Housing commission requests city vacate streets
EVART -- The Evart City Council considered a request from Evart Housing Commission director Karen Higgins to vacate sections of First Street and Washington Street at their meeting on Monday, Oct. 7.
The request, presented to the board by Department of Public Works director Mark Wilson, stated both sections of street are in poor condition and the housing commission has expressed an interest in taking ownership to better maintain them.
"That area has been a struggle to maintain and they are in poor condition," Wilson said. "The housing commission is planning to repave both sections, and they would like authority to maintain them."
According to state law, to vacate a street means to abandon or give up the public's right to use the street or the right-of-way.
"When you abandon a road, you give half of the road to each adjacent property owner," explained Evart City Attorney Jim White. "When you vacate, you are giving them the property."
Some city council members expressed concern about the proposal.
Commissioner Dan Elliott said he strongly objected to the idea.
"Most of this property is not adjacent to the housing commission property, it's adjacent to the school and two other residential parcels. I do not believe we should be giving up the public right-of-way for the benefit of the housing commission when it affects so many other people," Elliott said. "The school may want access later if they want to expand on that land, and doing this would put any residents and their property values at the whim of whatever the housing commission wants to do."
"I can foresee a day when we might have to go back and re-acquire it and that could be a problem," he added.
Elliott suggested council members get together with school personnel and the residents to discuss the issue before any action is taken.
"If the housing commission is going to repair their portion of the streets, we ought to sit down with them and see if we should do something too and let the school into the discussion as well," he said. "I think that will accomplish what the housing commission wants without vacating the roads to them."
Evart City Manager Sarah Dvoracek told the council if maintenance is the only issue, then it is not necessary for them to vacate the sections of road.
"We will have to have that conversation and see if there is a better way to handle the situation," she said.
Mayor John Joyce suggested the council table the issue for now until more research can be done and more discussions can take place with those being effected.
"Let's put a little more thought into this," Joyce said. "We can always revisit it later."
In other business, the city is continuing its efforts to get the Evart Depot designated as an historic district with the National Register of Historic Places.
Wilson told the board the application is on track and the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office (MSHPO) application committee will be meeting in January to consider applications.
"Three things are needed to be eligible for grant funds through the National Historic Preservation Act," he said. "Designation as an historic district, being listed on the National Register of Historic Places and becoming a certified local government through the National Park Service and the MSHPO."
Once those are completed, the city can apply for grants to help fund the revitalization and preservation of the Depot, Dvoracek added.