absolutely wrong. Well he is wrong about a lot of things related to the KCLBA, but that’s another post. Cities can establish a land bank if they are a “qualified” City. The land bank definition of “qualified” is that they have a public school system of more than 100,000 students. When land bank legislation was passed only Detroit was qualified. Bingo on rushing it through for political reasons. I think Saalfeld wanted to preside over the vote while he was still County Board Chair as well. Viola’ Welcome to my new user name. Get it?
  8. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    Hello everyone. I guess I need to change my name here on UP since there will be no more KCLBA. Let me address a couple issues. When the KCLBA was approved in 2009 there certainly was a lot of talk with commissioners about the need to use it to address blight. But Ken Parrish the County Treasurer was VERY clear that he thought that Kent County could use all of the tools a land bank brings. When you read the motion to authorize Ken to sign the legal docs to form the land bank there was NO specific charge to only deal with blight. In fact if you read the enabling legislation for land banks the paragraph that lays out the need for such legislation ties it to acquisition, clearing title, and selling real estate to spur the economy of the local units of government. The label "mission creep" is highly misleading. County Commissioner Jim Talen quoted this earlier today from the "interwebs" Mission creep is when your nonprofit organization expands its mission beyond the original goals that were set. There is a difference between mission creep and making strategic adaptations to a mission statement to evolve as needs change around us. The difference is that strategic adaptations should be weighed organization-wide and involve a critical thinking process before implementation. Mission creep usually occurs as a rash decision or during a crisis situation. I really like this distinction between making a rash decision or a decision based on strategic decision based on the conditions around you. It is important to note that one of the loudest criticisms heard today about the KCLBA's work was that the County felt blind sided about the move to modular homes and the brand change to InnovaLaB. These two decision came out of a long and detailed Strategic Planning session with our board, advisory committee, and stakeholders. We recognize that the County is a KEY stakeholder and had one of their Executive Staff at every single session when these decisions came to the surface. On top of that, the County Commissioners were all given copies of the Strategic Plan. The KCLBA never received a dime of money from the County, not even so much as a paper clip. We are completely self sustaining, in fact one of the only land banks in the country that is not a line item in a County budget and are touted as a State-wide and national model. We hired Michigan State Land Policy Institute to do a qualitative and quantitate analysis of our work. The results were that in 4 years the KCLBA created over 200 direct new jobs, over $40,000,000 in county-wide economic impact, and create $1.75 of value for every $1 we spent. Those are some pretty incredible stats. Ironically, just before the County voted to shut us down, they had to vote to (I believe) forgive a $400,000 debt from the West Michigan Sports Commission. It has been up and running for almost the same amount of time as the KCLBA, was given a $1M loan to begin, and is still not financially solvent. Yet this was touted as a huge success because they supposedly had an impact on tourism. At any rate, now we need to begin the work of figuring out how to wind down the company, and I will think up a new UP handle.
  9. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    X99, I could go on and on and on in response to your comment. Instead I will respectfully disagree with you.
  10. ModSquad

    The "Affordable Housing" Discussion in GR

    Walker, thanks for the encouragement. One important point of clarification. Any work done by the KCLBA/InnovaLaB out side of the County was/is being done by request of an in concert with the State Land Bank Authority and other County Land Banks on land they own. We are acting only as a modular consultant, never a developer. The KCLBA/InnovaLaB does not and will not own or be the sole developer on any project outside Kent County.
  11. ModSquad

    The State of Downtown Grand Rapids Retail

    There really is no tax benefit to the developer. The only reason they have to do retail on the first floor is because of zoning regulations. Where incentive comes in, is that they have no incentive to build because it is so incredibly hard to make retail work in these locations. If the City would allow residential on these developments from the ground up, they would be finished and leased up quickly.
  12. ModSquad

    The State of Downtown Grand Rapids Retail

    Correct, 20 Fulton, along with several other commercial spots on South Division are owned by Chew. Here is a little known piece of information as to why they can be left vacant for so long. Zoning in all of these developments requires commercial on the main floor with residential then allowed in the upper floors. Because this is a zoning requirement the structural aspects of the first floor retail, meaning the complete exterior, the foundation, the floors, etc are all included in what is called “eligible basis” of the tax credit portion of the project. The only cost Chew has to absorb to lease it out is basically from the drywall in. So, he literally has no $ in the game to maintain these units until he leases one to a commercial tenant. When we did the Uptown Village project on the corner of Wealthy and Diamond, it was structured the same way. However, leasing up commercial space on Wealthy is a heck of a lot easier than 20 Fulton or South Division.
  13. ModSquad

    Proposed Projects / Current Projects Underway 2017

    The KCLBA assembled all the parcels over 2.5 years in partnership with Dwelling Place. We also were able to garner significant help from the DEQ to remove the leaky gas tanks from the ground and clean the site. Dwelling Place has taken ownership of the land and broken ground on this mixed use affordable housing development. Much needed for this neighborhood as the target for renters is families whose kids attend Harrison School and are being priced out of the neighborhood. Some of that is due to the Challenge Scholars program which guarantees that kids who graduate from Harrison and then Union High get a college education paid for at any State College. That made and already got rental market white hot.