Traverse City Record-Eagle


February 11, 2014

Leland courthouse eyed, again

TRAVERSE CITY — Leelanau County commissioners will meet today to consider what to do with a parcel of land that’s been a thorn in the county’s side for years.

County board members will review a new appraisal of the problematic Leland courthouse property and discuss their options for dealing with the property during an executive committee meeting at 9 a.m.

County Administrator Chet Janik said he expects commissioners will want to again try to sell the property.

“There’s probably no doubt that they want to put it back on the market and get it back on the tax rolls,” Janik said.

The county first sold the former courthouse site to Varley-Kelly Properties II LLC in 2007, prior to opening a new government complex in Suttons Bay Township.

Varley-Kelly paid $2.4 million for the site with plans to develop residential housing there. The developers later defaulted on land contract payments to the county.

The county reacquired part of the land while long-running legal disputes over the two-acre-plus site ensued. Leelanau county officials paid Varley-Kelly $587,000 late last year to regain full possession of the property.

County officials entertained an offer from a different buyer to purchase part of the parcel in 2012 for $1.4 million, Janik said.

Board members rejected that offer because the buyer wanted the county to finance the deal, much like the arrangement the county reached with Varley-Kelly in 2007, Executive Committee Chair Tom Van Pelt said.

“They wanted the county to basically be the bank,” Van Pelt said. “We didn’t want to be the bankers. We didn’t want to go through that again. When we do sell it, I would think we want to be able to sell it outright and be over and done with it.”

Janik said he did not know the property’s exact new appraised value, but he said it’s over $1 million.

Van Pelt said he wants to use proceeds from any land sale to pay down the county’s unfunded pension liabilities.

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