The property at 65 and 65 1/2 Westwood St., voted on to be demol­ished on. Julia Mullins | Hillsdale Collegian

City council members and res­i­dents debated the des­ig­nation of a Neigh­borhood Enter­prise Zone and the demo­lition of the property at 65 and 65 1/2 Westwood at an Oct. 21 city council meeting. 

The NEZ reduces the tax burden, up to half of property taxes, on existing homes that undergo repairs and remod­eling. It also offers an incentive to prospective home­owners to build and develop the prop­erties in the zone. 

The NEZ would extend south from Bacon to Barnard streets, with the eastern boundary as Wolcott Street and the western boundary as Griswold Street.

“We have a number of houses down there that are delighted and would benefit from the reha­bil­i­tation part of the NEZ,” said Kim Thomas, Hillsdale’s city assessor. 

Res­i­dents in the zone, however, expressed frus­tration with the pro­posed tax cut. 

“It doesn’t appear that my neighbors are going to be investing any money into their homes in the near future,” res­ident Patty Palmer said. 

Instead, res­i­dents expressed anger that higher-income fam­ilies would receive tax relief, while lower-income res­i­dents wouldn’t. 

“I’ve owned property here since 1976, and I put a brand new house there,” res­ident Michael Beard said. “What kind of deal will I get out of it?”

The tax breaks are tar­geted for higher-income housing than most homes in that area.

“Everybody should pay their fair share of taxes so we can improve our streets,” Palmer said. “Our area is probably one of the lower tax rates in the area.”

Coun­cilmember Bruce Sharp, who also lives in the neigh­borhood, agreed with the con­cerns about unequal benefits. 

“That’s really not fair to people who pay their property taxes every year,” Sharp said. “Someone else is going to get a benefit when their houses are worth three times as much as my home.”

The NEZ was developed as a public act in 1992 to provide property tax incen­tives for devel­opment and reha­bil­i­tation. The state law says only 15% of the city can be under a NEZ zone. 

Hillsdale has imple­mented NEZs before, the first being property in the Three Meadows sub­di­vision near downtown. The city used tax breaks in an effort to com­plete the development.

Sharp noted the city is still only in phase one out of five for the Three Meadows sub­di­vision. Three more houses need to be developed before the next stage can begin. 

“It’s been over 20 years and we’re still only at nine houses built in those years,” Sharp said. “At this rate, it’s going to take a hundred years. 

A NEZ on West Street also has suf­fered from slow progress, according to Thomas. The city approved the zone to encourage growth near the college. 

“We did one on West Street to encourage reha­bil­i­tation,” Thomas said. “That hasn’t worked yet, but we’re hopeful.”

The council agreed to discuss the NEZ further at its next meeting and encouraged res­i­dents to come voice their con­cerns during public comment. 

The meeting turned to the demo­lition of the 65 Westwood property, which was con­demned in an Aug. 5 res­o­lution. The council granted an extension of 60 days to Marvin Salyer, the owner of the rundown home. 

Sharp expressed frus­tration that demo­lition still hasn’t begun. 

“It’s time for that thing to be torn down and be done,” Sharp said. 

Salyer said he is working to finance the project and find a contractor.

“I’ve been working a lot and trying to save money,” Salyer said. “I’m trying to get the cash to get this fixed.”

Sharp, who lives three doors down from the house, has led the fight to get it torn down. 

Salyer agreed to secure a con­tractor and report on the progress at the next meeting. 

“We have rules in place for a reason; let’s enforce them,” Sharp said. “The 16th is coming up and I would love to have this done.”