Your questions answered

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Which properties are for sale and what is on the land currently?

 

Wilcox Mill: A historic mill that opened in 1923 designed by Albert Kahn for Henry Ford’s Village Industries. On the rest of the acreage is an old parking lot, a mud pit where Plymouth dumps leaves, and storage of extra metal pontoons used on the Wilcox Lake. You will also find overgrowth of invasive species, deteriorating railing and an unsecured concrete channel that was part of the tail race for the mill’s water output. The mill is storage for the Wayne County lights display, to the detriment of the historic mill's interior. Currently, the mill does not have electricity running to it, nor is it connected to water and sewage utilities.


Newburgh Mill: A historic mill that opened in 1935 for Henry Ford’s Village Industries. It is currently home to an auxiliary sheriff’s station and a makeshift boarding facility for the Mounted Division’s lovely horses (they deserve better!). It is fenced off with “no trespassing” and “authorized personnel only” signs. The architecturally significant feature of the tile smokestack is leaning dangerously and requires immediate intervention to stabilize.

Does the general public currently have access to these sites?

No. Currently, these properties are fenced off and inaccessible to the public unless one is willing to trespass. The Newburgh Mills site has numerous "Do Not Enter", "Authorized Personnel Only", and other similar signs posted throughout the property.

What will Hines Park users lose if these properties are sold?

Nothing. They currently cannot use these properties for any recreation, nor can they park their cars, or have any other access.

What will Hines Park users gain if these properties are sold?

Parks users will see the property cleaned up and have access to the land around the mills. They will see more public amenities such as bike paths, water bottle fill stations, picnic areas, and potentially garden space for educational purposes.

What are the dangers of the misinformation being spread?

 

1. Putting the millage at risk. Perpetuation of the misconception that the County is misusing millage dollars or that the millage isn’t being utilized properly, sends the message to voters that the millage is ineffective and we can’t count on the County to put our interests first. This seriously threatens the chances of the millage getting renewed the next time it goes to a public vote.


2. Losing the mills to demolition by neglect. Without swift action, these historic mills will be unsalvageable. Professional historic preservationists agree that these mills need to be rehabilitated and put to uses more conducive to their preservation.


3. Standing in the way of projects that will enhance the parkway, leaving these properties to be dangerous and blighted. By fighting these sales, opposers are ensuring the properties remain in disrepair and fenced off to the public. The properties are attractive nuisances and have the potential to put people at risk. 


4. Putting a strain on County resources and taxpayers if Wayne County is required to maintain the mill properties or the sales are held up for an extended period of time making it impossible for smaller investors and developers.

Is this really parkland?

This rhetoric is rooted in ambiguity. There is a difference between a “park asset”—like someplace salt trucks are parked—and “park land” that is accessible to the public, offers public amenities, and provides places for people and wildlife to thrive. These two mill properties may be County assets and may be along Hines Parkway, but they do not serve the purpose of park land. You may picture images of deer, healthy rivers, bird habitat, and children sledding, but none of these things represent either of the mill properties up for sale. Please visit our “Mills Today” page to see current photos of the properties for reference. The historic photos also show how the properties were Industrial sites for over 100 years and the Wilcox served as a road yard in the mid-20th century.

FAQ Continued...

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Did Clara Ford donate the land to Wayne County for park purposes only?

 

NO. Among the members of Reclaim the Mills, there are historians who specialize in the history of Henry and Clara Ford. After reviewing the deeds and other documentation, they have concluded she had nothing to do with the selling of the properties to Wayne County Roads Commission. The Wilcox, for instance, was sold to the Wayne County Roads Commission in 1947 by Ford Motor Company, with neither Henry nor Clara Ford’s signatures anywhere on them. The only evidence found of her participation was her signature on the original purchase of the land in the 1920s. This was common for both her and Henry Ford’s names to be on purchases and business transactions. 


By the 1940s, Clara was most interested in supporting Berry College, women’s issues, Henry Ford Health System, and the construction of St. Martha’s Church adjacent to the Ford Family Cemetery on Joy Road. She was not involved with the divesting of Ford Motor Company assets. There is no evidence of her participation in the sale of the property, nor any evidence of her feelings or thoughts on Wayne County Parkland. 


This is a fabrication or wishful thinking and we would love to see proof of this assertion. Please contact us with any documentation to the contrary.

Will Nankin Mills be up for sale?

Absolutely not. This is home to the Parks Division and the crowning jewel of Hines Parkway. The County even has plans in place to do greater restoration on the buildings, campus build out with more public amenities, and improved educational exhibits and programs. Also, Sue the Turtle will get a brand new home with bells and whistles. This work will commence this Spring.

What is the benefit of private ownership?

Private ownership means access to historic rehab tax credits through the federal government. It also allows for tax credits for brownfield cleanup. It also means a private owner will assume tax and insurance liability, which will serve to increase revenue for the city and take pressure off the County in terms of insurance and liability.


It is also through a sale such as this that the County can put deed restrictions and development agreements that protect the sites in perpetuity and require all future owners to provide assurances that the buildings and land be maintained. The County can actually protect the land forever through a sale.

Why not lease?

The amount of money required to rehabilitate these mills and improve the surrounding property is way too high an investment for a small business owner or micro developer if they do not own the land. It is incredibly hard to get loans for any projects on leased land and most of those projects wind up being self-funded meaning only large corporations like Starbucks can afford to do that. If we want a true community member to take on this project, we need to make this financially feasible. The sale of these mills with deed restrictions and purchase agreements with the County does constitute a public-private partnership. The County does not need to maintain ownership of the land to protect it.


Generally, leasing is only beneficial to a business if it actually benefits from NOT owning the land: ranchers grazing, oil pipelines, private utilities, privately owned railroad companies, and all those who piggy back on publicly-funded infrastructure for their own profit. Those others who benefit from leasing are businesses that are in such prime locations that they have built in customer bases and exclusive operating agreements, such as hotels and restaurants in National and State Parks; that is when it makes sense for government to lease to private partners. In this case, leasing would make it improbable to get loans and tax credits which will make the mill rehabilitations and land activation possible. The amount of investment required for building repair and infrastructure updates means that either the County puts a lot of money into the properties just for the business to operate or the businesses must invest a vast amount of capital into a property they don’t own.

What needs to happen for the property to be sold? What is the process?

Before these sales are even submitted to the Wayne County Commission for approval, they will to go through local municipal approval. It will to go through planning and zoning approvals/processes at the city levels. 


Then, Wayne County Commission must approve the sales because it is County-owned property before closing on the sale. Technically, at that point there is a diligence period before close, so that will be a process as well.


There will be public hearings about the projects and opportunity for public response and input. There will be permits needed, required timelines, and obligatory adherence to wetland and environmental regulation. Any work done on the buildings must follow the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation—a gold standard and requirement for all historic property rehabs with tax credit offset. The image of a Commission approval and then the developer instantly gets to do whatever he wants is a fiction.


This is a long process and it is hard to discuss the particulars because no specific project proposals have been presented to the councils and commissions to go through their approvals. Having said that, there are specific requirements of ANY purchase proposal for it to even be considered and any developer the County may work with must adhere to these requirements. It is the requirements we should be focusing on and supporting at this point.


So at this point, the potential projects and developers are merely bogeymen and it is easy to leverage that uncertainty for public outcry. 

Why haven’t we heard more about this?

The Wayne County Executive’s office has been in the process of project development. This project has been in its infancy. They are now rolling out information. They still have to present their plans to city councils and commissions.


Warren Evans has a website dedicated to the Mill Run project overview:

https://www.waynecounty.com/millrun/home.aspx

Even More FAQs

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What will ensure the protection of these properties after the sale?

Simply put, these properties will be protected in perpetuity through deed restrictions and purchase agreements. The restrictions put on the deeds will apply to any future owner of the property. The future owners will be held to a much higher standard than the County currently holds themselves. 


The Phoenix Mill, sold last year with unanimous Wayne County Commission approval, is the blueprint for such restrictions and protections. 


Please see below for some of the requirements laid out in the Purchase and Development agreement that the purchaser and the Wayne County EDD signed. (This has been abbreviated for the purposes of this site, but can be provided in full upon request.) 


1. The Purchaser agrees to rehabilitate the Property in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation…

2. The Purchaser agrees to pursue listing the Property on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places.

3. In the event that the Purchaser sells the Property, the Purchaser agrees to place the following restrictive covenants verbatim or by the express reference in any subsequent deed or legal instruments by which the Purchaser divests itself of an interest in the Property…

       A. Phoenix Mill may not be demolished, removed, deconstructed, or moved from its present location, unless such action is consistent with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.

       B. Purchaser and subsequent owners of the Property shall notify the County in writing of any proposed sale or transfer of the Property.

       C. The Purchaser agrees to utilize the land, to the extent possible and when not in private use, as park property accessible to the public as outlined in the Purchaser’s proposal.

What happens to the holiday lights stored at the Wilcox and the horses boarded at Newburgh?

According to the current discussions, the purchaser for the Wilcox will have to pay to relocate the lights and the purchaser of the Newburgh will be responsible for building the horses new stables. Neither the taxpayers, nor the horses, will be responsible for these expenses.