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WARREN, MI- The mayor and the Downtown Development Authority have come under increasing fire from the Warren City Council, political candidates and local activists who call the Downtown development project a costly and wasteful plan. Critics have claimed the public cost of the project would be upward of $300 million.

Mayor Mark Steenbergh, however, called that amount false and noted that the council previously authorized the borrowing of $75 million to finance public improvements.”The financing for this project involves not one red cent of residential taxes,” he said.

The planned development of a Downtown with new condominiums, shops, restaurants and other businesses should lead to a residential property tax cut, said Warren Mayor Mark Steenbergh.

The first phase of the city’s plan, funded by $20 million in bonds, calls for the construction of a new city hall and main library, two parking structures and a park at the Civic Center, just east of the current city offices on Van Dyke, north of 12 Mile Road. Completion is expected in 2005.

Angered by what he termed “rumor, innuendo and outright lies,” Steenbergh told reporters the DDA project is a conservative plan that will spark the rebirth of a “tired” area.

“Residents can feel secure that we were conservative in our projections. This ‘$300 million’ is how much we could have bonded for considering our long-term expected revenues. But we didn’t borrow that amount of money. Nor are we authorized to borrow that kind of money.”

Under state law, municipalities can create a DDA to capture increased tax revenues within a downtown district to finance improvements.

After the DDA board, an autonomous group of residents and business owners appointed by the mayor, last year approved the purchase of the Royal Coventry Inn on Van Dyke for $6 million, the city council cried foul. Some council members were upset that they learned about the sale of the property–which had a state-equalized value of $1.18 million–through newspaper reports.

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