LAKE CITY— The old Merritt School might be the first Missaukee County property to benefit from the county's newest development tool.
In June, county commissioners created a land bank as well as a brownfield redevelopment authority. During August's board meeting, commissioners took the next step by approving an intergovernmental agreement between the county treasurer and the Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority.
Exactly which properties will end up in Missaukee County's land bank and which will benefit from the brownfield redevelopment authority is still to be determined.
But one property is looking promising.
The old Merritt School, formerly operated by Houghton Lake Community Schools, came into Missaukee County's possession after the county foreclosed on the private purchaser.
“There it still sits, vacant, unmaintained, blighted,‘ said Precia Garland, Missaukee County Administrator.
If the county puts the school building and surrounding parcels—about 10 acres—into the new land bank, the property will be automatically eligible for the brownfield redevelopment authority.
“That could be helpful in getting that back into some kind of a good use,‘ said Frank Vanderwal, chair of the board of commissioners in Missaukee County.
Brownfield redevelopment authorities provide incentive for properties to be redeveloped rather than blighted and underutilized, Garland explained.
Once a purchaser is lined up, the brownfield authority can make properties eligible for tax increment financing, environmental clean-up and infrastructure funding.
Land bank and brownfield experts call the programs "tools" for redevelopment.
"That's really exciting for Missaukee County," said Pamela Niebrzydowski, another Missaukee County commissioner.
While it's not clear yet whether the old Merritt School will be placed into the land bank, the county did hold back the property from public auction held Aug. 14 for properties in Missaukee, Wexford and Kalkaska counties.
The next step in the land bank process is to select the people who will serve on the land bank's board.