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Monday, March 18,2013

Council Night

Public hearings scheduled for Monday night on various pieces of the downtown casino proposal. Will opponents continue to outnumber supporters?

by Andy Balaskovitz
Friday, March 9 — The Lansing City Council is scheduled to hold public hearings Monday night on four components of the downtown casino proposal.

The hearings come on the heels of two public forums hosted by the Council in the past week and a half that brought out mostly opponents to the idea. At least four Council members told City Pulse this week they’re undecided on how they’ll vote on the proposal, citing the need for more questions answered by the administration as well as public input.

On Thursday, 4th Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko wondered on Facebook how many supporters are out there: “Have mostly had ‘anti’ speakers at the hearings, not a lot of ‘pro’. Someone suggested to me yesterday that perhaps there is a ‘silent majority’ in favor of the casino. ???”

Lansing resident John Krohn, who ran unsuccessfully for an At-Large Council seat last fall, posted this message on City Pulse’s website following Wednesday night’s forum: “I attended the forum tonight, and if I'm not mistaken 3 people spoke in support of the casino and (I'm estimating) at least 20 people spoke against it. If our city council is truly interested in what the constituency thinks, then they have their answer.”

Three of the public hearings involve the casino developer’s plans to build a mixed-use, 2,500-space parking ramp north of Cooley Law School Stadium. A fourth is on various components of the proposal that involve selling city-owned property near the Lansing Center. The administration has hoped the Council will vote on the pieces at its March 19 meeting.

The “Kewadin Grand River Casino Development” resolution involves selling two city-owned properties to the casino developer, Lansing Future, LLC: a city-owned maintenance garage just north of Cooley Law School Stadium and the property northeast of the Lansing Center for the permanent, “showcase” casino. The resolution also includes plans to build a public right-of-way near the Shiawassee and Cedar streets intersection and develop an elevated parking ramp on the east side of the Lansing Center.

A second public hearing is on a brownfield redevelopment plan for about four acres north of Cooley Law School stadium. Lansing Future, LLC, the casino developer, wants to use the property for a 2,500-space parking ramp and 60,000 square feet for retail and commercial space. The plan would last up to 35 years and reimburse the developer for the cost of cleaning up the property. Of the nearly $57 million investment planned by Lansing Future, nearly $21 million of such is eligible brownfield activities. The baseball stadium and Cedar, Larch and Shiawassee streets bound the property.

According to the brownfield plan, Lansing Future will redevelop the site in two phases beginning in 2014. Phase one includes the six-story parking garage and a nearly $45 million investment. The second phase is scheduled to begin the same year and is $12 million worth of retail and commercial space. Nearly $21 million in anticipated new taxes from the redevelopment will go back to Lansing Future.

The other two public hearings are on technicalities for moving the parking ramp development along: rezoning the property from industrial to business and granting a special land use permit to actually build it.
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