CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP — After approving a lease agreement with a local business owner last month, township officials are now reconsidering their approach in renting out the community center.
During Wednesday evening’s Crystal Township Board meeting, the board voted unanimously to revise the township’s lease agreement policy in renting out the Crystal Community Center, which is owned by the township and houses its offices.
During the board’s Feb. 8 meeting, with Supervisor Chris Johnston absent, the board unanimously approved a rental agreement with Cassandra Gloden to rent a room at the Community Center for the purpose of art and painting classes for $25 a month, for six months.
However, during Wednesday’s meeting, a letter submitted by Tara Chapko, owner of Stone House Treasures, was read aloud by Clerk Patty Baker-Marek, which expressed frustration in the township’s decision to rent to Gloden.
Chapko described a situation in which the township was renting a room “well below market value,” citing it as unfair to other businesses in the township.
“It would appear to me that the township is not concerned with encouraging businesses to fill empty buildings currently for rent, lease or sale on Main Street,” Baker-Marek read aloud from Chapko’s letter. “So there are rooms rented in the community center, but you will no longer have viable businesses downtown. Why would someone want to have a business downtown when there is a property tax, sewer, light, heat, parking lot, building maintenance and labor costs?”
Gloden was asked by Baker-Marek during the Feb. 8 meeting if she owned a business. Golden replied that she runs a laser engraving business (Infinity Engraving) and her sales are performed online.
“I have a laser engraving business and I need some other space to be able to do that. I would not be moving my equipment. Basically I need a table where I can paint and leave at the end of the day and go home,” she said. “I’d also use the space to teach some art classes, as I’d like to bring some artsy stuff to the community.”
In response to Chapko’s letter, board members were in unanimous agreement that the township’s leasing options at the Community Center need to be revised.
Johnston said he was under the impression that Gloden was operating as an “incubation business,” but he noted that Infinity Engravings has been operating since 2009.
“I didn’t realize at the time that it was an existing business to start with … it’s not an incubation business and that’s not right I don’t think,” he said.
Baker-Marek said with Gloden’s intent of the room to be used for art and painting classes, she felt that was within the goals of the township’s use of the Community Center; however, in re-evaluating, she said she can’t look past the township renting to a retail business.
“We opened this can of worms at $25 a month,” she said. “We shouldn’t be renting (that rate) it for non, not-for-profit, rentals.”
Johnston said he felt no ill will toward Gloden and her business, and added that the township needs to approach its other retail client, Herbal Vibrations, which has been renting a room at the community center for several years at $50 a month, as well.
“I think we need to give them 30 to 60 days to (vacate), apologize, and state we were under the impression that it was a new business,” he said.
The township then moved forward with its unanimous decision to have the township attorney add “non-profit” or “non-commercial” status as a condition of lease agreements with the Community Center, when the lease agreement process is revised.