By Sarah Cwiek, July 13, 2016
Detroiters may get to choose between two, competing ballot proposals in November.
Both lay out a process for negotiating community benefits agreements with developers of large, publicly-subsidized projects.
Community benefits can range from job opportunities to health and safety protections. Such agreements are sometimes touted as a way to make sure neighborhood residents see gains from big development in their midst.
The Detroit City Council put one such proposal a step closer to the ballot this week. It was a petition-backed citizen initiative, led by a group called Rise Together Detroit.
But Mayor Mike Duggan, some Council members and the business community favor a competing ordinance in development, spearheaded by Council member Scott Benson.
Benson’s “enhanced” ordinance would have a panel of city appointees negotiate and enforce those agreements.
And it would only require agreements for larger developments — projects worth at least $75 million and receiving at least $1 million in publicly subsidies (including land transfers), as opposed to $15 million projects receiving at least $300,000 in public subsidies per the original ordinance.
John Philo of Detroit’s Sugar Law Center calls Benson’s plan a “diminished” version of the ordinance citizens petitioned for.
“Community seems to be sidelined quite a bit. The representatives who would do the negotiating are all selected by city officials,” Philo said.
“Taking a more cynical view … this is an attempt to confuse the voters between the two proposals.”
But others think it’s the citizen-proposed ordinance that’s confusing. They say it’s not spelled out who developers must negotiate with, and what kinds of benefits they can ask for — and will scare development away, just as it’s gaining momentum in Detroit.
The Council is expected to discuss the second proposal further at a committee meeting Thursday.
Both plans would ultimately need the Detroit Election Commission’s approval before they’re put on the ballot.
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