Judge upholds Belding’s demolition moratorium stopping Electrolux

By Ryan Jeltema • Last Updated 4:52 pm on Thursday, September 08, 2011

Belding clock tower

BIG RAPIDS — A judge again has ruled against Electrolux, stopping the company’s plans to demolish the historic Gibson Building in Belding.
Mecosta County 49th Circuit Court Judge Scott P. Hill-Kennedy issued an opinion Tuesday upholding the city of Belding’s demolition moratorium in the downtown area while it continues the process of establishing a historic district.
The city will not grant Electrolux a permit to demolish the Gibson Building and its iconic clock tower under the moratorium. Electrolux is seeking to tear down the building because it is unsafe and the ground beneath it is contaminated.
The Silk City Preservation Society is seeking to preserve the historic parts of the building, including the clock tower and a century-old portion originally used to manufacture silk.
Attorney Gary Rentrop of Bloomfield Hills, who is representing Belding during the historic district process, said Hill-Kennedy’s latest ruling was “critical” for the city and preservationists.
“There was a valid moratorium in place,” Rentrop said. “That’s a key ruling.”
Electrolux has been arguing that the moratorium is not legal because Belding does not have an official historic district and the property wasn’t officially under review for historic status when the moratorium was enacted.
Hill-Kennedy ruled that the property was under historic review based on steps the city had taken on Nov. 2 to establish a historic study committee.
The ruling goes against Hill-Kennedy’s earlier view during a Aug. 23 hearing that the historic review hadn’t started by Nov. 2 since the study committee hadn’t met by that point. He ruled the study process was far enough along to be considered official.
“In other words, once the Study Committee had its charge, a meeting was being scheduled, and preparatory work undertaken, as a matter of law, a line cannot be drawn to establish where or when ‘review’ actually began. based on minute differences in the level of ‘preparation’ of the type described here,” Hill-Kennedy wrote in his opinion.
Belding has until Nov. 2 to establish a historic district to block demolition on grounds of historic preservation before the moratorium expires. Otherwise, the city would have no grounds to block Electrolux’s demolition permit application.
Electrolux spokeswoman Caryn Klebba reiterated the company should have a right to demolish the building it owns because it is unsafe.
“We respect the Court’s decision, but we maintain our position that we — as the rightful property owner — must be allowed to address the unsafe condition of structures located on our property,” Klebba said in a statement. “By being denied the right to abate the condemned buildings, the community of Belding continues to be placed at unnecessary risk.”
She said Electrolux is “reviewing its legal options” before deciding how to continue.
Hill-Kennedy denied a request from Belding to completely dismiss the case. He ruled the city’s motion for dismissal was filed too late.
Rentrop said he and city officials likely will discuss filing a new motion for dismissal.
“I think the case is right for dismissal,” he said.
Unless Electrolux files more motions, Rentrop said Belding will continue with the process of establishing the historic district with a vote at the Sept. 20 City Council meeting. Electrolux would have to apply for demolition from the historic district commission if council members approve establishing it at the meeting.

Follow Us
Rate this Article
VN:R_U [1.9.10_1130]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)