Mayoral shakeup, bond issue and possible hotel make headlines in City

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 2, 2018

 New Grosse Pointe City Mayor Christopher Boettcher is sworn into office by City Clerk/Assistant City Manager Julie Arthurs before the Nov. 13 City Council meeting.

New Grosse Pointe City Mayor Christopher Boettcher is sworn into office by City Clerk/Assistant City Manager Julie Arthurs before the Nov. 13 City Council meeting.

File photo by K. Michelle Moran

GROSSE POINTE CITY — A possible hotel in the Village and a bond issue for new facilities for the departments of Public Safety and Public Service — and the controversy and rumors that ultimately swirled around both — are believed to have played a role in the November election.

Mayor Dale Scrace — who served as the City’s top elected official for 16 years — lost his bid for a final two-year term to City Councilman Christopher Boettcher on Nov. 7. Prior to becoming mayor, Scrace had spent about 12 years on the City Council. Boettcher, who after two four-year terms said he wouldn’t be running for another term on the council, later decided to challenge Scrace for mayor and won by roughly 200 votes.

The election shakeup followed a groundswell of concern from some residents and Village business owners about a Village hotel. City officials said they have been told for years that people in the Pointes were clamoring for a small, upscale boutique hotel where out-of-towners could stay locally for weddings, reunions and the like.

However, as developers began exploring options in recent months for a hotel, opposition began to grow from Village business owners worried that potentially lengthy construction and loss of parking could cripple them. Residents have expressed reservations about the safety of children attending Maire Elementary School from strangers staying at the hotel, as well as increased traffic from it. Other concerns people have raised about the hotel include the size and type of hotel planned, and whether a hotel is needed or wanted in the community anymore, given the number of new hotels in a revived downtown Detroit. Hundreds have signed an online petition opposing a hotel.

City officials have insisted that a hotel is far from being a done deal — they still don’t have a proposal to review from their preferred developer, and once they have a proposal, there’s no guarantee they will approve it.

“Right now, we are at the feasibility stage,” City Councilwoman Sheila Tomkowiak said at an October council meeting. “That means we are exploring the hotel with the developer. … There will be ample opportunities for everybody to have input. … I think it’s in our best interest to wait to see what comes up before we object.”

But lingering concerns, and speculation that the Village hotel could end up being a bargain chain or a failed experiment hulking over the now-flourishing business district, seem to have spurred at least some voters to seek a change in City leadership.

A hotel proposal is likely to come before the council in spring 2018.

During a primary election Aug. 8, voters narrowly approved a 23-year bond proposal not to exceed $12.96 million for new public safety and public works facilities, as well as municipal court safety improvements. The bond passed by less than 100 votes in an election that drew more than 31 percent of the City’s registered voters.

During and after the election, some voters criticized the City for putting this matter to a vote in August, when some residents were on vacation, instead of on the November general election ballot. However, City officials said they couldn’t wait until November because they had pressing deadlines with regard to purchase agreements for the properties that will house the future public safety and public service facilities.

City officials said that they have been looking into options for improved public safety and public service facilities for years. They said they have been hampered in these efforts by the fact that City Hall property on Maumee Avenue is now too small to accommodate the vehicles and other needs of both departments, and it’s surrounded by a residential neighborhood. Public service, in particular, has been a bane of neighbors, who say they’ve had to deal with rats and other pests drawn to the garbage trucks housed in the public service yard.

After debating again whether to keep public service — also referred to as the Department of Public Works, or DPW — on City Hall property, the council decided at a meeting Dec. 18 that its best course of action is to move to a larger facility in Detroit.

At press time, the City planned to use the bond proceeds to construct a new Public Safety Department building at Alger Deli and Liquor, at 17320 Mack Ave. in the City; the store is slated to close in early 2018 as its owners retire. The DPW would be moved to 4849 Canyon Road in Detroit, behind Village Hardware, where a warehouse owned by St. John Hospital and Medical Center would be converted into a public service facility, City Manager Pete Dame said by email.

The municipal court will continue to be housed in the public safety building, but officials intend to upgrade security and create space for office use, records storage and the like there, as well as move the court office — where people pay fines — into that building. The court office is currently inside City Hall.