Billboards, eBay Land, Target Alcohol, and Much More in East Lansing Government This Week

Monday, August 12, 2019, 7:30 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Almost a month has passed since East Lansing’s City Council last met, and a big agenda awaits the Council members’ return on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Planning Commission will also be reviewing a number of proposals that are drawing significant community interest.

Here’s a rundown of what’s happening.

Expect more billboards if Council settles a lawsuit: For years, the City of East Lansing has been locked in a lawsuit with Adams Outdoor Advertising, and now Council is set to vote on a settlement in the case.

Under the proposed settlement, “The City will approve three billboard structures on property it owns on Coleman Road and US 127 in East Lansing.” The City will also allow Adams to construct another billboard in the area of I-496 and Trowbridge Road, and another along East Lansing Drive near Saginaw Highway.

Adams will get to decide whether these are static (traditional) or electronic billboards. From these billboards, if Adams maximizes its options, the City could obtain annual rent of up to $31,000 total in addition to a one-time total permitting and licensing fee of $15,000.

The proposed settlement would also give Adams the right to obtain the first three permits for digital billboards in the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) District if the City starts allowing those. For those permits, Adams would pay the City $50,000 per digital billboard permit and a to-be-negotiated lease amount.

The settlement would also give the City the right to occasional use of these billboards for community announcements and emergency notifications. [Update: The settlement passed with a few revisions. Watch video.]

Royal Vlahakis comes back to Planning Commission: For the “Park Place West” proposal, the developers are bringing forth more information as Planning Commission again considers what’s being proposed for the DDA-owned land along Evergreen Avenue.

The packet for this week includes a new memo from Director of Parks Tim McCaffrey pointing to lots of problems with the idea of moving the farmers’ market from its existing location to a “city pavilion” on Evergreen Avenue.

It also includes a memo from the developer Mike O’Callaghan of Vlahakis Development objecting to inclusion of citizen correspondence from earlier versions of the project (“none of this feedback relates to the current design”) and objecting to the idea that the proposed loss of public parking is the developers’ doing.

He notes that the City wants a road redesign that will cut into the existing public parking. “We attempted to add underground parking to increase the parking and that was soundly shut down,” writes O’Callaghan. That was because the proposed underground public parking had a sewer running through it.

The project can’t see action by Planning Commission yet, because there’s still no traffic report. That’s scheduled to appear for the Transportation Commission meeting on August 19, meaning the soonest the Planning Commission could vote on whether to recommend approval of the project would be August 28, several days after the latest contract for the deal with the DDA is set to expire.

For the latest on the ongoing drama over the Royal Vlahakis “Park Place West” deal at the DDA, click here.

Biggby drive-through on Trowbridge Road: Council will decide whether to approve a site plan and Special Use Permit to renovate an existing building for a Biggby Coffee with drive-through at 947 Trowbridge Road, near Harrison Road. If approved, the building would also have space for another store of some kind.

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of this plan with several conditions, including that a six-foot fence be installed on the south side “to discourage pedestrian traffic across the railroad tracks.” Amtrak customers wanting a coffee would need to walk along Harrison Road and back to get their caffeine fixes. [Update: the project was approved in a 5-0 vote.]

Land sale deal via eBay to be finalized? We have yet to receive an explanation from City leaders about why the eBay auction of rights to purchase a million-dollar piece of public property on Merritt Road was kept so very quiet. That is, if the City was seeking top dollar for the land?

Council is scheduled to decide Tuesday if the winner of that auction – Kodiak Landarc, LLC – can finalize the purchase from the City and build a hotel, marijuana provisioning center (medical marijuana dispensary), and a small strip mall on the land. Read more about what they want to build here. [Update: read the report on what happened.]

Target seeks permission to sell alcohol (which it’s already doing): This week, Planning Commission will consider a Special Use Permit application from the Target Corporation to sell beer, wine, and liquor at its downtown East Lansing store. As we reported last week, Target is already selling those items, as shown above (photo by Raymond Holt), because City staff lets stores do so before City Council makes a decision, as long as stores have the required state liquor licenses. Read more here. [Update: We'll be bringing you a report next week on what happened about this at Planning Commission and a DDA meeting.]

Jolly Pumpkin also seeks permission to sell alcohol: With space rented in the new retail strip along Albert Avenue, Northern United Brewing Company is hoping to obtain the City’s permission “to establish a [Jolly Pumpkin] brewery, winery, distillery and artisan pizza restaurant and bar at 218 Albert Avenue.” Planning Commission will need to vote whether to recommend this before City Council makes the final decision.

As part of their request, the applicants submitted a menu. A rep for the company has told ELi that Jolly Pumpkin hopes to open in East Lansing in late fall or early winter.

New sorority near the high school? GTW Investment Properties is looking to knock down existing house, duplex, and garages at 710, 722, and 722½ Grove Street to build a new three-story sorority for 45 sisters and one house mother. This week the plan will be reviewed by the Planning Commission. Here's what is on that land now (looking south on Grove Street), compared to what is proposed.

This plan would require upzoning of the properties and approval from the Historic District Commission, because 710 Grove Street, which is on the northeast corner with Burcham Drive, is just inside the north edge of the College Grove Historic District.

And maybe another sorority: GTW Investment Properties is also looking to build a sorority at 215 and 217 River Street, near Cedar Village. This would be a four-story sorority for 54 occupants. The plans for that come to Planning Commission for review this week.

More Hub? Core Spaces, which is just finishing up The Hub project at Bogue Street and Grand River Avenue (rendered below), is still hoping to get the zoning changes it needs to build another big and tall Hub – maybe even two – along Bogue Street just south of Hub 1. Some of the zoning changes needed for the project are headed to Planning Commission for review this week.

Rental licenses: Council is looking at passing (on the consent agenda) permission for a number of rental licenses, including at 1820-1822 Coolidge Road, 539 Glenmoor Road, 254 Durand Street, and 710 Grove Street. (See details here.)

That’s just some of what’s happening at City Council and Planning Commission this week.

For the complete Council agenda, click here. You can speak at City Council during public comment and also write to Council via email. (From what we’ve seen, Council pays significantly more attention to oral remarks.)

For the complete Planning Commission agenda, click here. You can speak at Planning Commission during public comment and also write to Planning Commission via staff member David Haywood.

 

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