Utica businesses say easement fee is excessive

by ANDREW NEAL

Utica city council considered a lease agreement proposal at their June meeting which would charge three businesses located at Hall & Van Dyke $3,000 a year each for use of a city-owned driveway easement.

The parcel is immediately east and adjacent to the BP gas station on Van Dyke and Hall Road.

Three businesses use that driveway: a new car wash, the BP gas station, and Hydro Pros, a hydroponic supply store.

The city determined a $3,000 per entity fee was suitable for those properties to use the parcel for ingress and egress, and mayor Thom Dionne said he alerted a representative of those businesses of the terms before the council meeting.

The mayor asked if council members had any concerns with the property being used by these three entities. Council members did not have any issue with the use, but did ask what would happen if one business didn’t pay.

“We put these big concrete barricades around their driveway,” Dionne said. “And you boys want to play nice, right?” Dionne asked the three representatives who were in the audience.

“I would hope you guys don’t put up a concrete barricade,” one representative responded.

“We’re going to hope that check clears,” the mayor joked back.

The representatives then took to the podium to say that, collectively, they believed the fee to be excessive. Ultimately, the representatives wanted to table the discussion and return with comparables.

“We can argue about pennies and delay it, that’s fine,” the mayor said begrudgingly.

“I’m not trying to argue,” the rep responded, “but having a third party reputable company come in and say ‘hey, here’s what market rates are for .08 acres…'”

“I don’t think this body would be entertained by that,” the mayor said.

The representatives said $1,000 would be agreeable, but the mayor rejected that offer and other council members echoed their disapproval.

Mayor Dionne said that he would be willing to table the issue, but expressed his disappointment in what he saw as a lack of communication with the businesses.

“We’ve been in talks with this for the last couple weeks, and the last conversation I had was last Thursday,” Dionne said. “I didn’t get a call on Friday. I didn’t get an email over the weekend. I didn’t get a call on Monday. Here we are at 9:30 and you’re saying this isn’t agreeable. You had your time to respond to this. These are the terms the city is offering you and we’re agreeable to these. If you want to do it, let’s do business. If you don’t, then we’re going to not do business with you, and those are the choices.”

The representatives again asked to table the issue and bring in a third party to show the market rate for the square footage.

One council member noted that the businesses were being charged not by the space, but by the use factor.

Council ultimately tabled the issue and pushed the vote to their next meeting on Tuesday, July 9.