Council Capsule: June 2, 2015

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015, 12:25 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Image: East Lansing's City Council last night

Watch Council: You can watch the video of yesterday’s Council meeting for yourself by clicking here. (You can skip right to the part you are interested in by clicking on the item of interest in the table of contents below the video.)

Present: Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, Councilmembers Ruth Beier, Kathy Boyle, and Susan Woods were present from the start of the meeting. Mayor Nathan Triplett arrived at 7:25 pm because he was presenting at the Delhi Township meeting on the Lansing area taxi authority plan.

Trowbridge Village parking expansion approved in 4-1 vote: Kevin McGraw of River Caddis development company obtained Council’s approval to add 45 parking spaces to the new development at Trowbridge Village (where Fresh Thyme is located), but not without a good deal of argument among Council, staff, and the developer. McGraw had previously assured Council the project’s plan had plenty of parking, but last night he told Council he needed immediate approval to deal with the serious problem of inadequate parking. Read our special report.

Chesterfield Hills improvements: Council unanimously approved a series of requests aimed at upgrading and repairing infrastructure in the Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood. This includes creating ADA-compliant sidewalks in a section of the neighborhood. (Read the staff memo about ADA compliance and see the map; you can also read the staff memo about a $90,000 contract with Able Concrete and see the contract.)

A contract extension of unit pricing with C.D. Hughes for $370,000 for milling and paving 2.1 miles of streets in the Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood was also unanimously approved by Council. (Read the staff memo and see the contract.) Director of Public Works Scott House said a “large contingency” was build into this contract in case costs were higher than expected. Triplett said this funding was necessary because of the failure of statewide Proposal 1. He said that the funding as it had been arranged would not conflict with the “asset management planning process” of the City.

Downtown CVS  to operate 24-hours-a-day: Council unanimously approved CVS’s application to operate their downtown store at MAC and Albert Avenue 24-hours-a-day. (See the staff memo.) No neighbors opposed the change. Goddeeris said she had heard from one person that a 24-hour drug store would be a useful addition to downtown. (The pharmacy within the store will not be open 24-hours-a-day.) One citizen came forward to ask about the liquor license, because he does not want to see hard liquor sold there, and staff confirmed the license is only for the sale of beer and wine, but said that CVS could request later to sell hard liquor as well.

Moving forward on CAHP plan for the Bailey Community Center: City Council voted unanimously to have City Planning staff work with the Capital Area Housing Partnership (CAHP) to move their plan for the Bailey Community Center forward as quickly as possible in the hopes of meeting CAHP’s desire to submit for federal funding to support the plan this October. Read more in our special report.

Ballistic protection purchase for emergency personnel: Council unanimously approved the purchase of ballistic protection equipment from Central Michigan Police (CMP) in the amount of $145,256. Chief Randy Talifarro of ELFD said this equipment will give protection to medical personnel to get into scenes with active shooting. (You can read the staff memo on this and see the price quote.) This purchase is funded by a grant that will reimburse the City for the cost of the equipment. Talifarro said with regard to concerns that this represents “militarization of emergency responders” that this equipment would not be worn by responders during civil protests unless there were “legitimate concerns” about violence.

Development application approved for Albert/Division: This item appeared in the agenda as Consideration of a Site Plan and Special Use Permit application from Lingg Brewer for the properties at 500 Albert Avenue and 122 Division Street to construct a four-story, mixed-use building containing 13 apartment units and approximately 1,000 square feet of non-residential space.”

According to the staff report, “The proposal utilizes the open space between the existing structures at 500 Albert Avenue and 122 Division Street but does not propose any alteration of the existing structures on the properties; however, there is an existing door that will connect the first level of the proposed building and the structure at 500 Albert Avenue. The proposed building has a mix of two-bedroom and studio units on the upper three floors and 1000 square feet of commercial use on the first floor.”

This project has had a long and complicated history, and last night, Council’s approval (which was unanimous) included approval of complex agreements between the City and the owner including an arrangement by which the owner is obtaining a $17,000 bond to ensure that a subsequent demolition of the house at 122 Division occurs on the schedule agreed upon.

Beier questioned whether that amount would be adequate given that the City had previously allowed another developer to get a $10,000 bond on a building that is now estimated to cost the City $100,000 to demolish. (Beier was referring to 303 Abbot Road.) Planning staff Darcy Schmitt said $17,000 would be adequate even if this property contains asbestos and takes three years to demolish.

Goddeeris asked about various items in the development agreement, and City Attorney Tom Yeadon assured her it was well constructed from the City’s point of view. The applicant included in the agreement an “out” in the event MSU’s enrollments drop substantially in the next few years. City Planning Director Tim Dempsey said he thought it very unlikely that would happen.

Parking for this project will be in municipal lots, not on the property itself.

During the public hearing, Jack Davis, counsel for Brewer, expressed frustration with how the project had been managed in various municipal commissions, including the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Downtown Development Authority. He said staff had misrepresented the project to the DDA.

The project’s designer, Mary Swanson from Swanson Design Studios, also expressed frustration when Goddeeris questioned what exactly the building would look like from the outside. Goddeeris noted that a City ordinance requires that developers build what they present. (This ordinance came into being after public upset over the large cross on St. Anne Lofts.)  In response, Swanson said that the outside would be brick with some limestone or possibly cement. Beier asked for an assurance that there will not be any religious symbols embedded in the building. Swanson said there would not be.

Burcham Hills parking lot extension approved: Council unanimously approved Burcham Hills Retirement Center’s request to add 79 parking spaces to the existing parking lot. Read the staff report and the plans.

Public comment: Charles Hoogstraten commented on the CAHP proposal for the Bailey Community Center, and his remarks are included in our special report.

Michael Teager of the Glencairn neighborhood spoke regarding the City’s decision to give curatorial control of Scene Metrospace, the public art gallery, over to MSU. Although he is a member of the East Lansing Arts Commission, Teager was speaking individually. He objected to the moving of this vote to the consent agenda, meaning that it would be voted on without further discussion, when it was not placed on the consent agenda at the last public meeting. He said he was disappointed in how the process had played out.

Teager said that the City would now be paying for the space while MSU would have control over what happens in the space; he seconded Beier’s previous questions about why the City would give up this space to MSU without charging any rent for it. He questioned whether there would be dead time at the gallery during July and August. He asked why the City would give up control of its public gallery space for a savings of what at most would be $15,000 a year, given a Parks & Rec budget of about $4 million a year. He said that the City administration had talked about “product and revenue” but argued that in the context of art, such a framing was problematic. He suggested that the City administration had essentially undermined Scene Metrospace’s chances of success by making decisions that undermined confidence of those involved.

Ralph Monsma of the Pinecrest neighborhood expressed support for the TIGER Midtown Complete Streets Project grant in the consent agenda. He then said that the following item on the consent agenda came as a complete surprise to his neighborhood, which has homes abutting the property: “Introduce and set a public hearing for July 7, 2015 for Site Plan and Special Use Permit approval for the property at 1350 W. Lake Lansing Road to construct a one-story credit union 2,941 square feet in size with four (4) drive-thru lanes on an existing out lot.” He asked why his neighborhood was not given appropriate notice of this development.

Bob Stein of Gainsborough Drive thanked Council for approving the grant application to renovate Hannah for the ceramics studio currently located at the Bailey Community Center and urged that the ceramic programs’ instructors be consulted on the design of any new or renovated studio space. He asked that if the grant does not come through, Council consider keeping the studio at the Bailey Community Center under the new CAHP plan.

Written comments received by Council in advance of this meeting can be viewed here and here.

Councilmember, Manager, Attorney reports: Goddeeris noted that June 2 is National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the City of East Lansing and said she and Triplett were wearing orange to draw attention to this. She also said she supported the purchase of the ballistic protection gear.

Triplett said that as far as the Taxi Authority goes, East Lansing, Lansing, Meridian Township, and Delta Township have all expressed interest and it appears that Delhi Township will also join, leaving only Lansing Township to sign on. He acknowledged the leadership on this project by Laurie Hoffmann and Marie Wicks.

Councilmembers Woods, Beier, and Boyle had nothing to report. The City Manager had nothing to report. The City Attorney had nothing to report.

Consent agenda: The following items were approved on a “consent agenda,” which means they were approved in a block vote without any discussion:

  • Approval of the Housing Commission recommendation for issuance of a conditional Class III rental license for up to two unrelated persons or a family at 1426 Safire Court. The commission added the condition that this owner has a local legal agent because she is out of state. The owner is Caroline Hartig, Worthington, OH and the local legal agent is Nancy Craig, East Lansing; see the staff memo; application; staff recommendation.
  • Approval of the Housing Commission recommendation for issuance of a conditional Class III rental license for up to two unrelated persons or a family at 631 Cornell Avenue. The owner is Fred Mommersteeg, Rochester, MI; see the staff memo; application; staff recommendation.
  • Approval of an operating agreement between the City of East Lansing and the Department of Art, Art History and Design of Michigan State University for SCENE Metrospace and authorize the City Manager to sign; see the staff memo; agreement.
  • Approval of the revisions to the bylaws of the East Lansing Michigan Avenue Corridor Improvement Authority; see the staff memo; amended by laws.
  • Approval to the award of the 2015 CDBG - Division A - Grove Street Sidewalk project and authorize the City Manager to enter into a contract with Able Concrete Inc. at the unit prices bid with a total contract amount not-to-exceed $100,000; see the staff memo; bid tabulation.
  • Approval to the award of the 2015 CDBG - Division B - Virginia Avenue paving project and authorize the City Manager to enter into a contract with Michigan Paving and Materials Co. at the unit prices bid with a total contract amount not-to-exceed $36,200; see the staff memo; bid tabulation.
  • Approval of a resolution to authorize Official Statement and Continuing Disclosure Certificate for Ingham County’s Towar Snell Bond Refinancing; see the staff memo.
  • Approval of the resolution accepting the TIGER grant application for Midtown Complete Streets Project; see the staff memo.
  • Introduce and set a public hearing for July 7, 2015 for Site Plan and Special Use Permit approval for the properties at 1301 and 1307 East Grand Avenue and 116-132 Spartan Avenue to construct a 6-story mixed-use building which includes parking and commercial use on the first floor and five-floors of residential use above; see the plans.
  • Introduce and set a public hearing for July 7, 2015 for Site Plan and Special Use Permit approval for the property at 1350 W. Lake Lansing Road to construct a one-story credit union 2,941 square feet in size with four (4) drive-thru lanes on an existing out lot; read the staff report and see the plans.
  • Introduce and set a public hearing for July 7, 2015 for a Site Plan and Special Use Permit approval for the property at 565 E. Grand River Avenue to construct a five-story mixed-use building with 5,041 sq. ft. of commercial space on the first floor and a mix of one-, two-, three-, and four- bedroom apartments on the upper floors; see the staff report and plans.
  • Approval of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Assurances form and authorize the City Manager to sign (Art Festival); see the memo and the form.
  • Approval of a resolution declaring June 2, 2015 National Gun Violence Awareness Day in the City of East Lansing; read the resolution.
  • Approval of a resolution endorsing the mission of the campaign to "TAKE ON HATE" and agrees to protect all of its citizens and families no matter their religion or ethnicity in the City of East Lansing; read the resolution.
  • Approval of a contract with Physician’s Health Plan effective July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2016 and authorize the City Manager to sign; read the associated memo and contract.
  • Introduce and set a public hearing for July 7, 2015 for Ordinance No. 1346; an application from Next Generation Investment Properties, LLC to rezone the properties at 116-132 Spartan Avenue from B-1, General Office Business District to B-2, Retail Sales Business District; read the staff report and the application.

Reminder: You can communicate with Council in person at its weekly meetings or write to Council directly at council@cityofeastlansing.com. You can speak or write on any issue involving the City, not only what is on the published agenda.

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