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When Detroit City Council’s development and planning subcommittee met Thursday, they didn’t simply rubber stamp the deal to offer land to Fiat Chrysler to open a factory on the east side.
It’s worth noting, because the tone radiating from City Hall from the start has been something to the tune of “we’ll make this happen no matter what and fast.” The city had just a few months to get all the pieces in place, including a community benefits agreement with neighbors and complicated land transfers.
Councilmembers, however, shared concerns about truck traffic and local job creation requirements — the company committed to hiring Detroiters first in a community benefits agreement, but has no required numbers to hit. The company’s response, that guaranteeing jobs before they know if there’s demand “doesn’t make business sense,” is pretty weak — especially considering Detroit has history with this.
And council didn’t buy it. Councilman Andre Spivey called out the how the project was rammed through: “From the perspective of the council person where the project is, I believe the process was rushed, and I believe as it was rushed the expectation is that this body would rush it as well.”
Meanwhile, some Detroiters are more frustrated by the plan’s requirement to pay the Moroun family $43.5 million and give them land parcels in exchange for the properties wanted by Fiat Chrysler. They will receive nearly 2 acres in Hubbard Richard, near the Moroun-owned Ambassador bridge and in an area where the Morouns have speculated on properties for decades.
Click the map for a preliminary look at the locations of city-owned land that would be transferred to the Morouns, through their company Crown Enterprises, if the deal goes through. Note: Some of these parcels are several, or several dozen, acres in size. You can check out the City of Detroit presentation on the potential land swaps here.
Resident Shaun Nethercott spelled out the confounding part for the Detroit News: “Why the hell is the city giving more free land to billionaires? And why did they try to do this without letting residents know?”
The Council subcommittee discussion is set to continue at a meeting this Thursday. City officials say the deadline to wrap up the deal is May 21 and delays would “greatly impact” FCA’s hiring and construction timeline.
All best guesses, and history, suggest this deal will go through as-is, or close to it. But that doesn’t mean the part where elected officials vote, nor the part where residents get to share their concerns on the record, should be treated as a mere formality. –-Kate Abbey-Lambertz