Public hearing proposed on revitalization policy

Sunday Times Newspapers

WYANDOTTE — Residents will be called upon to voice their concerns about the city’s controversial neighborhood revitalization policies.

After months of City Council meetings featuring dissenting opinions from residents and council members alike, Mayor Joseph Peterson on Monday proposed holding a public hearing regarding the policy. A date for the hearing has yet to be set.

“I can meet Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday,” he said. “We can sit here and meet all day long because I’m into hearing what the public wants to do. We don’t have to sit here on Mondays and waste an hour and a half throwing darts.”

The decision came after a debate among council members that began when Councilman Daniel Galeski objected to a resolution to purchase and demolish a house at 1007 Eureka because there was no plan for the property.

“For the past several months, I’ve been very vocal about buying homes without a purpose or a plan,” he said. “We need an aggressive plan to sell lots and build new buildings.”

Galeski estimated there were nearly 1,000 vacant buildings in the city. The number of those owned by the city is unknown, but a new property has been purchased at nearly every weekly council meeting in recent months.

With the city’s population declining and properties sitting unused, Galeski said the council either should stop buying abandoned structures or develop a strategy to sell them so that they begin to bring in tax dollars.

Peterson, who as mayor may not vote on issues involving property sales, said he supported an aggressive marketing plan for the lots, but that city residents’ safety should be a priority over lost tax dollars. He said the project prevents squatters and drug dealers from inhabiting the homes and improves the quality of life for all residents.

“It’s time to keep going forward as we did 20 years ago,” he said, “so 20 years from now, when some of us won’t be here, the kids will enjoy the same type of living that we are now on the south end.”

A similar project spearheaded by then-Mayor James DeSana more than 20 years ago revitalized the city’s south end, near Riverview. As a result of that project, houses in that area in recent years were deemed ineligible for funding under the U.S. Department of Housing’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, as the area’s vitality was not considered sufficiently damaged by the economy.

DeSana, now a councilman, said the area’s ineligibility for funding was the “proof in the pudding” that the current project works.

Since the council discussed the project two weeks ago, Peterson has begun working on a proposed marketing plan to sell the lots and plans to present it to the council upon completion.

Council members also discussed possible solutions, including hiring someone to attempt to sell the lots.

Selling lots to prospective house builders or to owners of adjacent land for rates as low as $1 also was discussed.