Saline Area Schools officials must go back to the drawing board on finding a buyer for the four acre parcel on Michigan Avenue and Industrial Drive that was to be a Speedway gas station after the land was rezoned and water and sewer utility hookups were extended to the site.
Not only will Speedway's strong desire for expansion in the Saline area be curbed, but the district will have to plan for $850,000 less in future revenue.
"We still own the property, so we still have options," said Board of Education Trustee Dennis Valenti, who is the board's liaison to the finance committee.
Valenti was upbeat at this week's meeting, stating that "the good thing" about the situation is that now district officials can begin looking into other inquiries that have been made by interested parties about the parcel near the highly trafficked intersection and visible Emagine Theater nearby.
The end of the deal came at a Pittsfield Township planning commission meeting last month, during which township officials ultimately decided not to rezone the parcel from C-1 to C-2. C-1 is a lighter "neighborhood commercial" designation, compared to the more standard, heavier commercial zoning guidelines of C-2.
The township master plan calls out C-1 zoning, and the township's planning consultant Ben Carlisle was not inclined to advise township officials to abrogate the intent of those who framed the municipality's guiding development document.
Township officials were also concerned about the Speedway station increasing the traffic rating of both roads at the intersection from the current county-assigned designation of two out of ten, as well as accelerating deterioration of both roads.
The decision to deny the rezoning request was unanimous with several planning commissioners expressing strong resistance to the project, even in the face of additional information and research being presented.
Saline schools approved the sale proposal from Speedway in December of 2018, after discussions and negotiations throughout that year. It's unclear at this point how quickly the district will be able to pivot to a new potential buyer or whether they will be able to do so in time for a potential sale to impact the school's finances during the current or following school years.
The sale was going to be a budgetary silver bullet. Previous budgetary talks on the school board involved the property sale price taking the 2018-2019 school year budget from a $145,000 deficit to a $663,543 surplus, although the sale proceeds were moved to 2019-2020 fiscal year at a subsequent meeting before the sale fell through.
District officials are still working on addressing the large structural deficits that have been coming up in budgets for the past several years, which Valenti warned about earlier this year.