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Tag Archive | "Downtown Development Authority"

The City Council


By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager

The last two weeks I’ve discussed the Planning Commission and the Downtown Development Authority. Today we’ll talk about the City Council, my boss(es).  There are two primary different types of local governments in the United States—the “Strong Mayor” form and the “Council-Manager” form. These two forms combine to account for 90 percent of all local governments. The Strong Mayor form is what people primarily think of when they think of local government, even though it is the less common version compared to Council-Manager. The Strong Mayor form seems to be more prevalent in huge cities like Chicago and Detroit, while Council-Manager is more common in smaller communities like Rockford, Sparta, Greenville and Cedar Springs.  

There are advantages to both forms of government but since Cedar Springs operates as a Council-Manager government we will be talking about how the Cedar Springs City Council (CC) works. The City Council is composed of seven City residents who all must be a “qualified elector” (See Mich Const Article II § 1 of 1963).  After each election, the CC members choose between themselves who shall serve as Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem. Legally speaking, the Mayor is imbued with the power to run meetings; they are the ceremonial head of the government; they are the City’s conservator of the peace; and they shall authenticate all ordinances, motions and resolutions of the Council by their signature. The Mayor does not have any veto power over the Council but does have an equal voice and vote to every other member of the Council.  

The Mayor Pro Tem undertakes those same powers in the absence of the Mayor but in reality, they both share in representing the government in both a legal and ceremonial capacity. 

The other five councilpersons combine with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem to undertake all “legislative or policy forming powers” in the City. While the City Council is the ultimate authority on virtually everything in the City, on a day-to-day basis, the CC employs a City Manager to run the administrative operations of the government. The CC hires a City Manager on the “basis of training and ability alone” and entrusts the City Manager to legally, ethically and effectively run the City on their behalf.  

The City Manager daily “steps into the shoes” of the Mayor and City Council and runs the City while following the laws, rules and policies that the CC has enacted throughout the years. In Cedar Springs, the City Manager communicates with the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem on a frequent basis to discuss various major issues facing in the City. The City Manager works with the City Council to address citizen concerns. They work together to develop good laws and policies for the whole City but the City Manager has no vote on such matters and can only advise the Council. One important distinction to understand is that the City Manager does not work for the Mayor or the Mayor Pro Tem or any other individual councilperson but instead works for the Council as a group, requiring a consensus of four of seven of those persons to enact laws or policies.

Once a month, the City Manager and city hall staff brings various issues to the City Council for their review, discussion and approval. The Council reviews all the spending and finances of the City and gives the City Manager direction on how to proceed on various issues into the future. The City Council members will also bring issues and concerns that they have identified to the whole Council for the discussion and potential action (though, its generally quicker and easier for a citizen to approach City Hall to get any issues resolved). 

If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns about how the City Council operate please e-mail the City Manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or you can find more information about the City Council at https://cityofcedarsprings.org/city-council/. 

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The Downtown Development Authority


By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager


Where the Planning Commission generally sets rules for businesses to follow, the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is a government-business partnership whose goal is the development of a more business and citizen friendly atmosphere in the downtown area. The DDA Board is composed primarily of downtown business owners but they work with City staff to do things that will benefit the downtown area. The DDA Board works similarly to the Chamber of Commerce but the DDA is in a better position to address certain things like new signage and new parking due to their close working relationship with the City government. The DDA primarily receives its funding from a thing called Tax Increment Financing, (which is complicated but the important thing is that it does not raise anybody’s taxes at all).  

In 2017, the Cedar Springs DDA was reformed and immediately began to be productive again with some minor modifications to their operating plan. Since their reformation, the DDA has put-up brand-new parking signs and other new signs welcoming people into the City on the White Pine Trail. They helped pay for some of the new street name signs that you see along Main St. and Muskegon. The DDA helped arrange for the new parking lot at Second and Maple St. and they were the ones responsible for all of the flowers along Main St. last year. The DDA members also put up the bicycle racks you see on the Main St. corners and they also help put on the Halloween trick or treating in the downtown. This past year, the DDA’s budget was just over $21,000 but they get a lot done with that money.

The DDA is already planning for future projects and they are working on new benches and garbage cans for Main St., new public art, new hanging flower baskets, more parking options, more/improved public bathrooms and sponsorship of some downtown events such as the upcoming summer concert series at the amphitheater and potentially a new bicycle race that would start and end in the Heart of Cedar Springs.

The DDA is a public body and the public is always welcome at any of their meetings.  Just like the Planning Commission and the City Council, their meetings are broadcast and recorded on Youtube for your viewing pleasure. Meetings are generally the fourth Monday of the month at City Hall.

If you have anything about local government operations that you would like to see addressed in a future edition of the City Hall Corner, please send me an e-mail at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org and I can try to answer that for you and anybody else who might be curious about that question.

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The Resurgence of the Downtown Development Authority


By Mike Womack, Cedar Springs City Manager


The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is a government board composed of local business owners and citizens whose primary job is to work on improving the downtown area of the City. The older more walkable downtown areas of cities face an uphill battle compared to newer sections of cities that were planned with cars and driving as their focus. Back in the day, everyone lived within walking distance of the downtown so there was little thought given to wide roads or lots of convenient parking spots. So, the State allows for the creation of DDA’s, which are primarily funded by Tax Increment Financing (TIF’s).  

DDA’s use TIF money to reinvest in the downtown area following the DDA’s published development plans, which outline what the DDA will do with the TIF money.  This reinvestment helps to make the downtown more attractive and more useable and helps to promote a robust business climate in the downtown area. The best part of the DDA and the TIF is that it does NOT raise tax rates at all. The TIF is simply a reallocation of taxes that were already being paid and redirects a small portion of the taxes already paid to this reinvestment fund.  

The DDA’s development plan, which is available on the City’s website, details a number of projects to be accomplished by the DDA Board using TIF funds, including creating new parking areas, construction of parks, improving accessibility of the White Pine Trail to Main Street and the development of events to draw persons into the downtown area amongst other plans.

This year, the DDA focused on bringing a new parking area to the Heart of Cedar Springs park; improved parking signage at all municipal parking lots; new signage along the White Pine Trail; sponsoring the downtown flower-pot decorating contest; hanging flower pots and planting flowers along Main St.; and paying for the shoveling of snow off Main Street sidewalks throughout the winter.

If you have any thoughts, questions or concerns about the DDA or what projects it should focus on in the coming year, please attend a DDA meeting. The DDA will be holding informational meetings in October and November to discuss what the DDA does and what it plans to focus on in the future. Please attend if you want to learn more about the DDA or TIF. The next two DDA meetings are October 28 and November 4 at noon at City Hall.



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City board vacancies



Are you looking for a way to help out your community? The City of Cedar Springs is seeking community members for two different boards.

The City is looking for a new Planning Commission Member. The Planning Commission currently has one vacant seat. The Planning Commission is a volunteer board and they generally meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. The board consists of eight members of the community and the Mayor. The Planning Commission helps shape the future of land use and business development in the City of Cedar Springs. The input from the commission provides citizens the opportunity to have an input on the decisions that will shape the community for many years to come. All eligible individuals must be 18+ years old, a city resident, and fill out the application online at http://dev.cityofcedarsprings.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/boards-and-commissions-application.pdf. Please email applications to manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or drop them off at City Hall.  City Manager and the Mayor will review applications and make their suggestion to the City Council for appointment to the Planning Commission. Application deadline for the vacant position will be October 3, 2018.

The City of Cedar Springs is also looking for qualified members of the community to serve on the Downtown Development Board. The DDA currently has one vacant seat. The DDA generally meets once per quarter on the last Monday of January, April, July, and November at noon. The board of 9 members consists of a minimum of one resident of the district, the Mayor, and the board must maintain a majority of members with ownership or business interest in property in the district. The basic purpose of the DDA is to reestablish and maintain the vitality of the Central Business District. Basic components of the plan include parking, commercial development, and building renovation. All eligible individuals must be 18+ year old, a resident of the district or an individual with ownership or business interest in property in the district, and fill out the application online at http://dev.cityofcedarsprings.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/boards-and-commissions-application.pdf. Please email applications to manager@cityofcedarsprings.org or drop them off at City Hall. City Manager and the Mayor will review applications and make their suggestion to the City Council for appointment to the Planning Commission. Application deadline for the vacant position will be October 3, 2018.

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City Council to hold public hearing on DDA TIF plan tonight


A map of the proposed DDA TIF district.

The Cedar Springs City Council will hold a public hearing and also vote on the 2017 Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan at their December meeting tonight, Thursday, December 14, at 7 p.m.

Under the city’s plan, the improvements within the development area will consist of storm sewers, resurfacing existing streets, parking lots and alleyways, creating new off street parking, lighting improvements, landscaping, and property acquisition for further improvements as needed.

DDA revenue in the first year of the plan is estimated at $17,743, with an increase each year thereafter, based on growth percentages of 2-3 percent. In total, the DDA is projected to generate $1,394,405.57 in tax increment revenue over the 20-year term of the plan.

City Manager Mike Womack explained that a TIF plan does not raise your taxes—it simply captures a portion of them and reallocates them to the DDA for reinvestment back into the community. We asked him if he could explain to readers how it works.

“City Hall has been approached by citizens with questions regarding the 2017 Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Tax Increment Financing (TIF) development plan which City Hall has been working to finalize by the end of 2017. Tax Increment Financing can be complicated to understand but it is an important tool in promoting economic development in the downtown core of the City. It is important for businesses and citizens to understand how a TIF works and how the DDA can use the TIF to improve the City for everybody.”

He went on to explain:

“The DDA is a board of citizens and business owners with a vested interest in improving the identified TIF district. A TIF district is an area within a city that, broadly speaking, would benefit from reinvestment of money to promote the economic growth of that area. The development plan guides the DDA board in how to invest the TIF money doing things like creating new parking areas, renovating derelict properties or marketing the City to visitors.

“So once a city identifies a part of the City that meets the criteria and would benefit from a TIF, how does it work? A TIF district essentially reallocates funds from property taxes to encourage investment within the district. An important thing for property owners within the TIF district to understand is that their property tax rates do not automatically go up with the creation of a TIF.   

“The way TIFs shift funds around to encourage development is by freezing the allocations to various taxing bodies (e.g. City, County etc.) at their levels as of the start of the TIF. For the life of the TIF (typically a maximum of 20 years), the amount received by these taxing bodies from property taxes collected within the TIF will remain constant. Any increased tax revenues collected as a result of an increase in property values then go into the TIF fund and can be used by the DDA board for a wide range of purposes identified in the TIF Plan.

“Here is an example of a hypothetical TIF to demonstrate how the process works: A city decides that an area is in need of redevelopment, usually a downtown area. The City Council reviews the proposal and determines that the area would benefit from TIF reinvestment. Property tax rates are not affected by the TIF. At the beginning of the TIF, the aggregate property value of all land in the TIF is $1,000,000, and annual property tax revenue is $40,000. This $40,000 is split between a handful of taxing bodies such as the City and the County. After the TIF is created, the taxing bodies know that they will continue to receive that $40,000 per year for the life of the TIF. Perhaps after a couple years, property values within the TIF increase to $1,100,000, which leads to annual tax revenues of $44,000. This extra $4,000, instead of being distributed to the taxing bodies, is deposited in the TIF fund for the DDA to use to reinvest in the TIF area. That investment, in turn, leads to increased private business development, which leads to increased property values and more TIF income and reinvestment by the DDA.  

“Clearly, TIF districts are powerful tools available to a city that can often be complicated and are occasionally misunderstood. When used properly, however, a TIF can revitalize a community.”

Under the city’s plan, the improvements within the development area will consist of storm sewers, resurfacing existing streets, parking lots and alleyways, creating new off street parking, lighting improvements, landscaping, and property acquisition for further improvements as needed.

DDA revenue in the first year of the plan is estimated at $17,743, with an increase each year thereafter, based on growth percentages of 2-3 percent. In total, the DDA is projected to generate $1,394,405.57 in tax increment revenue over the 20-year term of the plan.

The city’s proposed 2017 DDA TIF plan can be found online at http://dev.cityofcedarsprings.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/11-20-17-DDA-TIF-PLAN-packet.pdf. You can email questions to the city manager at manager@cityofcedarsprings.org.

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Christmas lights are back in town


Downtown Cedar Springs is looking more festive and cheery than it has looked in the past decade, thanks to a partnership between the Cedar Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Development Authority, and the City of Cedar Springs.

According to Perry Hopkins, who is chairman of the DDA, president of the Chamber, and sits on the City Council, it’s been at least 10 years since the trees lining Main Street were decorated with lights. “They haven’t had them since I opened my business here,” remarked Hopkins, who owns Perry’s Place llc for teas and more. 

Hopkins said that both old and new businesses were asking, “Why don’t you bring back the small-town Christmas charm this town used to have?” 

Hopkins explained that Mayor Gerald Hall offered to string the lights and hook up the needed accessories if the Chamber could get sponsors to raise the money, and several businesses chipped in to make it possible. The City Council then voted to pay for the electricity.

The Cedar Springs DPW plugged the lights in on Monday and they now come on at dark with the street lights. 

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CBDT Grand Gala a huge success


Photo by Heather Ross

Photo by Heather Ross

Saturday, April 15, marked the date of the second Community Building Development Team (CBDT) Grand Gala. The event, which packed the American Legion to capacity, was titled “Celebrating a Great Beginning.” Kurt Mabie and Nick Andres, CBDT board members, served as host speakers for the evening, presenting their personal and factual summary of the community’s new facilities and enhancements over the last couple years. The new Cedar Springs Community Library, scheduled to open its doors on Monday, May 8, with a Grand Opening Saturday, May 13, was at the top of the celebratory moments. A new library has been on the hearts of many for over 25 years.

Mabie read a note from Karen Andersen-Meier outlining how she may not live here now but her heart will always be in Cedar Springs. She also added she believed her parents in Heaven, Neils and Edna Andersen, both avid readers and users of the library, would be smiling from ear to ear. Mabie cited not only the Andersens, but many folks such as Mike and Alice Holton and Ronny Merlington, who aren’t here today but had faithfully worked for this new library.

“They and many others helped pave the way to bring about this library. Now it is our generation’s turn to keep things going for future generations to enjoy,” explained Mabie. “The library, additional park properties along Cedar Creek, a metal sculpture, walking bridge, and clock tower are just the beginning of some of the enhancements planned for the area now called The Heart of Cedar Springs.”

Andres pointed out $118,000 had been donated directly to the library by a long list of individuals, organizations, and businesses in just the past 18 months. This, in addition to over $650,000 previously raised by the library and the $1.14 million raised by the CBDT, allowed for the paid-in-full completion of the library. “This is a significant amount of money from a small community given for the purpose of enhanced public facilities,” explained Andres.

Mabie pointed out the significance of gaining a partnership with the North Country Trail (NCT) officials who agreed to reroute the trail through Cedar Springs and connect with Algoma Township. The North Country trail is the longest walking path in America. Cedar Springs will be working toward “Trail Town” status in the near future.

“The CBDT’s purpose has always been to support existing organizations and governmental entities in achieving their goals. It brings us all great joy to see folks working together within our community and helping each other make Cedar Springs an even better place to live, work, and play,” explained Mabie.

Many groups have become reenergized and are moving forward. The Downtown Development Authority is reviewing ways to enhance the downtown area, the Fire and Rescue Department has blueprints for a new facility, and the American Legion is working on a Veteran’s Memorial around the clock tower and/or at the existing Veteran’s Memorial area west of Main Street to mention only a few.

The CBDT’s Phase I still includes an amphitheatre, board walk, Veteran’s Memorial, additional walking bridge over the creek, and rain gardens/learning stations. Depending on funds that come available, it is hoped these projects can be completed by this fall. Phase II would focus on a Community Center with opportunities for community gatherings and celebrations for up to 500 people. Phase III includes a Community Recreation center and rustic campsite along the White Pine Trail. A three-year pledge card was distributed to gala attendees for those wishing to support the CBDT’s future projects. To date, almost $35,000 has been pledged.

The CBDT meets on the 3rd Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the new Community Library gathering room. More information is available on the CBDT website of CSCommunityCenter.org, Facebook page of Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team or contact Sue Wolfe 696.2246.

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