March 5th 2019
Project Tim Alert: Public Meeting Tonight to Discuss Rezoning
City Manager Colleen O'Toole says a public meeting tonight to discuss rezoning property in the area of the proposed "Project Tim" is not specifically connected to that project. She responded to an inquiry from Durand Now saying, " The zoning change is more procedural. We have been marketing the property for this type of industrial use but had yet to formally zone it in the correct manner. We are gearing up for a major Master Plan update in 2019 and looking to resolve a lot of inconsistencies like this. The new zoning district would be appropriate for a development like Project Tim, but as of right now we do not have any new information on their status or timeline."
The Durand Planning Commission will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, March 5, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Durand City Hall, 215 W. Clinton Street., Durand, Michigan 48429, at which time the commission will consider the Proposed Text Amendments and Zoning Map Amendments to the City of Durand Zoning Ordinance:
1. Section 1000A, 1-2 Heavy Industrial District: Create new zoning district that would permit and regulate heavy industrial uses within the City of Durand;
2. Various Chapters: Minor text adjustments throughout the current Zoning Ordinance that alter the existing references from I Industrial District to I-1 Industrial District, and new references to the I-2 Heavy Industrial District; and
3. Zoning Map Amendments: Two parcels located on the eastside of Durand Road north of the Holly Drain with the parcel identification numbers of 020-82-001-005-00 and 020-82-001 00600 are proposed to be rezoned from I Industrial Zoning District classification to proposed 1-2 Heavy Industrial Zoning District classification and modifications to Zoning Map, changing all map references from I Industrial captions to 1-1 Industrial Zoning District captions. See map below for additional locational information regarding the proposed I-2 rezonings.
Made aware of tonight's meeting late, Durand Now reached out to city officials today for information. Legal publication of information about tonight's meeting occurred recently in a local newspaper.
The proposed text and map amendments may be viewed in their entirety by contacting Durand City Hall, 215 W. Clinton Street, Durand, Michigan.
City officials say the public is encouraged to attend tonight's meeting.
July 8th 2018
Project Tim Discussed In D.C.
Durand City Manager Colleen O'Toole and City Councilman Dr. Brian Boggs were part of a local delegation that travelled to Washington D.C. to represent Shiawassee County at a recent meeting with White House officials. State Representative Ben Frederick, Congressman John Moolenaar and Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership CEO Justin Horvath were also part of the meeting that was coordinated by County Commisioner Brandon Marks in an effort to bring jobs to the region.
Under discussion was a proposal by NewSteel International dubbed “Project TIM,” which would place a large steel production facility on land within both Vernon Township and the city of Durand. The proposal would mean thousands of direct and residual jobs in Shiawassee County and throughout Michigan.
The visit to the White House included discussions with the Assistant to the President and Director of Trade and Industrial Policy Dr. Peter Navarro, wherein the implications of Project TIM for national security, greater domestic steel production, mining, shipping and the creation of thousands of professional trades jobs throughout Michigan were outlined.
“The potential for local high wage jobs and opportunities in Mid-Michigan cannot be overstated,” Frederick said. “I’m grateful that Dr. Navarro was willing to meet with our group and consider ways the federal government can help ensure this major jobs possibility becomes a reality in our area.”
“This was a great opportunity to come together with local, state and federal officials to discuss the possibilities for the City of Durand’s economic expansion,” Boggs said. “The project would be a game changer for the county as a whole.”
Under consideration are various financing options to help make the project a reality. Continued interaction is planned between local, state and federal officials in the coming months.
May 5th 2018
Man Behind Project Tim Speaks At Rotary Event
The annual Rotary District 6310 Conference and Dinner this year is hosted by Durand Rotary. The event, held at Zehnder's in Frankenmuth, featured as a keynote speaker, John Schultes, CEO of New Steel International, one of the companies behind the push to bring "Project Tim" to Durand.
One of the main themes of this year's conference was "Economic Growth & Environmental Responsibility," an invitation sent to Durand Now said. Though regrettably unable to attend, we understand that Schultes' presentation was titled "Refining & Rebuilding America's Steel Manufacturing Industry," and was expected to not include direct discussion about Project Tim.
We've reached out to Schultes and asked him to share his talking points with us for inclusion on our PROJECT TIM page, and invited him to utilize the page to communicate with residents and distribute information on the progress of the controversial proposed steel mill development in Vernon Township, north of the city.
The latest on Project Tim involves a new footprint for the facility as project leaders were unable to obtain one of the properties necessary for the original footprint. It is unknown if options have been secured for the properties inside the new footprint.
Schultes told Crain's Detroit Business in December that the initiative is moving forward and that New Steel was seeking a loan from the Department of Energy. While he wouldn't say the amount requested, Crain's cited a source briefed on the company's plans that said the company applied for $7 billion as part of the agency's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. That same source says the project has attracted investor interest from Tesla, General Motors and DTE Energy.
The plant, touted as a renewable energy initiative, would produce high-strength steel and capture emitted energy for electricity.
Schultes explained this process further in a 2014 appeal to the Ohio House of Representatives, as New Steel was reigniting efforts to build what is believed to be the same type of operation in Scioto County of that state. Schultes spoke in favor of HB 312 which would "permit a public utility electric light company to recover costs of an economic and job retention program from all public utility electric light customers in Ohio." HB 312 died in committee.
With help from Mike Caldwell, formerly of Ohio's Ironton Tribune and the now-Publisher of Kentucky's Winchester Sun, both newspapers serving communities along the Ohio River and its tributaries, Durand Now has unearthed a series of stories and documents that tell the tale of a proposed steel mill that was to be built along the Ohio River as part of a project that began more than a decade ago. That mill, being developed by New Steel International, would have been a partnership with the Russian steelmaker, Magnitogorsk Iron and Steel Works (MMK). MMK pulled out of the project as the economy collapsed in 2008, but by 2012, efforts to save the stalled project began, with rumor of a German-based partner, a February 2012 Tribune story indicates.
No further information about that project has been found.
December 4th 2017
PROJECT TIM UNVEILED
New Steel International is one of several companies in the push to bring "Project Tim" to Durand. The Ohio-based company's CEO, John Schultes, confirmed with Crain's Detroit Business on Monday that it is moving ahead with the initiative and is seeking a loan from the Department of Energy. He wouldn't say how much the company is looking for, but Crain's says a source briefed on the company's plans says the company applied for $7 billion as part of the agency's Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program. That same source says the project has attracted investor interest from Tesla, General Motors and DTE Energy.
The plant, touted as a renewable energy initiative, would produce high-strength steel and capture emitted energy for electricity, Crain's reports.
Troy Crowe of Crowe Real Estate LLC is the Owosso-based broker that has been working to secure the farmland footprint for the project. He told Crain's the footprint has shifted a bit, as one property owner has refused to sell their land. Now, potentially, the plant's footprint could include property on both the north and south sides of I-69, rather than only the south.
September 20th 2017
Owen's 1984 April Fools Prank That May Soon Become Reality
We asked the late Owen Rood, longtime publisher of The Durand Express, if there was a story from his time at the paper that he could call "the most talked about." He took us straight back to 1984.
DN: Is there a story from The Durand Express that you could call “the most talked about” story?
OWEN: Yes, it was probably the day after I published an April Fools story about a new factory opening just north of Lansing highway. Not everyone saw the humor to put it lightly.
The Museum of Hoaxes describes the 1984 event in more detail, explaining the story alleged that Nissan would build a plant just outside the city that would employ thousands and pay higher wages than GM.
--- Does any of this sound familiar
Furthermore, the story said, "Nissan would pay farmers $10,000 an acre for the land on which the plant was to be built."
The biggest story in Durand this year is "Project Tim." "Project Tim" is the name given to a massive industrial project that, provided the mysterious, unknown entities behind the development can secure the necessary land from local farmers, will be built on the exact land that Owen said his 1984 story about a huge plant to be built referred to.
Because of confidentiality agreements, very little is known about Project Tim, but we do know that the company or companies behind the project have been offering a lot of money to local farmers to buy up the land required for the "footprint" of the development.
At the September Vernon Township Board meeting, Supervisor Bert DeClerg announced that the company had secured enough land for the project, but it is known that obtaining enough land isn't good enough -- the company has to obtain a specific amount of land arranged in such a way that it would accommodate the "footprint" of the development. DeClerg said the company is still working to secure some land in that footprint.
Though officially unconfirmed, Durand Now has on good authority that the company needs just one remaining section of property inside the footprint in order to move forward. From another reliable source, though, again, officially unconfirmed, we're told that the "hold out" property owner maintains they will not sell their property.
Durand City Manager, Colleen O'Toole, recently told Durand Now that she expects more information to be revealed this month.
If Project Tim, which is widely believed to be some sort of steel mill development, comes to fruition, it will fundamentally change the landscape and lifestyle of Durand area residents. Some believe that to be good. There are plenty of people opposed to the project as well.
We've documented all we know on our PROJECT TIM page, and will continue to keep it updated.
The Museum of Hoaxes says Rood's April fools prank published in The Durand Express in 1984 attracted a lot of angry criticism. "Many readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions."
It goes on to say "[Rood] explained that he hadn't been trying to hurt anyone, and thought that he had exaggerated his story enough to make it unbelievable."
July 16th 2017
Crain's Detroit Business Publishes Detail-Packed Recap on Project Tim
Two days ago, Dr. William C. Foster, owner of Fries Veterinary Clinic and one of the organizers behind the group known as Greater Durand Area Citizens for Responsible Growth, told Durand Now that the group is "working on getting our paperwork filed with the State and generating our Bylaws."
The group has met twice at the Durand Eagles Aerie #3851 on New Lothrop Road -- directly across the road from the proposed home of a major industrial development dubbed 'Project Tim,' that, to date, is cloaked in secrecy.
"We've had a pretty good turn out at the last two meetings, around 60 people or so," he said. "Our goals are to bring awareness to the proposed development, support responsible development in this community, and to support landowner rights in the township." Foster, who has expressed deep frustration with the rumored project and even deeper frustration with the local government's hand in keeping details sealed, said the group's next meeting will, again, be at the Eagles Club, on July 26th.
Yesterday, Crain's Detroit Business published a lengthy, detail-packed, article that brings together what little is known about the project in one place. The article doesn't present any new information on the project, but for persons looking to get caught up on what may or may not be coming to our community, this is a great place to start.
Another great place to look is the Durand Now PROJECT TIM page, which also has much of the same information contained in the Crain's article.
Last week, the City of Durand distributed a "one sheet" from the project's developers that included some notable points about the proposed project:
Fulfilling the promise to "Make America Great Again"
Manufacture the lowest cost, highest quality product in the world...in America
Produce clean energy - classified as renewable energy
Rebuild America's infrastructure
No impact to water sources
800+ direct jobs
4,000 construction jobs
85,000 additional jobs (direct and induced)
With focus on veterans
This new information indicates that Project Tim is national infrastructure-related. The Department of Homeland Security defines national critical infrastructure as "the essential services that underpin American society and serve as the backbone of our nation's economy, security, and health. We know it as the power we use in our homes, the water we drink, the transportation that moves us, the stores we shop in, and the communication systems we rely on to stay in touch with friends and family."
One of the key concerns of residents has been potential pollution. This new information from the people and businesses behind Project Tim indicates "The goal of the project is to not draw water from the existing aquafer -- current water supply will not be affected." Further, the new information says Project Tim will "Establish America as the Global Leader in manufacturing and industrial efficiency" as it pertains to clean energy.
The product will be used both domestically and abroad, the new information suggests.
The full document released by the city can be found on our PROJECT TIM page.
The project has long been rumored to be a steel mill.
June 17th 2017
VIDEO: Project Tim - Vernon Twp Meeting 6/12/17
This raw video contains a PORTION of the Vernon Township meeting on 6/12/17 discussing a rumored steel mill development in Shiawassee County, Michigan.
June 17th 2017
Township Talks Steel Mill -- Still Won't Call It A Steel Mill
The Vernon Township Hall was packed on Monday night with residents frustrated by a lack of clarity on a rumored industrial project. While emotions were high, and township officials refrained from sharing some information about the project citing confidentiality, on more than one occasion residents at the meeting praised officials for being much more transparent than city officials at the recent Durand City Council meeting. Two council members were in the audience but did not speak publicly during the meeting.
Vernon Township Supervisor Bert DeClerg told residents in attendance that he has known about the project for about two months but, citing confidentiality, withheld information even from the Vernon Township board until just recently.
Speaking directly to residents that were at a recent by-invitation-only meeting at the Sheridan Realty office where a pitch to land owners to sell their property was made, DeClerg said that he and others were very disappointed that more information was not given to those in attendance.
So, the township distributed five pages of "copy points" about the project, dubbed "Project Tim," that were presented to those in attendance at the Sheridan meeting, as well as a map of the total land area that the, as-of-yet, unnamed company needs to acquire for the project to become reality.
DeClerg said reports that the land needed was four square miles is an overexagerration. Rather, he said, around 2.5 square miles is needed. He did say that the dimensions of the actual structure would be three quarters of a mile wide by one and a quarter miles long, but would not confirm that the proposed project is a steel mill. He only confirmed that it would be an industrial development.
In contrast to what city officials told those in attendance at the recent city council meeting, DeClerg said that at the Sheridan meeting, he knew, and it was clear, that the option to buy properties in the proposed area was for the City of Durand, not the company interested in building there.
During the city council meeting on June 5th, city council members told the audience that they had no knowledge of the project and were unaware of any connection between the city and the option letters given to home and land owners in the proposed building area.
Durand Now asked City Manager Colleen O'Toole to clarify points discussed at the city council meeting. O'Toole said "The developers have asked that we maintain confidentiality because they are subject to a very stringent due diligence process before the project can even be formally considered. Myself and council are doing our best to maintain that confidentiality where it is necessary but we also deeply value our roles as agents of the public trust. We will continue to do what we can to make information available as it is presented to us."
Asked about a claim that at the Sheridan meeting she stood in support of the project, she said "I was in attendance at the Sheridan meeting. The developers had previously approached the City about the project and specifically asked that I attend. At that meeting, I stressed that folks maintain an open mind on the project. The developers are proposing a project that would result in significant, high-paying job creation and a commercial tax base that would help alleviate the burden on area residents; as such I showed support for its consideration."
Regarding concerns about the city imposing eminent domain, O'Toole said the city council has not discussed the subject. DeClerg told those in attendance at the Vernon Township meeting on Monday that the city could not impose eminent domain because the law requires eminent domain -- the right of government to take private property from land owners without the land owners' consent -- be for public use. This is a commercial project by a private company, he said.
The Vernon Township board urged those in attendance to talk to their neighbors about the project -- specifically the home and land owners whose property is being sought. DeClerg said the project requires a specific "footprint" of property for the development, and if the land required for that footprint is unable to be obtained, the project simply will not come to fruition.
We're told that there is just one property owner that has not yet signed the option letter.
Dr. William Foster, owner of Fries Veterinary Clinic on Newburg Road, received a round of applause from others in attendance at the township meeting when he pleaded for guidance from the board, whom he referred to as his friends and neighbors; "I need to make a decision, I've lost a lot of sleep over this," he said, telling the board that he is contemplating closing his business and moving. "I'm not going to live with that..in my front yard, literally," he said. Foster's home is on Monroe Road, immediately south of the proposed project area.
Foster pointed to the Shiawassee County Master Plan, whose number one purpose, he said, is to protect the agricultural identity of Shiawassee County. He said this project is in violation, and further declared that the way the project's details have been withheld from residents is also in violation, reading from the Shiawassee County Master Plan, Chapter 7, Future Land Use Plan Education: "Citizen involvement and support will be necessary as the Plan is implemented. Local officials should constantly strive to develop procedures which make citizens more aware of the planning process and the day to day decision making which affects implementation of the Plan. A continuous program of discussion, education and participation will be extremely important as the County moves towards realization of the goals and objectives."
Steve Lynn lives on Brown Road. He asked the board why Vernon Township isn't trying to stop progress or enter into a shared revenue scenario. DeClerg said that the board has looked into a revenue share but can't do anything at this point in time.
Township Attorney, Bill Fahey, said there's two ways the property could be annexed to the city. The first scenario would involve the city approaching the State Boundary Commission. He said this process could take up to a year and a half and would involve a public hearing, but with enough of a push behind it, would likely be approved. The second scenario would involve the township and city entering into an agreement which would allow the property to be annexed as part of an agreement. Entering into this agreement could take significantly less time, Fahey said. He noted that this second scenario gives the township some leverage in seeking a revenue sharing situation.
DeClerg said "I might be sticking my neck out here" in announcing that he believes residents will know if the project will or will not happen within 90 days.
Nearly all residents in attendance of the township meeting left following the "Project Tim" portion, but as the board navigated through other items of business, the subject popped up again, and as the meeting wound down, board members discussed amongst themselves disappointment in how the situation has been handled by Durand city officials and those directly involved with the proposed development, the lack of information available and the confidential aspects.
June 5th 2017
City Officials Deny Connection to Rumored Steel Mill Development
It was standing room only at Monday night's city council meeting. Residents looking for answers to questions surrounding a rumored steel mill to be built on township property north of the city filled council chambers, but by the close of the meeting, there were even more questions and an increased level of frustration. Representatives of the city of Durand told those in attendance that the city has no knowledge of the project, the property in question, and is not connected to alleged purchase option letters given to some residents of the area of Lansing, New Lothrop and Bennington Roads, despite being listed as the buyer, residents said.
Chuck McKone, Attorney for the city of Durand, made a copy of one of the letters and asked council members for approval to investigate the matter. Mayor Deb Doyle approved and further stated that if the city is involved or has information that it will hold a special meeting to share and discuss with the community.
Durand Now reached out to City Manager Colleen O'Toole for further clarification on all points discussed at the city council meeting, but has not yet received word back. O'Toole previously told Durand Now that the city has no formal comment on the rumor at this time. The city manager was in attendance at the city council meeting and told the crowd that she had been invited to the meeting at the Sheridan Realty and Auction Office in Owosso, to which potential property sellers had also been invited, but was unsure exactly why she was on the by-invitation-only guest list. That meeting was held on May 24th and even after that meeting there are still very few details known about the situation.
Residents that attended that meeting said they were offered an attractive option to sell their property to the city of Durand. The city would then annex the property from the township. One Vernon Township resident shared with Durand Now his concerns that property owners that chose not to sell could be forced from their homes and property if the city were to annex adjacent properties and then claim Eminent Domain.
There is a Vernon Township meeting on June 12th at 7pm at the Vernon Township Hall, 6801 S. Durand Road. All city and township residents are encouraged to attend as any potential development would certainly impact anyone that lives, works or plays in the Durand area.
May 24th 2017
Could Steel Mill Be Coming to Durand?
Vernon Township residents that live north of the city of Durand, have plenty of questions after receiving letters inviting them to a meeting to discuss selling their homes and property to make room for what is believed to be the construction of a steel mill. Durand Now reached out to City Manager Colleen O'Toole on Tuesday with questions. She said the city has no formal comment at this time. A resident that may be affected by the possible construction told Durand Now on Tuesday that Justin Horvath of Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership was unable to provide any details, citing confidentiality issues. Horvath told Durand Now the same thing, though both Horvath and O'Toole indicated that they may be able to share more at a later time.
We're told the development could impact four square miles of property from the Lansing Road and New Lothrop Road intersection north. Residents in that area have expressed concerns over potential contamination, particularly to nearby city water sources. How far back on the property the development might extend has some Leisure Lake Association members asking questions as well.
The meeting is slated for tonight at the Sheridan Realty and Auction Office in Owosso.
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