Meijer will not be able to come to Hillsdale County, not this year at least.

Fayette Township opposed the city’s plans to reach a 425 agreement, which would have allowed Meijer to move into the City of Hillsdale. Kaylee McGhee | Col­legian

Fol­lowing a deadlock vote at a special meeting held by the Fayette Township Board on Nov. 29, the future of a 425 agreement that would have allowed Meijer to pur­chase and build a grocery store on a property located off M‑99 remains uncertain.

The agreement would allow for revenue sharing between the city of Hillsdale and Fayette township; Fayette would provide Meijer the land, Hillsdale the utility ser­vices. Addi­tionally, the agreement stip­u­lated that Meijer would have to develop the land within 10 years of its signing, should the cor­po­ration choose to buy the land, according to Hillsdale City Attorney John Lovinger.

Board members and Fayette res­i­dents expressed con­cerns that the pro­posed agreement with Meijer seemed too rushed and without further delib­er­ation, it could not sign the agreement in good con­science.

“I think we need more infor­mation and need to do more work on this,” Board Trustee Alfred DuBois said.

According to Michigan state reg­u­la­tions, the state can take up to 30 days to approve a 425 agreement, making Nov. 30 the absolute last day that Fayette could sign the agreement for it to be filed this year. Since the board voted 2 – 2 deadlock and board super­visor John Kalusniak was not present at the meeting to cast a tie-breaking vote, the township will not be able to decide on the issue until at least next March, according to Hillsdale City Manager David Mackie.

“If Meijer finds it dif­ficult to deal with a com­munity, then they might decide that com­munity is not open for business and walk away,” Mackie said at the meeting.

Hillsdale res­ident Penny Swan voiced her agreement, and before the board voted, urged it to take into account the welfare of the local com­munity.

“My fear is that if you turn this down, Meijer will walk away and the res­i­dents of Hillsdale and Jonesville will lose out,” she said.

Fayette’s decision went in oppo­sition to a decision made by the Hillsdale City Council at a Nov. 20 meeting. There, the 425 agreement passed unan­i­mously.

Mackie said the agreement could poten­tially bring in $80,000 to $100,000 a year in revenue via tax­ation for the city of Hillsdale, and an addi­tional $300,000 a year in utility pay­ments to the Board of Public Util­ities.

Addi­tionally, Meijer had agreed to pay for the expansion of a water main pipe on M‑99, at the cost of $600,000.

“We see that as an eco­nomic devel­opment oppor­tunity for both the city and the township, as small busi­nesses could even­tually hook onto that main,” Mackie said.

The pro­posal for the 425 agreement ini­tially gar­nered sig­nif­icant pushback from Hillsdale business owners. After Market House owner Brett Boyd stressed the value of local business at a Nov. 6 meeting, the council decided not to decide on the issue that night.

Fol­lowing sub­se­quent social media backlash against Boyd and the city council, and mayoral elec­tions that focused heavily on the value of eco­nomic devel­opment in Hillsdale, the pro­posal returned to the council agenda at the next meeting.

Coun­cilman Bruce Sharp, who ini­tially opposed the agreement, saying he would “always support local business,” said the flood of emails and phone calls about the decision made him change his mind for the good of the com­munity.

“I’ve had a lot of people approach me and they seemed to be in favor of this,” he said at the Nov. 20 meeting. “It’s a tax base for us. It’s a tax revenue.”

Mayor Adam Stockford abstained from both voting and dis­cussion, as his employer Elwood Staffing, often recruits with Meijer.

Before the vote, Boyd once again asked the council to con­sider local busi­nesses before passing the res­o­lution. Boyd said that he did not appre­ciate the vitriol directed against him and his employees and asked that the com­munity and council respect him as he respects them.

“I’ll never apol­ogize for defending my family,” he said. “At the end of the day, I respect you for your time. I respect you for your investment in our com­munity.”

Boyd added that even if Meijer does chal­lenge him and other local busi­nesses, he hopes the com­munity will stand fast behind him.

“I encourage you, whenever pos­sible, try to shop local. It’s in the best interest of everyone,” he said.

All of this debate — both in council chambers and on social media — is now moot, as the 425 agreement is stuck in limbo until Fayette can vote out of deadlock.