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DETROIT-In the wake of the economic downturn, the city’s finances are spiraling out of control, says Mayor Dennis Archer. One of the ideas that might save the city’s budget is a possible sale of about 900 acres of city-owned land in Northville and Plymouth townships.

The city says the land is worth $31.5 million, or $35,000 an acre, on the basis of a recent appraisal. Archer says the city must cut $60 million from the 2001-02 budget. Archer told the city council the local economy was falling already before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, and now an upswing looks even more unlikely any time soon.

“Automotive companies have idled plants because of inspection delays at the Detroit/Windsor Bridge and tunnel crossing. Local hotels have lower occupancy rates because of reduced business and convention travel to the region. Retail stores are experiencing lower sales volume, and residential housing sales are slowing,” he says.

Archer adds there are four main reasons the city has lost money:* The city lost $47 million in income tax from 1999 to 2000.

* Utility companies are only paying 86% of their property tax.

* Casino revenues are not making up for losses.

* Police overtime costs have gone over budget by $12 million.

One of the ideas for raising money includes selling the land the city owns; 461 acres in Northville Township and 427 acres in Plymouth Township. Detroit has owned the three neighboring parcels along Five Mile Road between Napier and Beck roads for the building of prison land and one was the former site of the Detroit House of Corrections farm.

Two women’s prisons are nearby: the Western Wayne Correctional Facility and the Scott Correctional Facility, both owned and run by the state.

The two townships have been floating ideas with Detroit officials and developers to acquire the property for development. It’s zoned for industrial and research and development in both townships.

“Our board of trustees has been talking about buying the land to sell to a developer, for projects that would be consistent with the zoning and would improve on the land,” says Chip Snider, manager of Northville Township.

About 83% of the township tax base is from residential property, Snider says. The board would like to own the 461 acres and build a research park on the property.

Detroit officials had been silent about the property up until Archer’s announcement. Larry Emmons, senior vice president of Grubb and Ellis Co. of Southfield, says he represents a firm that wants to develop the Plymouth land for an industrial park. He adds it could have something to do with the price the city wants for the land.

However, Emmons says he would not reveal the company he’s representing, nor the land price that’s on the table. He says the land would be popular if it was available, as it’s such a large, undeveloped parcel near current infrastructure.

Archer says in addition to the land sale, he’s demanding a 5% cut in budget requests for all departments in three weeks, and asked the city council to cut operational costs by $1.7 million for legislative, audit, ombudsman and zoning functions. He’s also ordered all overtime pay restricted to essential functions only.

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