Council Capsule: December 8, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015, 7:24 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Image: City Council last night during discussion of the auditors’ report

All Councilmembers were present: Mayor Mark Meadows, Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier, and Councilmembers Erik Altmann, Shanna Draheim, and Susan Woods.

Chesterfield Hills restricted parking plan may not come to Council after all: Council is set to soon consider a new ordinance change to restrict on-street parking to neighborhood residents in part of Chesterfield Hills, but last night Council heard from Chesterfield Hills resident Jack Roberts that the plan as it has come forward has not followed proper procedure and is also unneeded.

For 39 years, Roberts has lived in his current home, which would be affected by the new parking restrictions if implemented. He is by profession a municipal attorney so he has expertise in understanding how ordinance changes of the type required for this parking plan are supposed to work through East Lansing’s governmental system. According to Roberts, the City has failed to appropriately collect the data required for consideration of this ordinance change. The traffic study being used is from the spring of 2014 and was done when the Brody complex was under construction, forcing cars into the neighborhood in a way that is probably no longer occurring.

Speaking during the Public Comments portion of the meeting, Roberts told Council that this parking plan is “a matter that at this point has deeply divided my neighborhood.” He told Council that the Transportation Commission, which voted 3 to 2 to send the matter on to Council, did not follow the right procedures.

Roberts provided extensive documentation and analysis of the process. (We do not at this time have a link available to the materials.) He also provided his own study of parking patterns in the neighborhood which he says shows there is adequate parking every day except football Saturdays. He told Council he does not want a situation where he has to ask in advance the City’s permission to have visiting family and friends park on the street outside his home.

Councilmembers expressed sympathy for Roberts’ concerns about possible failure to follow ordinance-amending procedures and about the plan itself. Councilmember Woods asked Roberts if he would accept a two-hour parking limit as exists in other near-university neighborhoods, and he said he would as a compromise, but that he thinks even that is unnecessary because there is adequate parking except on football Saturdays, which occur only a few days a year.

Mayor Pro Tem Beier said she was concerned about having the matter come formally before Council if the process had not met the criteria required. She said she thought Roberts had shown the process had not been carried out correctly at least in terms of certain elements. City Manager George Lahanas said he would look into the matter.

Mayor Meadows said that the ordinance change can’t be considered if the matter hasn’t been processed correctly. Meadows said Council would be back in touch with Roberts before next Tuesday to let him know whether the matter will be going forward at Council’s next meeting. Roberts said that if it is going forward, there are a number of Chesterfield Hills residents planning to come and oppose the plan.

External audit presented, shows the City is official in “the red”: External auditors presented to the Council their audit for our 2015 Fiscal Year. New accounting standards that require the City to show its pension obligations up front and center have moved the City’s bottom line from “the black” to “the red.” Auditors told Council that, taking into account retiree-related debt, the City’s net position financially as of June 30, 2015, was determined to officially be -$37,699,529. Mayor Mark Meadows called the debt load “breathtaking.” Read ELi’s special report.

M.A.C. garage under Marriott may be closed, and it and land under University Place may be sold: Council heard from City staff last night about various options for dealing with the City-owned parking garage and land under the Marriott Hotel downtown. Investors have expressed some interest in purchasing from the City the garage and/or the land under the whole “University Place” complex. The garage needs extensive repairs and will have to be closed in part or whole soon. Read ELi’s special report.

Sound wall to be built along US-127, costing East Lansing $71,800: The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is going to build a noise abatement wall along northbound Highway US-127 from Grand River Avenue to Lake Lansing Road. According to the resolution that staff asked Council to approve, “the City of East Lansing is obligated to participate financially…in the amount of $71,800” reflecting a local match requirement of 11.25%.

According to a November 16 memo from Scott House, Director of Public Works, “the city was not anticipating participating financially in this project, and therefore this expenditure was not forecasted or included in the Major Street Fund approved FY2016 budget.” But Public Act 51 requires a 11.25% match for “a population greater than 40,000 or more and less than 50,000.” So the City has to pay this.

The resolution was approved unanimously.

Stormwater disposal presentation: City Engineer Bob Scheuermann made a presentation on the City’s stormwater management program. You can see the slide presentation here. The City is working, as required, to “promote, publicize, and facilitate education for the purpose of encouraging the public to reduce the discharge of pollutants in stormwater runoff.” Scheuermann explained that there have been educational presentations at Hannah, City Hall, the library, and elsewhere.

Scheuermann said that a new requirement for construction will be that any development on land greater than one acre will have to have a stormwater management plan on site. Basically this means that developments on land greater than one acre (including residential homes) generally need to have a way to manage run-off so that it has less negative environmental impact and so that, ideally, at least some of it goes directly into the ground on site. Solutions may include retention areas, mechanical and chemical treatment systems, and planting of trees that are good at absorbing large amounts of water. He said this takes effect starting March 1, 2016.

Reports: City Manager George Lahanas reminded Council about the House Government Committee meeting regarding HB 5041 taking place on December 9 and also reminded Council about the employee recognition event at Hannah Community Center.

Councilmember Woods said she was proud of the MSU teams’ success. Councilmember Draheim seconded this and gave a “shout-out to local law enforcement for really nice job handling” the weekend celebrations. Mayor Meadows agreed and said that he hoped that in the future, the only person burning a couch will be Mayor Pro Tem Beier. Everyone laughed at the joke.

 

UPDATE: On December 11, we added the last line about the joke because one reader pointed out that it wasn't clear that the mayor was kidding around in a good-spirited way that was appreciated by all present.

This was a work session of Council and was audiotaped. To listen to the tape, click here.

Reminder: Citizens can speak at or write to City Council on any issue, including those not on the agenda. Email can be sent to Council by writing to council@cityofeastlansing.com.

 

 

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