SHIAWASSEE COUNTY (WJRT) - (05/25/17) - A mystery is developing in Shiawassee County's Vernon Township.
People connected to a large economic development project won't divulge what they know about it, and homeowners in the area have only been given a little information.
As we reported Wednesday night at 11, several property owners north of Durand were invited to learn more about a new business that may be coming to the area. At the meeting, they were told very little about the project, except that there could be offers to buy their property.
"I'm not in favor of it at all. I've lived here for 35 years in this house. My husband built it," said Evelyn Perrin, of Vernon Township.
About 60 people from Vernon Township attended the meeting. One man who went says organizers told them it was going to be a $4.2 billion investment and create 800 high-paying jobs. It would cover several hundred acres north of Lansing Road.
The fact that a railroad ran through the area was important to developers.
"I just don't think it's a good thing for Durand. They say it will make Durand prosper. Well, maybe a lot of people don't want it to be a prosperous big town. That's why they come to Durand to live," Perrin said.
Justin Horvath, the Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership president, says he can't comment because of client confidentiality. Troy Crowe, who helped organize Wednesday night's meeting, also cited client confidentiality. Bert DeClerg, the Vernon Township supervisor, had a no comment for us.
The Durand Chamber of Commerce hasn't been told anything about the project, but it sounds good for the most part.
"For Durand, obviously that would mean jobs. That would mean employment, keeping more of our people right here in our city," said Kathy Olund, Durand Chamber of Commerce executive director.
To get into Sheridan Realty and Auction Company's special meeting Wednesday, you had to have your original copy of the letter they mailed that extended the invite to the meeting or an ID that they could cross-check with their list of invited guests.
We understand people who live in Vernon Township between Brown and Durand Roads and Goodall and Lansing roads received the letters. They invited them to hear "about the potential new business planning to locate in the area."
"I didn't know at first what it was all about. Now after being here, I don't know much more than what I did when I went in," said homeowner Edward Holloway.
He and several other homeowners left the meeting pretty confused. He says everyone had questions, but not many were answered.
Holloway tells us the company explained their plans to build some sort of plant in the area and said, to do that, they'd need the homeowners to sell them their property. Holloway says they offered them a number of options of how they'd purchase it.
He added that it was mentioned the project would start within the next year, only if they can get enough land to make it work.
He's not looking to sell the home he's lived in for the past 42 years and he says several other people felt the same way, especially because they thought the two-hour meeting was too vague.
"They want a certain amount of property in a certain area, they've got to have so many acres and they want put something in - a project - but they wouldn't tell us what the project was. We heard rumors it's a steel mill, but they wouldn't confirm it," Holloway said.
Now, we did speak off camera with a few people who say the new development will be good for the area.
The company was not willing to give a comment after the meeting.
Holloway says they have already mentioned they plan to hold more meetings throughout the process.