The township board okayed a memo of understanding with the developer that is suing the township for rejecting a rezoning of 269 acres off Telegraph Rd. for a regional warehousing or distribution center.

Frenchtown Township officials have given their nod to a Memo of Understanding with InSite Real Estate Properties LLC, an Illinois developer that sued the township in February for denying its plan last year to build a $150 million warehousing or distribution center on the former Nike Missile Base site off N. Telegraph Rd.

The township board approved the memo 7-0 at a meeting last week held through a Zoom teleconference.

The four-page memo notes that attorneys for both sides have entered into “good faith” negotiations to settle all claims from InSite of wanting to build on 269 acres of mostly wooded property that has been sitting vacant for years. The goal is to reach a consent judgment to be presented to Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Michael A. Weipert, who is presiding over the lawsuit.

As part of the memo, both parties agree that seven parcels making up the site should be rezoned from agricultural and C-3 highway commercial to light manufacturing. There are nearly two dozen other terms and conditions outlined in the memo, including a provision that on-site warehouse jobs will pay a minimum of $17 an hour plus benefits.

Both Supervisor James McDevitt and Clerk Kyle Bryant were thrilled that the memo had passed and that wheels are in motion for a consent judgement to be reached to settle the dispute.

“We’re hoping to put a shovel in the ground Sept. 1,” McDevitt said this week. “They still have to go through our planning commission and (comply) with all of our ordinances.”

He said the township would benefit because of the tax and fee revenues and at least 200 jobs that could come with the development.

The memo is the first step to reaching a settlement, McDevitt said. He said attorneys will continue to make changes to the consent agreement and then bring it to the township board for its approval.

In March, 2019, the seven-member board voted 5-1 to reject the rezoning, with McDevitt excused from that meeting. Treasurer Julie Ellison cast the only no vote. That sparked an outcry among county and some local officials who supported the project.

InSite has a prospective tenant that wants to build up to 1.5 million square feet of space for a regional warehousing and distribution operations, the supervisor said.

Access to the property will come from two points of entry from Telegraph, according to a site plan submitted by InSite. The name of the tenant is being kept confidential, according to the memo.

Bryant said that like McDevitt, he was strongly in favor of the project.

“I want the community to know I am working to bring jobs to my hometown,” he said.

The township received several letters in support of the project, including letters from the Monroe County Board of Commissioners, Airport Community Schools and the Detroit Regional Partnership.

The county remained in full support of the development, said J. Henry Lievens, chairman of the county board.

“We estimate the project will create recurring annual economic value to the local economy of $15-$20 million in addition to tax base generated resources for essential public services of $1.67 million per year,” Lievens said in the April 17 letter.

The site was identified as a “high-value priority area along the I-75 corridor and could provide the best opportunities for economic development,” he said. “The strategy that highlighted this site was attempting to capitalize on the trading relationship with Canada as the new Gordie Howe International Bridge crossing opens for commerce between our countries.”

The project would send a “clear message about other investment opportunities” in the county, the chairman said.

“That message includes statements that our workforce, our local units of government and our economic development efforts create an environment for job creation, sound capital investment and prosperity for businesses and citizens alike,” he said.

The county board also passed a resolution last year urging the township to okay the rezoning request from InSite to “provide the employment opportunities and other economic benefits for the citizens of Monroe County and Frenchtown Township.”

The resolution said the development would create construction and related supplier jobs plus “300-400 ongoing jobs at the facility.” The economic recurring annual projected value of jobs is $15-20 million a year based on a $50,000 estimate per job annually.

Development of the site was consistent with the Monroe Link Plan, the county’s strategic plan for economic development, and the Monroe County Comprehensive Plan and was an appropriate development for the area, the resolution said.

In addition, the developer had a record of successful past projects and a client list of quality organizations that included General Motors Corp. and Penske Logistics.

John Krimmel, superintendent at Airport, said the investment will not only improve the financial support of the community, but also the potential of adding families and students to the school district’s enrollment.

“We take great pride in offering a wonderful public education to children and additional students and families is potentially very exciting,” Krimmel said in his letter.

He said projects like this one bring added relief to public agencies in the area “as they provide the revenue to support essential public services such as education, police, fire and recreation programs.”

It also expands the tax base and “further provides diversity in our local economy by strengthening another economic sector, providing jobs for our abundant supply of qualified labor, and offers opportunities that people can move into quickly and advance rapidly.”