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Monday, March 18,2013

Kids in the Hall

Council’s action on Oliver Towers proposal is tabled for a week. Also a missed deadline for budget priorities

by Andy Balaskovitz
Tuesday, Oct. 4 — The Lansing City Council will take another week before formally discussing a development agreement that would give the downtown Oliver Towers property to Davenport University in exchange for other downtown property.

A proposal before the Council involves trading a 3.01-acre, city-owned block surrounded by Seymour and Capitol avenues and Shiawassee and Ionia streets for 2.73 acres, owned by Davenport University, at Kalamazoo and Cherry streets.

Davenport is looking to expand its Lansing campus and has eyed the property that holds Oliver Towers. The Lansing Housing Commission is the only tenant in the eight-story structure. As part of the agreement, Davenport would demolish the structure and build a new $10 million, three-story structure across the street from Lansing Community College.

The Council — along with the Lansing Housing Commission Board, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Davenport Board of Trustees — needs to approve the proposed agreement in order for the swap to take place.

The Council’s Committee of the Whole had the proposal scheduled for “action/discussion” on its agenda Monday night, but Council President A’Lynne Robinson decided to schedule a special Committee of the Whole meeting for next Monday at 6 p.m.: “After having conversations with the administration … we (Council) haven’t had enough time to review this,” she said.

Robinson said the plan is to have the Council vote on the agreement at its Oct. 24 meeting, with a public hearing sometime between now and then

However, the Council’s discussion comes amid claims from Lansing Community College officials that LCC also is interested in the property. The city’s property includes a 200-space parking lot on the corner of Shiawassee and Capitol that LCC leases for $175,000 a year.

Chris Strugar-Fritsch, LCC’s executive director of administrative services, addressed the Council briefly during Monday night’s Committee of the Whole meeting.

“I’m here to inform you that Lansing Community College is very interested in the process of the disposition of Oliver Towers and parking lot No. 2,” he said. “Lansing Community College is very interested in acquiring these properties.”

At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar said she has had “limited contact, very little, from anyone at LCC regarding this issue.” Dunbar added that she would like to know if acquiring the Oliver Towers block is part of LCC’s five-year Master Plan.

“There are different interpretations of communications over the last few years regarding city discussion on the property — (LCC) being interested and (LCC) not being interested,” Dunbar said. “The Master Plan would indicate some intent if it’s listed there.”

For more on the “different interpretations” of LCC’s intent, check out City Pulse’s Sept. 21 story. (http://www.lansingcitypulse.com/lansing/article-6356-the-lcc-davenport-tug-of-war-over-oliver-towers.html)

In other delayed business, the Council was scheduled to discuss its fiscal year 2013 budget priorities in Committee of the Whole Monday, but that too was tabled by Robinson. The City Charter says those should have been written and adopted by Council no later than Oct. 1.

The Council “shall adopt a statement of City-wide budget Policies and priorities each year and shall transmit it to the Mayor no later than October 1,” according to the City Charter.

Robinson said during Committee of the Whole that priorities are drafted and then reviewed by each of the Council’s seven committees for revisions. Those were issued in September, but due to “meeting schedules” and “availability of committee chairs,” recommendations aren’t ready from all of the committees.

“We certainly have been working on it,” Robinson said. “We will move forward expressly.”

In more delayed business, the Council’s Committee of the Whole was scheduled to discuss Act 425 tax sharing agreements between the city and DeWitt Township, but will do so next week when Lansing Economic Development Corp. President and CEO Bob Trezise is available to explain what Deputy Chief of Staff Randy Hannan called “complex agreements.”

These agreements seek to create a state-designated “aerotropolis” around the Lansing airport. Such a designation — which would be the second in the state along with Detroit Metro Airport — is meant to attract development near the airport, Mayor Virg Bernero said Monday.

The proposed tax-sharing agreements need approval from the Council and the DeWitt Township Board of Trustees before the municipalities can apply to the state for an “aerotropolis” designation, Bernero said.

Meanwhile, Council members are yet to see the agreements. Hannan said “hopefully” the Council will get them today. The Council plans to discuss the agreements further at a special Committee of the Whole meeting next Monday, schedule a public hearing for Oct. 17 and vote on the agreements Oct. 24.

While scheduled business was delayed during Committee of the Whole, the Council had no legislative business on its regular meeting agenda.
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