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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Kids in the Hall

A new Red Cedar ballot proposal would ask voter permission to sell off the entirety of the golf course for redevelopment, though the administration says that probably wouldn’t happen

by Andy Balaskovitz
Monday, Aug. 13 — The Bernero administration is seeking voter permission to sell off the remaining 49 acres of the former Red Cedar Golf Course for redevelopment, a stark change from a ballot initiative voters approved in November authorizing the city to sell just 12.5 acres of the park along East Michigan Avenue.

Following a press release this afternoon announcing the plan, mayoral Chief of Staff Randy Hannan confirmed tonight that the city will ask voter approval to sell the rest of the park — 49 of 61.5 total acres — for redevelopment by local developer Joel Ferguson and businessman Chris Jerome. However, while Hannan said it’s “very likely” the proposal will include the rest of the park, it’s “unlikely the balance will be subject to the sale,” meaning the development will be tailored to fit within the area, not take up the entire space.

“Over the course of the process, the scope of the proposal could change,” Hannan said. “We think it’s very likely that a significant portion of the park will remain in public ownership. We will only sell what needs to be sold.”

The city announced today that it selected Jerome’s and Ferguson’s proposal over four others. The plan calls for redeveloping the golf course as well as two vacant car dealerships across Michigan Avenue to the north and adjacent to the golf course to the east. Their plan seeks to build housing, bars, a hotel, restaurants, retail stores, an amphitheater, a game field and nature trails.

When voters approved the sale of 12.5 acres last year, the plan also called for Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann’s repurposing of the other 48 acres to filter storm water runoff from Frandor and elsewhere in the Montgomery Drain system. Hannan said it’s unclear at this point what the new proposal will mean for Lindemann’s plans. “We’ll have to find out going forward if there’s a way to integrate those two things,” he said.

The administration hopes to have the question to voters at the Nov. 6 election. The Council will need to approve the ballot language by its Aug. 27 meeting; the deadline to approve ballot proposals is Aug. 28. If the Council votes down the proposal, or if voters reject it in November, the original 12.5 acres approved last year is still on the table. The administration will then revisit the five proposals submitted and possibly issue another request for proposals, Hannan said.

At least three Council members — Kathie Dunbar, Jody Washington and Jessica Yorko — expressed initial skepticism about the idea.

“I don’t think that’s what voters voted for — they voted for 12 acres,” Washington said. “The selling point (about the original proposal) was that we could invest in the rest of the park. I don’t think they voted to sell the entire park.”

What will happen to Lindemann’s plans to curb pollution into the river concerns Dunbar. “There would have to be a really compelling economic development component to give up that much land,” she said. “I’m open to the idea, but it has to pass muster with Lindemann. The river is still a big component of the design for me.”

Yorko said: “I would have reservations about selling off that much land.”
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