Council Vote Delayed Over Developer's Backed Taxes

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The developer who wants the city of Lansing to help pay for his multi-million dollar project hasn't paid his own property taxes.

The City Council was supposed to vote on the Reutter Park Place development during Monday's meeting, but they decided there were just too many questions they need answered before they can vote.

Many council members said they were shocked and disappointed over the news that Dan Essa owes more than $40,000 in backed property taxes.

"These projects are really based on trust," Lansing City Council President Brian Jeffries said. "You're taking the person at his or her word that they can do what they say they're going to do. This raises a lot of questions for me. "

Essa plans to build a large apartment and commercial building at the site of the old YMCA building, but he couldn't fund it all. The city already approved a Brownfield Redevelopment tax incentive last year, and now it was proposed they issue $6 million of bonds to pay for the parking lot, which would eventually be paid back through taxes and parking fees.

"If the developer were to default on the project in anyway, then the city tax payer would come on line and pay for it," Jeffries said. "So, when you have a developer that can't even pay the property taxes, I mean it raises a lot of concerns about the wherewithal of that person or that developer to be able to move forward with that development."

Essa said everything has been blown out of proportion. He said he had an agreement with his lender to pay his taxes from 2010, 2011, and 2012 totaling more than $70,000 by the end of October. Essa said he paid 2010's taxes Monday, a little over $27,000. The real reason the vote wasn't happening as scheduled, he said, is because his development agreement wasn't finished yet.

"He can raise as many issues as he wants to try to muddy up the water, but it's very very clear to me what the issues are," Jeffries said.

Other council members want an investigation. They're concerned about how this was missed, since there are certain rules and certifications that developers must meet.

"I believe the vetting process somewhere, some form or another was dropped," Chairman of the Development and Planning Committee Derrick Quinney said.

The mayor's office said they'll get to the bottom of it, and they're optimistic about the project.

Essa said he plans on paying the rest of his 2011 and 2012 taxes by the end of the week.

The Development and Planning Committee is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss what's next for the project.

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