An authorization request was approved to accept proposals for professional planning services at a potential new park on the corner of 24 Mile and Foss roads.

An authorization request was approved to accept proposals for professional planning services at a potential new park on the corner of 24 Mile and Foss roads.

Photo by Joshua Gordon

Board approves planning services for potential new park amid concerns

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published January 2, 2018

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The Macomb Township Board of Trustees approved an authorization request to accept proposals for professional planning services on a potential new park after the request was tabled two meetings in a row.

However, the approval didn’t come without some concerns, and the request authorization did not pass with unanimous support.

The request to look at a potential new park on the northeast corner of 24 Mile and Foss roads was first on the board agenda for the Nov. 20 meeting. But, that meeting came only a few days after Trustee Dino Bucci was indicted on 18 criminal charges, and fellow Trustee Tim Bussineau felt there was language in the indictment that may have been tied to the property.

The 17th count of the indictment is conspiracy to commit bribery and states that in 2016, Bucci allegedly told an unnamed developer about 40 acres of land the township had acquired. The developer then allegedly promised to pay Bucci at least $25,000 in kickbacks if he helped facilitate the sale to the developer.

When the agenda item for the new park was brought up again at the Dec. 6 meeting, Bussineau again asked for more time to discuss the matter with township attorney Thomas Esordi.

At the Dec. 20 meeting, Bussineau said he was concerned about a developer claiming to have interest in the property and didn’t want to move forward with the motion of approval if it could result in legal costs later on.

The item was eventually approved with Bussineau and Clerk Kristi Pozzi voting against it. The cost is $14,900 for the services from Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber.

“We have all received a lot of information about this property, and it has showed up on a federal indictment, and I can tell you, personally, I am in support of a park in this location and other locations,” Bussineau said. “But, I feel like every one of us have a duty to control legal costs. The last thing I want to do is approve this and go ahead and run into a lawsuit.”

Esordi said the township was presented with a check from the developer with an offer to purchase the property, but there is no signed purchase agreement and no deed.

The township has not heard much from the developer since July, Esordi said, and he has been in contact with his attorney, Benjamin Aloia. He said the township has not received any engineering reports and that the township is ready to move forward to discuss the property, but nothing came of it.

Esordi said the only indication the township has received is the developer wanted to plan for some housing development.

“To me, they are playing a game,” Esordi said. “If (the developer) believes he has an interest in it, why hasn’t he taken any action on it?”

Pozzi said there appears to be two courses of action for the developer in that he moves forward with the sale or looks for a reimbursement for work already done on the land. She said she would like to see Esordi try to figure out the situation with Aloia to avoid any sort of legal action.

Bussineau said he didn’t think it would matter if the approval was pushed back two months to clear up the legal issues, but township Planner Patrick Meagher said while it won’t matter in terms of work getting started, it could affect grant money.

“We are looking at this as part of the grant program with an April 1 state deadline, so we are at a critical point in terms of acting on any type of grant right now,” Meagher said. “We have time limitations to prepare a plan to get that submitted and if we delay to January, it will already have to be in the next year’s grant round.”

Township Engineer Jim Van Tiflin said the township is not sure what kind of work has been done by the developer on the land, but he estimates it is some sort of environmental work, which the township has already completed.

Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber completed the environmental work for the township and found the land was suitable to be developed as a park. With the new five-year Parks and Recreation master plan also being approved at the Dec. 20 meeting, Recreation Director Sal DiCaro said his department is scouting that land for a potential park in the next five years.

Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr and Huber said in its proposal it expects to start the approved services within 10 days of the approval and hoped to have the work done by the end of February, but it may be longer because the vote was delayed.