OWOSSO — A tax break a Westown developer has been receiving from the city of Owosso since 2006 has been revoked for failure to pay property taxes.
During a regular meeting Monday, Owosso City Council members approved 6-0 to eliminate the brownfield redevelopment plan for the former Oscar Rau Fine Furniture (originally Robbins Furniture) property, 1231 W. Main and 210 Robbins streets. Council member Dan Law was absent.
The city’s tax abatement policy requires property taxes to be timely paid in order for abated properties to retain any tax incentives they were granted.
According to City Manager Nathan Henne, the property owner, who was also the original developer, has not paid property taxes timely for 2007-09, 2012-15, and 2017 to the present. During those years, the taxes became delinquent and were sent to Shiawassee County for collection, he said.
A city spreadsheet indicates the developer currently owes $129,372 in back property taxes.
Although officials did not identify him Monday, the developer who applied for the brownfield plan in 2006 was Roberto Larrivey.
Council member Nick Pidek asked whether the city had communicated with the developer. Henne said he personally reached out to him multiple times by phone and email over the past year.
In 2006, Larrivey asked for and received rezoning approval for three parcels. His stated plan was to convert the old furniture store into loft-style apartments, create office and commercial spaces, and build a dog park.
Larrivey also obtained a brownfield redevelopment plan to address minor contamination on the site. The plan provided for tax increment financing, which helped the him pay for environmental remediation, demolition work and other preparations for the project through the capture of a portion of the property taxes, based on the site’s increased value after development.
In addition, the city gave Larrivey a brownfield loan secured by property he owned in Owosso Township. The remediation and demolition were completed, but then the developer severely scaled back his plan, instead constructing only a parking lot and Robbins Fitness Center, Henne said.
“When the developer decided not to pursue the mixed-use portion of the project, the loan dollars were returned and the mortgage satisfied,” Henne said in a memo to council.
The tax incremental financing plan was reduced but stayed in place with respect to the development that was completed. The captured taxes, normally paid out to the developer, have been held in a brownfield account by the city due to chronic nonpayment of property taxes.
With Monday’s vote rescinding the plan, the $47,000 in the account, accumulated over years, will be disbursed back to the appropriate taxing entities by city staff, Henne said.
“I think it’s good we review things like this,” Pidek said. “If people don’t fill their promises, it’s good to revisit that and hold them to task for their word.”
The city has rescinded other tax abatements in the past, it was noted Monday, including one for 344 W. Main St., home of Magoo’s Pet Outlet, because the project for which the property received a tax break wasn’t completed.