Council Capsule: January 6, 2015

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Wednesday, January 7, 2015, 7:00 am
By: 
Alice Dreger
East Lansing Council Greater Lansing Area MLK Holiday Commission

Each Wednesday morning, ELi provides you a "capsule" of what happened at City Council on Tuesday night.

Present: Mayor Nathan Triplett, Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, Ruth Beier, Kathy Boyle, and Susan Woods.

Recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day: Triplett presented the Greater Lansing Area MLK Holiday Commission with a check for $3,000 and a resolution from the City of East Lansing to support the commemoration this year. Commission Chair Elaine Hardy (shown speaking above) spoke to the historical success of the annual event and encouraged all to attend the events planned. (Program here.)

Marijuana ballot proposal vote moved to May: Council unanimously voted, at the request of City Clerk Marie Wicks, to move the marijuana ballot proposal to May 5, 2015 (from November). Council also discussed a letter on the matter received from the Governor. Read our special report here.

Fresh Thyme granted liquor license approval: The grocery store set to replace Goodrich Shoprite was given approval to have a liquor license for the sale of beer, wine, and spirits. Fresh Thyme is associated with Meijer and says it is “a new full-service specialty grocery store focusing on fresh, healthy, natural and organic offerings . . . made available to the community at affordable prices.” (Read the application for more details here.)

Council to discuss external expert review of PDIG: During her report, Beier suggested that Council pass a resolution to hire outside financial and legal expertise to conduct a due diligence examination of PDIG, the developer about whom many concerns have been raised. (Read more about the concerns here and here.) Her reasoning, provided in writing, is as follows:

(1) The project will be the largest financial investment in the history of East Lansing. (2) The project will likely have the largest tax incentive in the history of East Lansing. (3) It is unrealistic to think that the city staff, which has been reduced significantly over the past ten years, should have to be responsible for such a historically large endeavor. (4) The experts should be hired as soon as soon as possible after the site plan is approved, if it is approved. (5) The experts would work with city staff, but would be responsible for the financial due diligence. (6) The experts would work with the city attorney, but would be responsible for negotiating the performance bonds and the performance insurance.

Beier has asked City Attorney Tom Yeadon to draft a resolution to this effect. There were no objections or statements of support from the other Council members.

Helping Hands Respite Care recognized; seeking to move: Boyle, who serves on the Board of the Helping Hands Respite Care program, presented a resolution honoring the high-quality, non-medical care provided by the group to families that include persons with disabilities that require attentive care. The group allows primary caregivers a way to obtain respite, enabling many families to cope when they otherwise would struggle. During her later report, Boyle recommended the video at the group’s website for those who want to learn more about respite care, and she thanked the City for its support.

Helping Hands Executive Director John Stauffer addressed Council to say that the group has flourished at their Valley Court location, but that their success means they have outgrown the facilities. He said in the last two years relationships with the City and MSU have led to increase in donations, volunteers, interns, and employees, such that they now need larger space to house their administrative staff and adult daycare program. They are seeking an East Lansing location.

Asbestos abatement contract: Scott House, the new Director of Public Works, asked Council to immediately approve a one-time, no-bid contract with Fibertec Industrial Hygiene Services Inc., “not to exceed the amount of $90,000, for the removal and abatement of asbestos insulation and repair of insulation at the Waste Water Treatment Plant.” House told Council that there is asbestos insulation in the steam tunnels and it is difficult and dangerous to keep doing repairs with the asbestos there. He said the goal of the abatement contract was to remove potential hazards to employees, make it easier for them to do their jobs, and to replace the asbestos with fiberglass insulation, adding value to the system. Council unanimously approved the request.

Campaign finance resolution: ELi previously reported lively debate on a proposed resolution to require real-time disclosure of potential conflicts of interest at City Council. Last night Council passed a significantly changed resolution that calls only for the City Manager to “make the records [of campaign contributions] readily available by requiring that a link be established to the City Council member’s campaign statements filed with the Ingham County Clerk’s office on the City’s website.”

Council passed the resolution while acknowledging the details of what will be linked have not been worked out. The Ingham County Clerk’s website provides unsearchable scanned PDFs in serial format. During public comments, I spoke on the campaign disclosure issue to say that if the City will not make campaign contribution information available to the public in a readily accessible and meaningful fashion, we will look into providing the information at ELi so that the public can easily access this information.

PDIG public hearings set: A set of two public hearings was scheduled for February 3, 2015, for the PDIG project known as “Building B.” This is for the property at 341-345 Evergreen Avenue and involves a plan “to demolish the existing structures and construct a four-story, mixed-use building containing retail space on the first floor and 42 one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments on the upper floors. The property is proposed to be rezoned to B-3, City Center Commercial, with a conditional rezoning agreement.”

Interstate Partners: A public hearing for February 3, 2015, was set for a project request from Interstate Partners I for a  3.27-acre project at 1595 West Lake Lansing Road, near the intersection of Lake Lansing Road and Coolidge. The company wants to “construct a three-story commercial building, containing approximately 20,000 square feet office space, approximately 5,000 square feet of general retail, and 2,800 square feet of restaurant space, including a drive through. The property is proposed to be rezoned to B-5, Community Retail Sales Business District.”

Transparency problems persist: Written communications to Council continue to be unavailable to the public. During public comments I asked again that they be made available on the Granicus site so that members of the public can see what other citizens are communicating to Council. Beier supported this during her Councilmember reports. During a later portion of the meeting, Beier also asked that City Staff make site plans available at Granicus as soon as possible in conjunction with action items on projects. Staff said they could and would do so.

University Student Commission appointment: Faith Krogulecki was appointed to the University Student Commission representing the Panhellenic Council for a partial term ending on April 30, 2015.

Councilmember reports: Triplett reported that during the lame duck session, the state legislature did not pass any of the bills that might have restrained the ability of communities like East Lansing to regulate things like wages, benefits, and housing. He said that, “All in all, it’s good news for us as a community.”

Beier’s and Boyle’s reports are noted above in the associated topic headings. Goddeeris had nothing to report. Woods said she wished everyone Happy New Year.

There were no reports from the City Manager or City Attorney.

 

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