New Public Art, Becoming a Bike-Friendly City, and Much More at Council

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Friday, May 27, 2016, 8:28 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

This is your weekly Council Capsule, summarizing what happened this week at East Lansing’s City Council.

New building along Valley Court Park to have large art display: To address the “percent for art” requirement, the building under construction at 300 West Grand River Avenue (just west of Biggby Coffee and just south of Valley Court Park) will see the addition of a large art installation as shown above.

White Oak Place gets two approvals, but neither what the developer asked: The White Oak Place development took up most of the meeting at Council this week. For a special report on that by ELi’s Government reporter Chris Root, click here.

Park naming question: Council approved a resolution allowing Mayor Mark Meadows to appoint a committee to recommend to Council who “no name park” (at the northeast corner of Albert Street and Abbot Road) should be named after. Meadows has already said he wants the park named after the late Bill Sharp. (You can read Ken Palmer’s and Dawn Parker’s remembrance of Sharp in the Lansing State Journal.)

In response to a question from this reporter, Mayor Mark Meadows confirmed there are no parks in East Lansing named after a girl or a woman. Meadows noted that anyone can suggest a candidate for whom a park could be named.

Recycle event upcoming: Betsy Riley, representing the Recycling Committee, reminded everyone of the big annual recycling event coming up on June 4. She said they are still looking for volunteers to help.

“Celebrations” ordinance being revised: Council set a public hearing for June 7, 2016, for a proposed revision of the “celebrations” ordinance, which aims at stopping people from being near or staying near burning couches and the like. As reported by Matt Mencarni in the Lansing State Journal, Judge Andrea Larkin recently ruled the existing ordinance unconstitutional.

During public comments, Glencairn resident and attorney Patrick Rose sharply criticized the proposed revision of the ordinance. He suggested the City Attorney’s office, which is paid by the hour by the City, has a history of giving problematic legal advice on ordinances, creating laws that will later have to be defended in court by the City Attorney, costing City taxpayers more. (Rose also raised this criticism in discussion last year of the “rooftop party” ordinance.)

In response to a question from Mayor Pro Tem Ruth Beier, City Attorney Tom Yeadon said the East Lansing Police Department has been advised by him not to enforce the ordinance while the matter is worked on.

Bike friendly city? Councilmember Erik Altmann said that along with Mayor Mark Meadows and staff from the City Planning department, he attended the MSU Bike Friendly America Conference recently at the Kellogg Center. He learned that Lansing is certified “bronze” as a “bike friendly city” and that MSU is certified “silver” but that East Lansing has not applied. He and Meadows said they want the City to apply. This involves a detailed self-study that can be useful for understanding how to make improvements for bicyclists.

MSUFCU topping off: Mayor Mark Meadows reported that he attended the recent “topping-off” ceremony at the construction site of the new MSUFCU building on the northern end of town. He said MSUFCU has been a “great partner” to the City, and that while he knows some people were unhappy the credit union located its headquarters on the north end rather than downtown, they are building beautiful structures there.

Bailey Center lease amendment approved: Council approved an amendment to the lease between the City and Capital Area Housing Partnership for the Bailey Community Center. It makes the gym available to a limited extent to performers and art exhibitors. Councilmember Susan Woods suggested a rewording she said was wanted by the Arts Commission, but ultimately Council voted in what had been proposed in advance of the meeting and was posted in the agenda.

Possible tax exemption for MSU-based solar project: Council set a public hearing for June 7, 2016, to consider an application from Spartan PV 1, LLC for a personal property tax exemption for a large solar array the company wants to build on MSU parking lots. Councilmember Ruth Beier asked for clearer calculations on how much money the City might be giving up if it gives an exemption from the tax the company would otherwise owe. On June 7, Council will also consider the creation of an Industrial Development District as needed for this project.

Lots of items on the consent agenda: Council approved without discussion many items on its consent agenda. Many of these items were discussed in more detail at last week’s meeting; see our report on that. The 5-0 votes included: approval of the city attorney contract; approval of a contract with Carl Walker for Design & Engineering to fix the MAC parking garage; approval of a resolution to create the Citizen Innovation and Technology Panel. (Meadows added Altmann as the council liaison.)

The consent agenda also included approval of a resolution authorizing the City Manager to execute the cost sharing agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for the reconstruction of North Harrison Road between Saginaw Street and Lake Lansing Road; approval of a contract for $782,266.00 to perform infrastructure upgrades in the Chesterfield Hills Neighborhood comprised of local street improvements, sidewalk repairs, water main replacement on Glenmoor, and sewer spot repairs; approval of a License for Use of Public Right of Way Agreement between the City of East Lansing and Keys to Creativity to put three pianos around the City for public use.

The consent agenda further included approval of a request by the MSU Museum to close streets and parking lots, use amplified sound and regulate vendors within the festival site for the duration of the Great Lakes Folk Festival; approval of a resolution authorizing submission of an Ingham County Parks and Trails Millage Grant application for replacement and repair of the six bridges in East Lansing; approval of a request by the Parks, Recreation and the Arts Department to close lots and streets for the Summer Solstice Jazz Festival; approval to perform lane closures on Mount Hope and Forest in support of the Hawk Island Triathlon on Sunday, June 5, 2016.

It also included approval of a contract for city workers with McLaren Health Plan, and the setting of a public hearing for consideration to submit the Consolidated Plan document to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Budget tax rate and fee schedule approved: After much work on the Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Tax Rate and Fee Schedule, Council approved the plan. Mary Haskell, Finance Director, and her staff were praised and thanked. Meadows said, “This is a great budget that staff has put together and council has assisted with and we are going to continue working on improving the financial condition of the city.” Read Chris Root’s last report on the budget and fee increases.

Reminder: Members of the public can speak to Council at its meetings during the section dedicated to “communications from the audience” and can also Council if they wish to comment on any issue before the City.

 

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