BELDING — The legal battle between the city of Belding and Electrolux Inc. involving the fate of the Gibson buildings and clock tower structure has come to an end.
On Tuesday night, after exiting closed session in which mediation efforts between the two parties were discussed, Belding City Council members voted 4-1 in favor of a consent judgment that will allow Electrolux to demolish all structures on the site at the corner of Main and Bridge streets after acquiring a permit for demolition. Mayor Ron Gunderson cast the opposing vote.
City Manager Randy DeBruine, who provided The Daily News with a copy of the consent judgment, was not at liberty to discuss the judgment until it is signed by a judge next week. DeBruine did estimate, however, that after nearly two years of legal battles with Electrolux, the city has incurred costs upwards of $200,000.
The consent order will remove the Electrolux property from the city’s historic district.
A demolition permit must be issued to Electrolux from the city no later than March 1, 2013, however, the permit could be approved as early as next month, with demolition of the buildings following almost immediately.
As far as any preservation of the the buildings or objects related to the site, the consent judgment reads: “Electrolux shall use reasonable efforts to dismantle, preserve, donate and deliver to the city … the slate tile rooftop over the clock tower, the clock, the wood housing surrounding the clock and the materials immediately abutting such wooden housing … and the blocks/place-cards containing the ‘Belding Bros.’ inscription and the plaque showing the year built.”
The judgment goes on to read: “The city acknowledges, however, that the tower clock is in poor condition, and therefore, it may not be practical for the tower clock and other materials to be dismantled in such a manner that they can be preserved or reused … the parties acknowledge that an environmentally suitable location for such reassembly or construction may not exist on the easement property.”
In place of the Gibson structures, the oldest of which have stood since the early 1900s, will one day be a city park, as agreed by both parties in the consent judgment.
The judgment reads: “The city and Electrolux mutually shall approve the design of a public park to be located on the easement property … including the design of all improvements … to be located thereon. Such designs shall be consistent with the easement … and the terms and conditions of this consent judgement.”
According to the judgment, Electrolux shall retain fee ownership of the Electrolux property, including exclusive ownership and control of all subsurface areas, but shall grant an easement in favor of the city for it to have access to and use as a public park for the general public.
The judgement also allows the city to reassemble the clock tower or reconstruct a replica clock tower on the site, however, a suitable environmentally safe location on the site would have to be located, and the easement would have to be modified to allow for the limited purpose of that location, including the city providing liability insurance for claims arising out of the erection, maintenance and existence of the clock tower or a replica clock.
Electrolux will make a one-time contribution of $75,000 to the city of Belding to be expended by the city for the sole purpose of helping to defray the cost of designing and establishing a public park on the easement property.
Electrolux will also make a one-time contribution of $50,000 to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation for the creation of an endowment to be used solely for the maintenance of the public park on the easement property.
According to the judgment, however, once a park is completed, “the city shall be responsible exclusively for the maintenance, repair and replacement of any improvements located on the easement property.” This includes all walking paths, structures, park benches, trees, shrubs and grass.
With the site likely contaminated after decades of factory use, the consent judgement also specifies that Electrolux shall be responsible for cleanup efforts.
The judgment reads: “Electrolux shall, in a timely manner, actively and diligently perform all activities lawfully required by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality on the Electrolux property … Electrolux will use reasonable efforts to comply with any environmental standards that may be lawfully required by MDEQ in order for the easement property to be used as a public park, provided, however, that compliance with such standards would not constitute a material change to the environmental standards for industrial properties that apply to the Electrolux property.”
Although the common goal is to construct a city park, Electrolux has the right and ability, with a 90-day written notice to the city, to cancel the easement and terminate the consent judgment upon approval by the city.
Events that could cause Electrolux to take such action include changes to environmental circumstances allowing the property to be used for something other than a public park, a change in interests allowing them to be better served if the property were used as something other than a park, a third party willing to offer Electrolux a reasonable price for the property.
• 1991 — Electrolux sells the Electrolux property
• 2010 — Electrolux reacquires the Electrolux property.
• Oct. 5, 2010 — Belding passes a resolution establishing a moratorium on demolition.
• Oct. 19, 2010 — Belding adopts an ordinance creating a historical district.
• Oct. 25, 2010 — Electrolux files building permit application with city for demolition of all buildings.
• June 17, 2011 — Electrolux files suit against Belding to declare the Historic District invalid.
• September 2011 — Belding adopts Ordinance 522, amending original boundaries of historic district (both included Electrolux properties).
• September 2011 — Electrolux concurrently seeks administrative relief from State Historic Preservation Review Board.
• September 2011 — The court entered a stay of proceedings in the lawsuit, allowing both parties to engage in mediation to resolve litigation.
November 2012 — After more than a year of mediation proceedings, Electrolux and Belding reach agreement to demolish buildings. Pending a judge’s signature to the consent judgement, lawsuit against Belding and pending case before the State Historic Preservation Review Board to be dropped.