Council Capsule: September 21, 2015

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Thursday, September 24, 2015, 2:40 pm
Ann Nichols and Alice Dreger

Above: Signage along a park trail as presented in a City memo related to Council’s discussion of the bike parkways program.


Each Wednesday, ELi brings you “Council Capsule,” a run-down on what happened at East Lansing’s City Council the night before. You won’t find this service anywhere else. Want to keep it going? Then make a tax-deductible contribution right now.

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

Plan for downtown food trucks withdrawn: City staff thought that having food trucks downtown might create a “cool city” vibe, and so a Pilot Program was attempted. According to a city memo from Heather Pope, Community Development Analyst, “Three concessionaires expressed interest in the program, but only one participated. Twenty nine businesses responded to the survey that followed with seventeen saying that they believed concessionaries should be allowed downtown and twelve saying they should not.”

The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) as a result has recommended Council rescind the Concessionaries Policy Resolution. In the words of DDA Chair Bill Mansfield, “we have been unsuccessful in attracting quality vendors.” Further, “this program takes a lot of staff time, and many downtown businesses objected to it.”

At Council’s meeting this week, Boyle asked about staff time involved in the program. Pope responded that staff spends time on marketing, outreach, background checks, and referrals sent to multiple departments.

Triplett stated his opinion there’s a lack of interest mainly because the fee structure and operating hours restrictions imposed in the DDA’s pilot program, adding that “as long as we see them as a one-on-one competition with existing businesses” downtown, concessionaires are unlikely to succeed, and that if the City wants to have food trucks and other food vendors, “we need to take a fundamentally different approach,” which he would support.

City Council put rescission of the policy resolution on the consent agenda for the next meeting, meaning the rescission of the policy is likely to pass without further discussion.

Bike pathways program: Goddeeris is trying, before her service on Council ends in November, to have a better bike path system in East Lansing. (Click here to see the large report previously prepared.) As a consequence, the City has been looking into creating maps to be posted along trails and online, as well as creating signage for trail markers.

According to a memo from Parks & Rec Assistant Director Wendy Longpre, the Chair of the Central Michigan Group Sierra Club has approached the City “regarding partnering with them to participate in the Trails Connecting People with Nature program.  Grants are available up to $20,000. Staff is looking into a grant for signage and trailhead kiosks among other things.

Following a presentation by Longpre and City staff member Carl Fedders, City Council discussed the matter. Beier asked if there is a Phase II for the plan, and Longpre replied that there is, and that she hoped future phases could be kept at a reasonable cost. Beier indicated that putting up signage would be inexpensive but have “good impact;” Longpre agreed. She added that the most expensive part of the project would be trailhead kiosks at a cost of “several hundred dollars each.”

Goddeeris asked if Longpre knew when the grants would be awarded, Longpre answered that she wasn’t sure but that they were awarded annually and that it should be “fairly quickly.”

Goddeeris thanked staff for their work on the project. She further noted that we should be mindful of safety for bicyclists in the form of reminders to wear helmets, and emphasized the intentionally unique nature of each of the City’s parks, which means that each park has something found in no other park in the area. 

Fedders spoke of the City’s Non-Motorized Master Plan and informed Council that Harrison would be paved as the City’s next major road project. Goddeeris asked if the sidewalks would be repaved, and Fedders said they would not. Boyle asked whether the stretch of Harrison between Saginaw and Michigan would be improved for bicycle travel and Fedders answered that it was part of “long range planning.”

Crunchy’s looking to sell alcohol to-go: Michael Krueger, owner of Crunchy’s at 254 West Grand River Avenue, is seeking approval from the City for his plan to sell take-out alcohol. (Read the staff report.) This change would involve the granting of an SDM (Specially Designated Merchant) license.

According to a memo from Julie Jones-Fisk, chairperson of the Planning Commission, Crunchy’s “has a long track record of responsible alcohol sales in the community and the Police Department has no major concerns.” Planning Commission recommended approval of the request with various conditions, including the upkeep of landscaping, cessation of outdoor service by midnight, and that “No live or recorded music or telecommunication devices shall be provided in the outdoor service area which is audible from any adjacent residential property.” The DDA supports the plan.

Planning Staff member Darcy Schmitt presented the application. Boyle asked whether “takeout” alcohol meant growlers, and Schmitt responded that yes, the requested license would allow the sale of growlers and six packs. Schmitt remarked that several existing establishments have an SDM license, including El Azteco and Harpers.

Beier asked if there were limitations on how late establishments with SDM licenses are allowed to sell alcohol to be taken off the premises. Schmitt responded that such sales are permitted until the business closes.

City Council put approval of this application on the consent agenda for their October 6 meeting, meaning that approval is likely to occur without further discussion.

Tin Can seeking permission for a restaurant and bar downtown: “Tin Can East Lansing, LLC” is seeking a special use permit (SUP) for a restaurant and bar at 313/317 E. Grand River Avenue, the site of the old Melting Moments ice cream shop, what is now the State Side Deli. Planning Commission voted to approve this request 5-2. According to the City’s staff report, the bar would serve beer, wine, and liquor. The staff report also says “there is a pending violations [sic] associated with this property under the current owner of the property relating to the active Special Use Permit on the property.” City staff has recommended approval.

Darcy Schmitt presented the application to Council. Goddeeris said the staff report expressed some concern about whether Tin Can could meet the requirements of the City’s 50/50 rule, which requires that at least half of the money an alcohol-serving restaurant makes comes from food sales. Schmitt indicated that, in the public hearing, the applicant acknowledged that it might be difficult, and that they’d be open to lunchtime hours once they got a feel for the market.

Beier said that Mr. Soka (owner of State Side Deli, the current business at the 313/317 E. Grand River) had previously asked to extend his liquor license and “we said no.” She asked “Why is this different?” Schmitt answered that it’s different because the DDA, not Council, refused to provide him with a DDA license, that there was confusion with the DDA license and the result is that Soka currently has a “resort license.”

Various appointments: City Council approved appointment of the following people to the university Student Commission for a full term ending April 30, 2016: Terrance Range, Council of Graduate Students; Faith Krogulecki, Panhellenic Council; Abid Ahmad, at-large member; Charles Alex Noffsinger, Associated Students of MSU; Sarah Wallace, Community Relations Coalition; Natalie Liogas, Olin Health Center; Connor Meston, Inter-Cooperative Council.

Council also approved the reappointment of Nancy Schertzing to the Elected Officers Compensation Commission for a full term ending September 30, 2022.

Councilmember reports: Councilmember Boyle said how much she was enjoying this time of the year at the EL Farmers Market. Mayor Triplett reminded everyone that the next CRC cleanup will take place on Sunday, September 27th.

City Manager’s report: The City Manager spoke of attending an inservice for nonprofit groups, and indicated his plans to attend a conference in Seattle. The City Manager also requested and received Council’s permission to go into closed-door session with the City Attorney to discuss litigation pending against the City.


Note: Last night’s meeting was a “work session” which means it was not broadcast or videotaped. You can listen to an audiotape of the meeting by clicking here and going down to “Archived Meetings” and then down to “City Council Work Session.” Click on “audio” for the session dated 09/09/21.

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