City Council Is In for a Big Night

Tuesday, October 8, 2019, 7:40 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

City Council members on Sept. 10, 2019; photos by Raymond Holt.

It’s been three weeks since East Lansing’s City Council has met, and business has really stacked up. According to the published agenda, tonight Council is looking at:

Voting on the Royal Vlahakis Park Place West site plan: Thought that deal was dead? Read this ELi report about what’s going on.

Scheduling a public hearing on recreational marijuana sales in East Lansing: Council will vote tonight whether to schedule a public hearing on October 29 to consider Ordinance 1469, a law that would allow for the sale of recreational marijuana in East Lansing locations already approved for the sale of medical marijuana.

Because of how State regulation is playing out, City staff is advising Council to get this done on October 29 if Council wants to avoid “[losing] control of locations and regulation of State licensed facilities.”

If Council decides to pass draft Ordinance 1469 on October 29, that move will immediately increase the value of properties zoned for the sale of medical marijuana.

That includes land on Merritt Road that the City just sold for $1 million via the auction on eBay. As we’ve reported, the marijuana real estate speculators who bought that public land are now hoping to sell for $12 million.

Another marijuana zoning issue that just popped up on tonight’s agenda: This is a request from the owners of the property that houses Oades Big Ten liquor store downtown, at 1108 E. Grand River Ave., to have that property conditionally rezoned to allow for the sale of marijuana.

Council previously decided in a split vote that they don’t want medical marijuana retail locations more than 1,000 feet from each other in this area. (Read more about that.)

And, because Council approved a provisioning center at 1234 E. Grand River Ave., the Odie’s store can’t be used to sell marijuana unless Council changes the 1,000-foot buffer law for this area or grants a conditional rezoning for the Odie’s location.

Council is only being asked tonight whether to formally begin the process of considering this conditional rezoning request, not whether to approve it. Still, in a memo on the matter, “Staff recommends that City Council not approve the introduction” of the matter, meaning staff wants the request to be killed outright tonight.

And still more pot on the agenda: Operators setting up a marijuana provisioning center at what has been a dentist’s office on Merritt Road (just south of the public land sold on eBay) had their plans approved back in March. So what’s up with this one?

According to a staff memo attached to tonight’s agenda, “The applicant is now proposing to move storage, break room, office, safe, and bud room to the basement. Moving these to the basement allows for the increase in retail floor on the first floor to nearly twice the size as originally approved.”

A vote on this site plan revision request is expected tonight.

Voting on Target’s after-the-fact request to sell alcohol: Although it has the required state liquor licenses, by law, Target and other stores aren’t supposed to be selling alcoholic beverages without having first obtained approval from the City of East Lansing through its Special Use Permit process.

Like at least one other store before it, Target is selling alcohol before it has local permission, and City staff say that with Target, they’re just following the habit of allowing stores to sell while their East Lansing permit applications play out.

In a special memo on the general subject attached to tonight’s agenda, City Attorney Tom Yeadon tells Council, “In the interest of balancing enforcing compliance with our ordinances while also supporting business activities in the community, we did not take any enforcement action as long as they immediately began the process for the City’s approval and continued to diligently pursue that process.”

Because this approach has turned out to irk some people, Yeadon has asked for advice from Council about whether this is the way they want this kind of thing handled. Expect discussion on that tonight.

Target’s specific application will also be discussed and voted on by Council. The City’s staff report on the application says Target applied to sell beer, wine, and spirits (liquor). In fact, the Target Corporation only asked to sell beer and wine in the submitted application, not liquor.

The Planning Commission and the DDA voted unanimously to recommend approval of the sale of all three. The owner of Spartan Spirits, across Albert Avenue, has told City Council that allowing Target to sell liquor will crush his second-generation family business.

Council will also vote tonight on whether to allow alcohol sales at the coming Jolly Pumpkin restaurant. In that case, the applicants have been correctly following the process set out in the law, and the vote is expected to go in favor without much discussion, based on prior signs.

Gaslight Village trying again: Tailwind Group, owner of Gaslight Village up on the east side of Abbot Road just north of Lake Lansing Road – the apartment building with the purple roof – is looking for Council to approve two requests tonight.

One is to allow them to lease housing for periods of less than two years. A staff report lays out the complex history of this development, including how it came to have that unusual restriction.

The other is to allow Tailwind Group to construction “50, two-bedroom residential units in a mix of 3- and 4-unit buildings” and to convert “existing commercial space to two residential units.” (Read more here.)

East Village activities moving along, some slower than others: Council is expected to vote tonight on whether to grant a request from GTW Investment Properties to build a new four-story sorority at 215-217 River Street in the area commonly known as Cedar Village and formally known as East Village.

The last item on the Council’s agenda is a vote to move to December 17 a public hearing on revision of the special East Village form-based code to December. This potential revision is coming in response to the desire by national student-housing developer Core Spaces to build more Hub towers along Bogue Street.

According to staff, “Core Spaces is requesting postponement of the public hearing to afford additional time to consider and propose additional amendments” to the form-based code. Given that the election falls on November 5, this means it will be the next City Council that decides what to do about this.

Want to weigh in?

City Council’s meeting starts at 7 p.m. tonight (Tuesday, October 8) in the courtroom on the second floor of City Hall. You can speak near the beginning during the “public comment” portion of the meeting, and you can also write to Council, although speaking is generally much more effective in terms of getting attention.

 

 

 

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