With Ford Motor Co. gearing up to sell its former Wixom assembly plant property, it’s in the process of dealing with environmental issues such as the site’s closed landfill, and has determined it would be best to retain ownership of the landfill given the potential for any future liability.
Officials from Mannik & Smith Group, representing Ford, approached the Wixom City Council on Tuesday, July 24 with a request for a land division that separates the 32.13-acre landfill from the rest of the property.
The request met all the requirements of the city’s zoning ordinance and the council approved the land division.
“This way Ford maintains any liability for the landfill and any environmental issues that may arise in the future,” said Wixom City Manager Mike Dornan.
The other 285.18 acres of the site will remain available for purchase.
City officials are still anxiously waiting the sale of the property, but are not holding their breath. They’ve experienced disappointments during the process of getting the city redeveloped over the last few years.
A deal went south after three years invested with a pair of renewable energy manufacturers that failed to get their financing in order to purchase the shuttered facility. Ford then returned to the drawing board to take the steps necessary to attract renewed interest in the site.
“The site has been a moving target for the last 2.5 years and it’s hard to say whether anything will materialize,” Dornan said. “I will feel more comfortable when they say they sold the property, but I remain optimistic a sale will occur — I have to be.”
The renewable energy companies, Xtreme Power and Clairvoyant Energy, backed out on their commitment to buy the site when they failed to obtain U.S. Department of Energy loans.
Over the years there has been a constant stream of potential buyers.
“There were rumors other automotive companies were interested, talk of developing a water park, a university, and the alternative energy companies,” Dornan said.
But more recently, Townsend Energy Solutions of Baltimore threw its name in the ring last year as a possible purchaser of the property, located at Wixom Road and I-96.
The company says it has a track record of successfully investing in real estate, energy, sporting and manufacturing companies. Their investment holdings topped $1.5 billion in 2008.
“Townsend is still working with Ford and interested in moving their business there,” Dornan said.
Dornan also noted that another company — the name of which Dornan declined to identify — is in serious discussions with Ford Land.
“I know they are talking to one company, but an offer to purchase hasn’t been executed,” Dornan said.
The site is zoned as a mixed-use development, a designation that makes the property suitable for manufacturing, research and development, office, and freeway service/commercial land uses.
In the meantime, the city’s tax revenue from the plant has plummeted and with budgetary constraints, the city is anxious to recoup that monetary stream.
In 2002, Ford paid the city $1.453 million in property taxes, compared to $153,000 in 2011.
The Ford plant, closed since May 2007, first opened on April 1, 1957 and employed as many as 4,500 workers who pounded out a wide array of cars, from the luxurious to the fast and the practical. The plant had been reduced to only production of the Lincoln Town Car just before its closure.
At the top of its game, the plant cranked out 280,659 vehicles in 1988, and over the total 50-year period of operation, it produced more 6.5 million vehicles, according to Ford officials.