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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

Proposed golf course plans go down. ‘Are we just going to leave Frandor standing out there naked?”

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, May 24 — Council members want more details. The city says they don’t exist.

That sums up why three Lansing City Council members blocked two proposals set forth by the Bernero administration that would have asked voters permission to sell city parkland. The City Charter says voter approval is required to sell dedicated parkland.

In two 4-3 votes in favor of the resolutions — with five needed for approval — during Committee of the Whole Monday night, Council members Brian Jeffries, Derrick Quinney and Carol Wood voted against moving forward on separate proposals that would have asked voters to sell a portion of Red Cedar Park for potential redevelopment and all of the former Waverly Golf Course and adjacent Michigan Avenue Park.

First Ward Councilman Eric Hewitt, who has said he opposes the Red Cedar proposal but supports the Waverly sale, was absent. Council members Kathie Dunbar, Tina Houghton, A’Lynne Robinson and Jessica Yorko supported the resolutions.

Quinney said after the meeting that the city wasn’t being upfront about redevelopment proposals for Red Cedar. The city has proposed selling off nearly 13 acres of the north side of the park along Michigan Avenue for private, mixed-use development and devoting the other 48 acres of the former golf course to a multi-use park. Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann has had plans for several years to turn the former golf course into a large-scale rainwater retention area that would serve large environmental benefits by preventing storm water from Frandor Shopping Center from directly entering the Red Cedar River.

“Several plans through the drain commissioner sounded absolutely fantastic. I know how stressed the area is and the need for proper drainage,” he said. “My concern is that two weeks out (from a Council vote) and now there’s 12 acres (for redevelopment)? Why haven’t I heard about that in the last year? Be up front about what you want to do with the thing.”

Most of the discussion during Committee of the Whole was about the Red Cedar proposal. The Waverly proposal is less elaborate and ballot language does not mention anything about redevelopment. Even so, Jeffries, Quinney and Wood voted against that proposal too.

Based on state law, today is the deadline to have ballot language submitted for the Aug. 2 election, City Clerk Chris Swope said. While Quinney said he wished the administration had divulged plans earlier, he denied that his vote was out of spite toward the administration.

“I just don’t want to be rushing into making a decision. Just give us the information and be upfront about it,” he said.

Bob Trezise, president and CEO of the Lansing Economic Development Corp., has said the city will attempt to get the resolutions on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot, but he said Monday night it’s not definite. If voters ultimately approve the sale — if given the chance — the LEDC would send out requests for proposals to private developers.

When asked by Robinson what new information would be made available if the vote was moved to November, Trezise said the only new information coming in would be the appraised value of the nearly 13 acres.

“I’m not sure what I’m supposed to answer,” he said after the meeting in an interview. “We’re simply asking voters — there is no decision-making going on.”

Lindemann said it will delay his portion of the project “at least a year to two years” because he’s waiting to see what type of development he’ll have to work around. Trezise said the roughly one-year delay that would likely come by putting the questions on the November ballot would stop “momentum” in the city.

“I just want to do great things for the city. Are we just going to leave Frandor standing out there naked? This (development) is pro-Frandor,” Trezise said.

Dunbar stressed the fact that the two proposals were for asking city voters’ permission to sell the property. She added that if voters approve the sale and an offer is made to the city by a potential developer, the Council would have to approve a development agreement.

“I don’t understand why we are going to say the public doesn’t have the right to vote on this. Because we (the Council) don’t agreement? Because three of us are opposed? I think we owe it to the folks that we have a vote on this,” she said. “This was the conversation we had before the (May 3) millage vote. I understand some up here didn’t support the millage, but we said let the public decide.”

The resolutions were scheduled to be voted on during the full Council meeting. However, the resolutions died in committee.

In other news, the Council unanimously approved a resolution for an Obsolete Property Rehabilitation Act incentive package for the developer of the two-story Walker Building at the corner of Washington and Grand River avenues just west of Old Town.

Saed Saboury wants to turn the former Dollar General into a mixed-use commercial and residential property with retail space on the first floor and five one-bedroom apartments on the second floor. The 12-year abatement would freeze peropty taxes on the structure by declaring it functionally obsolete. Saboury would still pay taxes on the land, which is valued at $29,800.

Saboury plans to spend more than $500,000 on renovations. The building has been vacant for more than a year.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved 15 other resolutions Monday:


  • Tribute recognizing Cristo Rey Catholic Church’s 50th anniversary and 31st annual fiesta that will take place Friday through Sunday at the church, 201 W. Miller Road in Lansing. See Wednesday’s City Pulse for more details on the fiesta;

  • Setting a public hearing for June 13 to consider a 20-year brownfield redevelopment incentive package for developer Scott Gillespie, who wants to build a new three-story mixed-use building on Lansing’s east side at the former Citgo gas station, 1621 E. Michigan Ave.;

  • Setting a public hearing for June 13 to consider a 12-year brownfield redevelopment incentive for the former YMCA building, 301 W. Lenawee St.;

  • Reappointing Lewis Douglas Johns III to the Downtown Lansing, Inc. board of directors for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Reappointing Kris Elliot to the same board for a term to expire June 30, 2014;

  • Reappointing Lamar Wilson to the Human Relations and Community Services board for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Appointing Jill Rhode to the Board of Fire Commissioners for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Reappointing Linda Sims to the Board of Police Commissioners for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Appointing Cleophus Anderson to the Board of Public Service for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Reappointing Paul Carrier to the Park Board for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Reappointing Patricia Spitzley to the same board for a term to expire June 30, 2015;

  • Transferring $3,102 from donations to the Ruth Hallman problem-solving account for the Police Department;

  • Transferring more than $60,000 in federal grants for the Automobile Theft Prevention Program;

  • Transferring nearly $280,000 in federal money obtained through asset seizures; and

  • Accepting an $85,000 grant for the Regional Coordination and Roadway Weather Information System that will establish a system for monitoring real-time weather information and how it could impact local roads in the case of emergencies.

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