Above: Mayor Mark Meadows picking up recycling from senior citizens as part of the “Recycle! East Lansing” event
While ELi was on break the week following our successful fundraising campaign, East Lansing’s City Council met for nearly two hours on June 7, with all five members present, to discuss a variety of issues. A portion of the meeting was spent discussing a proposed tax abatement for a solar project on MSU’s campus, a matter that was ultimately deferred to the June 21 meeting.
“Recycle! East Lansing” event a success: Mayor Meadows said that this year’s annual community recycling event was a success, and that it’s on-site disposal was the best in the history of the event.
White Oak Place TIF and site plan revisions: Council unanimously passed several updates to the language of both the Brownfield and site plan agreements for White Oak Place, the large new development to be built at the corner of Grand River and Spartan Avenues. The Brownfield plan was updated with a 28.5% capture, which would result in the dollar amount requested by Council upon original passage.
The site plan was also updated to account for discussed “closure” by the Department of Environmental Quality. A condition of the recently-approved site plan required DEQ closure (final approval of the environmental clean-up) prior to occupancy. However, DEQ will be unable to confirm environmental closure until 2018. The revised language of condition #20 requires closure within two years of occupancy.
Councilmember Altmann also moved to add condition #21 to the site plan, which would require that “developer shall follow arborist best practices” in consultation with the City engineer in preserving the site namesake white oak tree. The condition was also passed unanimously.
“Celebrations” ordinance updated: Following discussion of ordinance 1372 (the so-called “celebrations” ordinance) during and subsequent to the May 24 Council meeting, Council voted unanimously to revise the ordinance with language that narrowed the scope of criminal offense in relation to one’s proximity to a “celebration” fire (i.e., a bonfire set typically after major MSU games). The revisions were proposed after Judge Andrea Larkin ruled the existing ordinance unconstitutional.
The ordinance originally criminalized being within 300 feet of a fire regardless of intent. Mayor Meadows moved to substitute more limiting language, revising the ordinance to prohibit “knowingly or intentionally” obstructing public safety.
Attorney Patrick Rose of Oxford Road in Glencairn, who voiced strong criticism against the proposed language at the May 24 meeting, spoke during the public hearing and presented alternative language to Council for adoption. (The language substituted by Meadows and ultimately passed by Council was based on Rose’s suggestions.) Rose described Larkin’s decision as “an extraordinary ruling” and “unusual” because it describes the ordinance to be facially unconstitutional.
Jay Todd, also of Oxford Road, also spoke in opposition to the original language (and in support of Rose’s criticism and revisions), describing it as using “a blunt tool” to deal with “a real problem.”
During Council discussion, Meadows recalled voting for the original ordinance in 1999 in reaction to rioting in March of that year. Meadows said that, having recently re-read the original language, “I’m embarrassed that I voted for it to begin with,” as the language is “clearly unconstitutional.” He added, “I agree with Judge Larkin’s decision and Mr. Rose’s analysis.”
Councilmembers Shanna Draheim, Erik Altmann, and Susan Woods also voiced support for the changes, with Draheim and Altmann highlighting their support for the process and community engagement.
Costco maybe coming: Council approved amending annexation conditions in agreement with Meridian Township for possible development of a proposed Costco at Park Lake Road and Saginaw Highway. City Attorney Tom Yeadon and Mayor Meadows explained that the annexation agreement must be made in tandem with Meridian Township (currently in progress), and that the annexation conditions are only being updated for consideration of the Costco project specifically. Should the Costco project not go forward, then the annexation conditions revert to back to the conditions as they were before Tuesday’s passage.
Park naming committee named: Mayor Mark Meadows listed the committee members who will consider renaming “No Name Park” at Albert Avenue and Abbot Road to honor the late Bill Sharp by naming the park after him. Meadows has indicated this to be his wish. Members include: Doug Jester, Jim Little, Fred Fabian, Charlotte Sprinkle, and Pat Reilly. The committee’s recommendations will be submitted to Council by June 24.
Ceramics studio fundraiser: Councilmember Susan Woods announced a fundraiser for the ceramics studio that was housed in the now-closed Bailey Community Center and is scheduled to be moved to Hannah Community Center. The fundraiser will occur June 22 at 4:30 p.m. and will include activities, a ceramics sale, and a screening of The Second Mother.
As this reporter discussed at the May 10 Council meeting, the City applied for the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs Assurances (MCACA) grant after it closed the Bailey ceramics studio, but over $20,000 of the matching funds to continue the studio are expected to be raised by ceramics studio participants themselves. As of this writing, $1,020 has been raised through Generosity.com.
Non-conforming use committee: Former East Lansing Mayor Doug Jester presented an update to Council regarding the non-conforming use committee, for which he has served as chair. He praised the “outstanding support” from City staff, and described the committee as “very active and engaged” with “civil discussions.”
Jester submitted the committee’s findings and recommendations for Council’s consideration, along with feedback from each committee member. Meadows said that legislation for items that received “the most support” would be considered, which would then offer a way for greater public input through public hearings.
Consent agenda items: The consent agenda was passed unanimously and mostly without discussion. It included:
- approving a policy resolution update and DPW criteria regarding sidewalk repair and construction;
- approving an increase of up to $4,250 for the Gainsborough Drive culvert replacement (increasing the cost to $66,000);
- approving a proposal for a full-time on-site field inspector from Wolverine Engineers & Surveyors to temporarily replace a City Engineering Technician who is on medical leave;
- approving a change in enforcement hours of downtown parking meters and spaces, extending the hours to 3:00 a.m.;
- approving purchase of 92 credit card (“smart”) parking meters for $46,000 and 6 multi-space meters for $59,585;
- approving extending the existing sewer cleaning and televising (video-examination) agreement with United Resources, LLC from $380,000 to $450,000;
- approving a decision to have the City Manager sign the MCACA form requesting up to $30,000 for the 2017 East Lansing Art Festival;
- approving a conditional Class 3 rental license for 600 Albert Place, Unit 416;
- setting a public hearing for June 21, 2016 for Ordinance No. 1374 to update the city ethics code to comply with federal grants;
- approving up to $82,000 of additional ballistic and medical equipment, which shall be fully reimbursed from the Competitive Grant Assistance Program;
- approving rezoning a 39.888 acre area along East Saginaw Highway between Park Lake and East Lake Lansing Roads to become B2, Retail Sales Business District;
- approving resolutions to induct the following in the East Lansing Hall of Fame for excellence in East Lansing High School athletics: Jeff Brubaker, Robert Brown, Craig Fedore, Abe Geiger, Bradley Edward Jones, Ron Mead, Andrew Dean, Timothy Miller, Kitty Hryniewicz Mitchell, Dan Olsen, Doug Petroff, Alexandra Hilbert Weisner, the 1951 Boys’ Tennis Team, and the 1981 Boys’ Ski Team.
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