Council to Discuss Marijuana, Costco, Park District, But Not BRT or Ethics

Friday, September 16, 2016, 3:15 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

East Lansing’s City Council had previously indicated intent to discuss CATA’s controversial Bus Rapid Transit plan and Council’s ethics rules on September 20—next Tuesday. But both of those items are not on Tuesday’s Council agendas, and Mayor Mark Meadows confirms they will not be discussed. Instead, the agendas include items involving legal punishment for marijuana possession, rezoning sections of the Park District, and fees for Parks and Recreation, as well as a few other items.

Here’s a run-down of what’s upcoming next week, including at the meetings planned for Transportation Commission and the Commission on the Environment. As a reminder, time is set aside at all these public meetings for public comment. Citizens can also write to City Council via email.

Marijuana Ordinance:  At the second of the two back-to-back Council meetings planned for Tuesday night, namely the one planned to start at 7:30 at the Hannah Community Center, City Attorney Tom Yeadon is set to talk with City Council about the “Marijuana Civil Infraction Ordinance.” As ELi has previously reported, the current state of marijuana law and enforcement in the City remains murky following an overwhelming vote by East Lansing voters in May of 2015 to decriminalize possession and transportation of less than one ounce of marijuana.

Ethics will not be discussed: We previously reported that City Council has not been following the ethics ordinance this same Council passed shortly after the newly elected members took office. Some Council members have not been disclosing when they are voting on matters of financial interest to individuals who donated more than $100 to their campaigns, as required.

Apparently in response to our report, at the August 16 meeting of Council, Mayor Meadows had said Council would revisit the ethics ordinance at Tuesday’s upcoming meeting to “discuss any changes we might want to make, or how we want to enforce that” ethics ordinance.

But today, Meadows told ELi, “As to the ethics ordinance, I think we are all being much more vigilant so we will review the ordinance later.”

Costco development: The proposal from Costco to build a new store along Saginaw Highway at Park Lake Road will see numerous stages of review next week. On Monday evening, September 19, the Transportation Commission is set to discuss the site plan and traffic impact study for the plan. That meeting will start at 6 p.m. in Courtroom 2 of City Hall, and, as noted above, the public can attend and comment.

Next door, in Courtroom 1, starting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, September 19, the Commission on the Environment will be talking about the wetland permit for the Costco Development. We’ve previously reported that Costco expects to ask for help with tax increment financing to deal with the challenge of building the project on wetlands that are lower than Saginaw Highway. Again, the public can attend and comment.

On Tuesday evening, Council is expected to vote to send to Planning Commission a proposal to rezone the property so that the Costco store can be built, along with a series of smaller stores.

Park District developments: At Monday’s meeting, September 19, Transportation Commission is also set to discuss the traffic impact study for 100 Grand River Avenue, which is the vacant “big bank building” where Abbot Road meets Grand River Avenue. The last time Transportation Commission discussed this project there were concerns about how traffic—including pedestrian and bicycle traffic—can be managed in this high-traffic section of downtown. As we’ve reported, development plans call for a 12-story building including a hotel and rental apartments as well as retail stores. Again, Transportation Commission meets at 6 p.m. in Courtroom 2 of City Hall on Monday, September 19.

The Transportation Commission’s agenda also indicates the group will discuss a traffic impact study for 341 Evergreen Avenue, which is the site of the former Evergreen Arms apartments where Valley Court Road meets Evergreen Avenue. There has been talk of building multi-story housing at that location, possibly targeted to seniors.

At its first of two meetings on Tuesday evening, September 20, City Council is expected to vote to send to Planning Commission a proposal to rezone 341-345 Evergreen Avenue, first changing it to be zoned for RM32, “City Center Multiple Family Resident.” The next item on the agenda, however, is a vote to send to Planning Commission another proposal for the same properties, rezoning them from RM32 to “Conditional B3, City Center Commercial District.” According to a memo with the packet, the first zoning change would be required to pass the second zoning change. Planning Commission is expected to consider this in conjunction with a site plan.

BRT will not be discussed: East Lansing’s City Council has been called on by Meridian Township-based critics of CATA’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plan to join Meridian’s Board in passing a resolution against the project. But Mayor Meadows tells ELi, “As far as I know, there is no updated BRT plan [from CATA] and their board is still looking at a change. When we get something new it will be scheduled.”

With regard to the BRT, we have reported recently on the announcement that Assistant Executive Director Debbie Alexander will be leaving CATA in January; that documents show that MSU’s leadership has a history of concerns about the project; and that the Lansing Regional Chamber of Commerce has voted against the project. The project would bring changes to East Lansing’s downtown that some see as positive and others as negative.

The Lansing City Pulse has reported that the bicyclist community is concerned about the project, and this is verified by a recent letter to East Lansing’s City Council from the Tri-County Bicycle Association, which included a copy of a letter to the BRT outlining ideas the group wants to see incorporated into revised BRT plans.

Parking Requirements Committee to be created: At its first of two back-to-back meetings on Tuesday night, September 20, at the Hannah Community Center, City Council is likely to pass a resolution to create a Parking Requirements Committee. Council has been taking a lot of heat from residents about parking. Complaints have included failure of the City to accommodate on-street parking needs of overnight guests, the challenges of getting permits in areas that require them, and, according to some residents, PACE being too quick to write parking tickets. The resolution seems to suggest the group might discuss all of this as well as ride-sharing programs and projects like the BRT.

Age-Friendly Community Committee to be created: Council is also set to pass a resolution to create an “Age-Friendly Community Committee” on Tuesday evening. This relates to a program of the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) which seeks to promote “availability of safe and accessible recreational facilities,” “safe and affordable modes of private and public transportation,” housing options for aging in place, opportunities for seniors to socialize and engage with people of other generations, and more.

Various other issues: City Council is also set to hear a Strategic Priorities presentation from City Manager George Lahanas and to discuss proposed recommendations for dealing with the Community Development Block Grant and Human services General Fund Grant programs. Council will also discuss fees associated with Parks and Recreation use.

Late today, Council added one additional item to Tuesday's earlier agenda, namely voting to set a public hearing for October 11, 2016, on a change to the city ordinance that deals with entertainment licenses. This appears to be related to a request from Tin Can's owner. (Read more.)

Council will not be broadcast: According to City staff, Council's meetings at Hannah Community Center on Tuesday are not expected to be broadcast and recordings are likely to be audio-only.

 

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Note: The item about the entertainment license ordinance was added after this article was originally published because the agenda change came after our original publication.