ELi’s Voter Guide to the Land Sale Question

Friday, October 25, 2019, 1:14 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

East Lansing voters will have the chance on their November 5 ballots to vote on whether City Council should be given permission to sell a chunk of land owned by the City.

The land consists of about 27 acres on the northwest side of the City, at the southwest corner of the intersection of West and Coleman Roads. It’s vacant except for two billboards.

The City Charter requires that, for a property as valuable as this, City Council obtain the permission of a majority of voters to sell. The map below (taken from a City map) marks the land with a yellow star.

Selling the land at issue on the November ballot could bring the City of East Lansing much needed revenue. The City has no use for the land at this time.

If a majority of voters say “yes,” Council can decide when to sell, to whom to sell, how much to sell for, and the terms of the sale.

As we reported back in June, the ballot language that was approved by City Council for this item does not restrict how the City Council could ultimately go about selling the land. It simply asks voters to give Council permission to sell the land. If voters say "yes," Council could decide to sell parts of the parcel in separate deals. If Council sells part, it will not need to come back to voters for approval to sell the rest.

We don’t know who will be on the next City Council that could then decide what to do with this land if voters pass this measure. Voters will be electing three Council members on the same ballot, from a slate of six (two incumbents and four challengers).

Sometimes voters approve sale of land and it doesn’t get sold for many years.

According to data provided to ELi by then-City Clerk Marie Wicks back in 2015, voters approved the sale of the land of the old Department of Public Works site back in 2002, but the final sale of that land – for a million dollars, via eBay, to a marijuana industry real estate speculator – did not happen until this year.

It appears from the eBay land sale that some decisions about the sale of public land can be made by City staff. We say that because Council did not make the decision to sell that land via an eBay auction. It appears City staff, operating under City Manager George Lahanas, made that decision. (Council could have decided to reject the whole process by rejecting the sale agreement that followed, but did not do so.)

What could happen to the land along West and Coleman Roads if East Lansing voters agree to authorize the City to sell it depends to some extent on how future Councils zone the land. Again, that can’t be predicted. The ballot language contains no restriction on what future Councils could decide.

The ballot language says this:

“In an effort to recoup the purchase price for property that was purchased as the result of tax foreclosure proceedings, is the City Council authorized to sell all or a portion of the 26.83 acres of mostly vacant, unimproved property (unimproved except for two billboards) located at the southwest corner of the West Road and Coleman Road intersection in the northwest tier of the City?”

Voters are asked to vote “yes” or “no.”

Whether this ballot proposal passes will not impact the Coleman Road extension. (We’ve heard some confusion on that point.)

If you’re interested in how the City came to own this property, read this report from ELi.

If you’re interested in the candidates for City Council, check out our voter guide.

 

 

 

 

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