COUNCIL CAPSULE: October 28, 2014

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014, 8:43 am
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.

Last night's meeting was a work session. Next week’s meeting will be on Wednesday because Tuesday is Election Day.

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

Resolution from Bailey Community Association: Konrad Hittner, chair of the Bailey Community Association (BCA), presented to Council a resolution from the group calling for the City to continue running and supporting the Bailey daycare at the Bailey Community Center. In the resolution, the BCA stated that the group “does not believe that the complexity of providing high quality child care, in a manner that meets regulatory requirements, is a compelling rationale for ending the current publicly-run child care program, and finds it ironic to hear government officials essentially complain that the regulatory complexity of operating a child care center is too great a challenge.” Click here to see the resolution.

Hittner told Council that “public agencies do complex things every day,” and used law enforcement as an example. He pointed out that very few group daycares in town will take infants under ten months of age, and said that the Bailey daycare has consistently had a waiting list for infant care. He told Council that “small children and the families that come with them are really the seed core of our community.” He added that, “They are the future of our communities, our neighborhoods, our school district.”

Hittner also said that the Bailey Community Center building functions as “a bulwark between the core of Bailey owner-occupied” homes and “the student renter population in the middle of the city.” He called for Council to recognize the importance of the building to the neighborhood’s stability.

Council considering 60-year TIF: Council is hastening to vote to extend the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) plan on the Marriott University Place property as much as 30 more years at a 100% level of tax capture, bringing the TIF plan at this location to a record-setting 60 years. The current 30-year plan is not set to expire until December, 2016, but the fear of City staff is that if Council waits to extend it, new rules at the State level will restrict what they can do in terms of TIF. For our dedicated report on this, click here.

Ralph Monsma, who was on City Council when the original 30-year plan was passed, spoke about the issue during Public Comments. During his remarks, he suggested that the unexpected serious decay of the underground parking at University Place be used as a learning opportunity for Planning and Council as the City considers site plans for large buildings that call for underground parking.

Resolution to update the Historic District Commission Bylaws and Rules of Procedure: This was largely uncontroversial and is likely to pass when Council votes on the matter.

Harrison Village construction: Council voted to set a public hearing on November 18, 2014, for an application from Harrison Village Houses, LLC, for a Site Plan and Special Use Permit approval for the property at 117 Center Street to construct a 487 square foot, single-story addition to the existing structure on the site. Tim Schmitt, City staff, said the project will restore landscaping and is well designed enough to be likely to encounter little resistance from the Historic District Commission (HDC). The HDC will have final say on the project, after Council, which Goddeeris noted raises the question of what happens if HDC wants changes after Council’s approval. Schmitt said it would have to come back to Council “for information and input” because of Council’s resolution to require companies to build what is actually approved by Council.

Credit card parking meters: The City is going to try out some new parking meters that accept credit cards.

Downtown Management Board expanded: Three people were appointed to the Downtown Management Board, with terms ending December 31, 2017: Nevin Brittain, Luke Hackney (owner of RetroDuck), and Dana Kenney.

Council member reports: Boyle said she attended the second (and final) session of facilitation on the issue of nonconforming rental properties and she found it interesting. She hopes the City “will be getting a useful report out of it.” Goddeeris asked all of Council to attend the police awards ceremony. Triplett said the Gerald R. Ford School of Business asked for a prompt from the City for a policy analysis class, so Lahanas provided a prompt on parking regulations. Triplett also said he would miss the November 18 meeting for a trip to South African with the American Council of Young Political Leaders. Woods said she would have to miss next week’s meeting because of the East Lansing Film Festival and also mentioned her concerns about drunks this Saturday (see below).

Saturday’s non-stop sirens: In her Council member report, Susan Woods said “it was kind of upsetting this Saturday [the day of the MSU-UM game] to be living in East Lansing and having a siren going for hour after hour after hour.” She said, “there seemed to be a lot of severely inebriated people in this town using up all the police and ambulances. It’s just very discouraging.”

As a response, in his report City Manager George Lahanas said, “We too noticed we had a particularly busy weekend.” He said he thought that the “issue of incapacitated  people seems to become an increasing problem.” He asked the Fire Department to report on transportation to the hospital of inebriated individuals and that he estimated the number transported on Saturday exceeded 100. Lahanas told Council that “even though we have five ambulances, it is taking all of them, which is concerning to us.” Lahanas said many officers were engaged for sixteen-hour shifts.

Triplett wanted to know where the drunk people came from. Lahanas pointed out that medical records are not open to public review. He also stated that the amnesty rule, by which minors cannot be charged for reporting concerns about drunk friends, may be increasing reporting, so that what is up is reporting rather than drunkenness. Goddeeris mentioned that amnesty is being advertised more at MSU. She asked for data on breathalyzer tests.

Beier, who is on the Celebrations Committee, said that last year couch fires and vandalism were the biggest problem and that this year there has been less of that. Lahanas thought there was one couch fire this weekend. Council discussed ways to try to get MSU to reduce the problems being caused to the City, with no new ideas coming forth.

Executive session: Council adjourned to a closed-door session to discuss pending litigation, the nature of which was not revealed.

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