Proposed Taco Bell snarled by state and federal red tape

The site of a proposed Taco Bell on North Main Street.

Erik Gable

The site of a proposed Taco Bell on North Main Street.

City officials are growing frustrated with state and federal red tape that’s tying up plans for a new Taco Bell on the north side of Adrian.

“We have run into some very interesting roadblocks that, when you are familiar with the property, don’t necessarily make sense,” city attorney Sarah Osburn said at Monday night’s city commission meeting.

It all started because, in order to put an entrance onto North Main Street, developer Sundance Inc. needed to buy a small parcel of city-owned land in order to get the entrance far enough north to not cause problems with the intersection of North Main and Albert.

The property the city is trying to sell is .27 acres of land adjacent to Island Park.

When the city commissioned a title search — a normal part of selling a property — the title examiner discovered that the state of Michigan had a deed dating back to 1989 that entitled it to 70 percent of any mineral rights on the land. Since that didn’t seem to make sense, it prompted some additional digging — and it turned out that when the city purchased the land, it used recreation funds from the Michigan DNR.

Are you thoroughly confused yet?

That, in turn, led to the discovery that under the terms of the original grant, the land is restricted to recreational use only, and city isn’t allowed to sell the land unless it is replaced with recreational property of an equal value.

Complicating matters is the fact that, as of right now, nobody at City Hall knows what the original DNR grant was for or why the city bought the land — which isn’t currently being used for anything — in the first place. Mayor Jim Berryman said the city will keep digging through records to try to answer that question.

Sundance spent some time working with the Michigan Department of Transportation to see if they could adjust their original design so that buying that parcel of city land wouldn’t be necessary. After a considerable amount of effort, Osburn told the commission, they thought they had found a solution — but then MDOT’s legal department said it would require federal approval as well, which could take up to a year.

The mystery of the .27 acres caused plenty of frustration at Monday’s commission meeting.

“This, to me, is exactly what’s wrong with government,” Mayor Jim Berryman said.

Commission Tom Faulhaber was more colorful. “We’re governed by a bunch of idiots in some areas of our state and federal governments,” he said.

City administrator Shane Horn said today that it appears MDOT would allow an entrance off of Albert Street, although that’s not the approach the developer would prefer. Berryman and Horn both said the city and Sundance will continue working on a solution.

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