Council to Discuss Drones, Deer, Permit Parking

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Thursday, February 4, 2016, 12:07 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

This is ELi's Capsule for the East Lansing City Council meeting of February 2, 2016.

A lot happened at East Lansing’s City Council meeting this week for a relatively short meeting. As we do each week with Council Capsule, here we give you the rundown, with links to reports on the more significant items.

Restriction on flying drones: Council decided to hold a public hearing at its February 16 meeting on whether to regulate the use of flying drones in the City. A memo from the City Attorney explains how he developed the draft ordinance, which, if passed, would limit the flying of drones in the City limits. The matter is likely to be decided at the February 16 meeting. (A flying drone is shown in the image above.)

City Attorney may change:  Council passed a resolution allowing the City Manager George Lahanas to draft a request for proposals from attorneys that might want to become the City’s new chief counsel. See ELi’s special report on this.

Deer debate continues: Council had previously said it would revisit the question of deer culls (organized kills) in City parks at Tuesday’s meeting, but they pushed this off further to the February 23 meeting. As mLive has reported, deer culls are causing major political debate at the Ann Arbor City Council.

At this week's East Lansing’s Council, Robert Posey of Whitehills spoke, as he has previously, against the cull. (He said he was doing so because he will be unable to attend the February 23 meeting.) He said that there have been very few confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease in Michigan, and none in East Lansing, although he acknowledged the incubation period for the disease may be up to five years, “so we have to remain vigilant.” He said the family group (“not a herd”) in Whitehills Park appears healthy, and that he has found no reports of property damage in Whitehills or of an increase of car-deer accidents in East Lansing. He said he hoped the Council would keep this data in mind and strongly urged them not to allow the cull but to continue to revisit the deer issue as necessary.

Ice Skating Rink coming: Mayor Mark Meadows reminded everyone that there will be a “pop-up” ice skating rink in Valley Court Park, February 11-25. He said that if the rain occuring Tuesday were to keep up, the rink might need lifeguards. He suggested we might “pray for a little icy weather.”

Gainsborough Drive culvert to be replaced: Council decided on its consent agenda to approve a $62,000 plan to replacing a 48” corrugated metal pipe culvert under Gainsborough drive west of Colorado Drive. This will be paid for out of the drain account and the local streets account. Staff recommended this plan after reviewing the bids received from potential contractors.

Moratorium on permit-parking changes: Council unanimously approved a moratorium on any further changes to permit-parking-only zones in the City. This will not impact the recently-approved controversial expansion of permit parking in Chesterfield Hills. Confusion broke out earlier this week in Chesterfield Hills following the appearance of new permit-only signs followed by their removal. Mayor Meadows said he should be blamed for that confusion and that the signs will go back up as approved.

One resident of the neighborhood came to speak on this, saying that there was a lot of animosity in the neighborhood following the controversy, and that he thought it would be a better idea to make an entire neighborhood permit-only so that parking problems don’t simply get pushed to the next street. He said what was happening was “moving the problem around the neighborhood.”

Meadows said the plan was to introduce parking issue at the February 16 meeting of Council (which means it will actually be discussed at a meeting later than that).

Council limits number of bedrooms in some structures:  Council unanimously approved a zoning change that will limit the number of bedrooms that can be in a housing unit in multi-family and business districts. (This does not impact single-family houses in ordinary residential neighborhoods.) The goal is to have it be so that, in these districts, units with a lot of bedrooms (likely to be student rentals) require special approval of council. See ELi's separate report on this.

New standards established for downtown development: Council also unanimously approved an ordinance that requires new buildings in the downtown “city center” (zoned B-3) district to reach a minimum of four-stories. The change also requires that projects have more mixes of housing options (with more studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments than three-bedrooms). Developers will also be allowed to get a waiver from a majority of Council to get out of the current requirement to dedicate the first floor to retail commercial space. The new rule also requires “an appropriate balance” of rentals, senior housing, and condos. ELi has a special separate report on this.

Falcon Pointe condo house plan approved: Council unanimously approved a plan for 102 new, small three-bedroom houses in Falcon Pointe, north of the Hawk Nest neighborhood (off Chandler Road near the Eagle Eye Golf Course). These will be condominiums, meaning they will be houses that are all part of a condo association, with private roads maintained by the condo association. We will have a separate report on this.

Altmann attends LEAP: Councilmember Erik Altmann reported that he attended a meeting of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and praised East Lansing’s “active and engaged business community,” specifically naming Jackson National Life as a benefit to the city.

Other consent agenda items: On a consent agenda—meaning a list of issues voted on as a block without further discussion—Council approved a change to a proposed ordinance for post-construction stormwater management. The issue will be discussed (and possibly get final approval) on February 16 at Council.

Council approved a deal with Gabriel, Roeder, Smith & Company to do an actuarial valuation for the City’s Retiree Health Care Plan. The cost of that consultancy is capped at $30,000.

A resolution in support of participation in the regional recycling initiative was also approved. According to a memo from Cathy DeShambo, this is aimed at increasing recycling services in the region, reducing the costs, financial and environmental, of transporting materials out of the region, and bringing jobs and news businesses to the region.

Council also approved the appointment of Nicole Mannino and Jacob Rothert to the University Student Commission and the appointment of John Robison and James Bradley to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Two deals related to the Water Resource Recovery Facility (formerly called the Wastewater Treatment Plant) were approved, one for about $471,000 and the other for $19,800.

City Manager away: Deputy City Manager and Director of Planning Tim Dempsey stepped in for City Manager George Lahanas at Council this week because Lahanas is in Port Huron for a meeting of government managers.

Crystal Award nominations: Councilmember Susan Woods reminded everyone the City is accepting nominations for the 2016 Crystal Awards which “honor individuals, businesses, professionals, non-profits and community groups that have made an outstanding contribution to community life in East Lansing.”

 

Reminder: You can speak or write to East Lansing’s City Council on any issue, not only those listed on published agendas.

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