COUNCIL CAPSULE: October 21, 2014

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014, 12:01 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

ELi’s weekly Wednesday feature, “Council Capsule,” gives you a quick run-down of happenings of note at City Council the night before. Capsules include major votes, including tallies and reporting (and non-reporting) of potential conflicts-of-interest.

Roll Call: All five Council members were present: Mayor Nathan Triplett , Mayor Pro Tem Diane Goddeeris, Ruth Beier, Kathy Boyle, and Susan Woods.

Marijuana charter amendment introductory language: Council approved introductory language for a ballot item that asks voters whether the City’s charter should be amended to limit the City of East Lansing’s regulation of small amounts of marijuana.The City is required to provide language that introduces the matter on the ballot in plain and neutral language. Beier argued that the language was not appropriate to the task, with City Attorney Tom Yeadon disagreeing. (Read more at ELi’s full report.) The vote on the matter was as follows:

Introductory langauge for marijuana ballot question Vote
Ruth Beier no
Kathy Boyle yes
Diane Goddeeris yes
Nathan Triplett yes
Susan Woods yes
result passed

Resolution in support of East Lansing’s trees: Without discussion, the Council unanimously approved a resolution in support of East Lansing’s trees. (Read more here.)

Resolution in support of East Lansing's trees Vote
Ruth Beier yes
Kathy Boyle yes
Diane Goddeeris yes
Nathan Triplett yes
Susan Woods yes
result passed

Public hearing on expansion of “The Willows”: Trilogy Health Services, which operates The Willows (a healthcare facility located at 3500 Coolidge Road that provides adult daycare, assisted living, nursing home care, and memory care), asked for permission to add the last planned wing at their complex. Citizen John Jones, who lives adjacent to the property, asked if more trees would be cut down on the southern edge of the property. City Planning staff Tim Schmitt said that there would be minor grade changes on the north side, but nothing on the south side including no changes to the wetland buffer. Goddeeris successfully put forth a motion to amend one of thirteen conditions on the plan sent to Council by the Planning Commission. The vote on the site plan proceeded as follows:

The Willows/Trilogy Health Services site plan Vote
Ruth Beier yes
Kathy Boyle yes
Diane Goddeeris yes
Nathan Triplett yes
Susan Woods yes
result passed

Separation agreement approved: Without discussion, the Council approved a separation agreement for an unnamed Maintenance Supervisor which includes a provision for payment of an amount equivalent to 96 days of wages. Boyle recused herself from this vote because her law firm’s business overlaps with this matter. The rest of Council voted in favor of the agreement.

Sexual assault resolution: Without discussion, the Council unanimously approved a resolution supporting MSU’s efforts for education around sexual assault.

Council member reports: Woods reminded everyone the East Lansing Film Festival (of which she is Director) is coming up October 30-November 6. Triplett reminded people of the bike rack dedication and talked about the attendance by himself and City staff at the Michigan Municipal League annual meeting last week.

City manager’s report: City Manager George Lahanas congratulated Triplett on becoming Vice President of the Michigan Municipal League. He also thanked the election workers who came for training.

Boards and Commissions Update: Representatives from various boards and commissions reported on their group’s activities as follows:

Cheryl Bartholic, Vice Chair of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, mentioned as highlights of the last year the rebuild of the playground at Patriarche Park, improvements to Valley Court Park including the new space for the Farmers’ Market, and that the soccer complex is now home to Lansing United.

Thomas Howard of the University Student Commission spoke to getting more students registered to vote and to the need to improve bike lanes and add public transportation. Paul Futaw of the Building Board of Appeals said the group meets as needed. Julie Jones-Fisk of the Planning Commission reviewed the group’s work on the comprehensive plan and on various site plan proposals. Lance Wilkinson of the Library Board of Trustees reviewed their programming and fundraising and mentioned that the new downtown Maker Studio is the first public maker space outside of a library in Michigan.

Nancy Moreno of the Arts Commission spoke of the upcoming dedication of six new artistic bike racks (read more). The Broad Museum facilitated the first Urban Mural Project, Imran Qureshi’s “Crack Art,” and the Urban Mural Project will continue with the rainbow painting of the Valley Court steps.

Maria Horan of the Commission on the Environment talked about plans to increase efficiency and reduce emissions on city vehicles, including through the acquisition of a hybrid recycling truck. The commission is working on determining the City’s baseline carbon emissions to track changes in our emissions. Horan also mentioned a contract with Simple Recycling that is going to expand options for curbside recycling. Eventually we will be able to put used clothes, batteries, corrugated cardboard, and boxboard at the curb.

Charlotte Smith of the Human Relations Commission (HRC) said the group investigated one complaint in the last year and successfully resolved it through mediation. The HRC is working with an MSU marketing student to better inform people about the work of the HRC, including in trying to educate the international community about their rights and how the HRC can support their rights.

Scott Schrager of the Board of Review explained that their panel is established by state law and has the authority to modify property tax assessments and to deal with clerical errors and such on tax assessments. Their work is subject to the open meetings act but in practice does not accept public testimony. About 95 percent of their work occurs in the second week of March because of how the property tax calendar works. In the past year, the group heard 51 residential appeals and provided relief in 29 cases, as well as hearing 16 commercial appeals, providing relief in 4 cases. By comparison in 2010, there were 251 appeals including 174 residential cases.

Barbara Zynda of the Senior Commission talked about the group’s work assembling a list of “at risk” residents so that ELPD and ELFD can be sure to prioritize checking in on them during special emergencies. The Senior Commission has been promoting senior housing and the need for universal design, and worked with Council member Boyle to express concern over the move of the Michigan Flyer location at the Detroit airport.

Douglas Jester spoke for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA), the Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and the Downtown Management Board. He spoke to the DDA’s financial challenges which he attributed to a drop in property values (thereby decreasing the tax revenue that goes to the DDA) and the investments the DDA made in the failed City Center II project. He spoke to the moving of the Technology Innovation Center’s administration under the management of a regional economic development system. The DDA also contributed to new way-finding signage downtown. Jester told Council, “We are now in need of reinvesting in the streetscape and other public infrastructure in the downtown” and said they are developing a capital improvements plan.

 

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