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SG-W:/ Farmer Jack developer sues Chelsea over fees

Another article below from today's Ann Arbor News.  Call me a cynic, but
it's the same old story.  Small town attempting to manage growth by charging
the developer for infrastructure needed for his development.  Developer
crying foul and bringing in the lawyers...

How can we support Chelsea in their efforts to charge the developers for the
infrastructure rather than the taxpayers?  Any ideas?

Jeff Surfus
Farmer Jack developer sues Chelsea over fees

The Village of Chelsea is being sued over utility fees charged to the Farmer
Jack under construction on South Main Street.

CHELSEA - A village council member here is urging the company building a
Farmer Jack grocery store to drop a lawsuit against Chelsea or face a
backlash from taxpayers who will wind up paying for the legal dispute.

"To sue your (future) customers is the worst welcome mat you could lay out,"
said Janice Ortbring.

Chelsea Investors, an Ohio company building a Farmer Jack store on South
Main Street, filed the lawsuit earlier this month to contest one-time water
and sewer user fees charged to new development.

The village originally charged the company $176,255, later dropping the bill
to $110,000. That figure is roughly the equivalent of water use fees for 25

Chelsea Investors paid the fees under protest, said company Vice President
Gary Yunker.

Yunker estimates the charge should range from $35,000-$62,000.

The company filed the lawsuit to protest an "antiquated" assessment method
that uses square footage instead of actual use to determine fees, Yunker
said. Similar Farmer Jacks use much less water, Yunker said.

The village turned down a suggestion for a three-year monitoring period
after which the company would pay the difference if it underestimated use,
he said.

"All we want to do is pay what's fair," Yunker said.

Downtown businessman Scott McElrath taped a Top 10 list to his door with
fictional reasons behind the lawsuit. The No. 1 reason? "Despite the name,
it turns out they really don't like farmers."

While sarcastic, McElrath's list represents a perception that this small
town is being bullied by big business.

"They knew full well what the cost of doing business here was up front,"
said McElrath, an architect. "It doesn't seem very professional to come back
and say we want a break now."

The lawsuit follows public outcry against a Rite Aid drugstore proposed for
South Main at Old US-12. Opponents feared a generic big-box store
encroaching on Chelsea's quaint downtown. Mention of a possible lawsuit in
that case drove community protest into high gear. Rite Aid has dropped its

Ortbring said she plans an informational campaign against the company if it
doesn't drop its suit.

"We want business and we want good business, but I think they're showing us
what bad community partners they will be," she said.

The company may have its own consultants who suggest fees, but the village
has to depend on its experts, Ortbring said.

Zoning Officer Jim Drolett said other communities use square footage to
figure water and sewer user fees, too. Genoa and Hamburg townships in
Livingston County charge more than Chelsea, he said.

"Our village is growing by leaps and bounds and we're really relying on our
consultants for advice on ways of doing business with companies coming into
village," Ortbring said.

Chelsea Investors is developing the property to lease to a Delaware

The suit will not affect construction work, Yunker said. The
48,000-square-foot store should open in early November, he said.

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