Flint, MI– A proposed amendment has been brought before Flint City Council that would help residents combine lots with property designated as “brownfields.”

Director of the Genesee County Land Bank Michael Freeman explained that a property that has been designated as a “brownfield” is one which has become functionally obsolete for environmental conditions, or other reasons. 

Property owners have not been able to combine lots with this designation. No combined lots means no combined fees, which means paying two special assessment taxes instead of one.

City Attorney Angela Wheeler and City Assessor Stacy Kaake came up with a legal solution for this problem: an amendment of Article II of Chapter 18 in the Flint City Code of Ordinances, which has to do with assessments. 

This portion of the city code creates a Special Assessment Relief Board that reviews and investigates property owners’ requests for relief from payment of a special assessment, which would be charges for things like street pavements, or light installations.

The proposed amendments include a section explaining that a “request for relief shall be made in writing and submitted to the assessment division of the department of finance and administrative services on or before May 1, of the year in which the special assessment is to be levied.”

The amendment says that the review board would then determine whether a grant of relief would be appropriate. If they deem it fair, the board can grant relief and waive the collection of “all or any portion of the special assessment from the property owner.”

“It would really be a great benefit to the residents to be able to do that, only be charged one special assessment for the adjacent property as opposed to two special assessments,” Wheeler said. 

The amendment, which had its first reading at the council meeting on Feb. 22, came about after a woman spoke up about the difficulty she was having trying to combine adjacent lots during public comment at a meeting months ago. 

The woman who spoke during public comment acquired the lot adjacent to her property, but was told that she could not combine them because the property was designated as a brownfield. Because she could not combine them, she would have to pay fees for two special assessments, as opposed to one. 

Freeman said the woman who spoke at council acquired her property in January of 2005, just four weeks after the land bank stopped the practice of automatically giving their acquired properties the brownfield designation.

He said the land bank realized combining lots would be an issue and stopped that practice, but the lot the woman purchased had already been designated that way. Now, Freeman said, anyone who purchases a property from the land bank that is a designated brownfield is notified of the limitations that designation brings. He also said there are very few properties remaining in the land bank’s inventory that are designated brownfields.

“That’s what I like to see, a resident calls in in public speaking, we’ve got a problem, and we help them solve it,” Council President Kate Fields said. 

This amendment will be brought for second reading at the next regular city council meeting. If approved, Kaake said property owners can call the assessor’s office and ask to be mailed a form so they can request relief from the Special Assessment Relief Board.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...