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Thanks for checking out the East Lansing City Council Recap. This publication is sent out after each regular and discussion-only City Council meeting. Plan for future meetings by viewing the 2019 meeting schedule here:

Readers are encouraged to contact the East Lansing City Manager's Office with questions: (517) 319-6920

Highlights from the May 14 Meeting

At its discussion-only meeting on May 14, the East Lansing City Council was given a presentation on the East Lansing Safe Routes to School (EL SRTS) program. EL SRTS program team member Karen Pfeiffer explained to City Council that the program encourages children to walk and bike to school by implementing projects that make bicycling and walking to school safer and more appealing transportation alternatives. East Lansing Engineering Administrator Nicole McPherson explained that staff is in the process of applying for a major grant through the Michigan SRTS program to fund infrastructure projects for the EL SRTS program. The projects include installing three traffic islands and appropriate signage along Burcham Drive and installing sidewalks along Snyder Road. McPherson reported that the grant application will be submitted at the end of June 2019 and the grant funding decision will likely take place in October 2019. If funding is approved, construction would tentatively begin in spring 2022. McPherson also noted that letters will be sent out to affected property owners and the EL SRTS team is working on the non-infrastructure components of the grant, including education, encouragement and enforcement.

Update on Park Place Development Project

East Lansing Community & Economic Development Administrator Tom Fehrenbach presented to Council an update on the proposed Park Place development project. In December 2018, Royal Apartments, LLC and Vlahakis Development, LLC submitted a site plan for a mixed-use redevelopment on the northwest corner of Abbot Road and Albert Avenue, which includes the Downtown Development Authority-owned properties on Evergreen Avenue. The developer’s initial plans included two buildings, Park Place East and Park Place West, which included retail and office space, a movie theater, condos and a mechanical parking system.

In April 2019, the DDA was informed by the development team that their initial site plans were not financially feasible. Now, the developers have separated the redevelopment into two different projects and hope to begin development on the Park Place West building first. For this project, the developers are proposing a 14-story building with one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, an underground parking garage, a public market and significant infrastructure upgrades. Additionally, 25 percent of the apartments would be designated as low- to moderate-income housing.

Councilmembers provided their feedback on the newly proposed project. Councilmembers Ruth Beier, Shanna Draheim and Aaron Stephens voiced concerns about the building being too tall due to its location next to Valley Court Park. Councilmember Draheim recommended using the City’s master plan as a guide for the building height. Councilmembers also voiced concerns about the public market and whether it would be viable.

Mayor Mark Meadows and Councilmembers Draheim and Stephens expressed support of the developer’s plan to designate 25 percent of the apartments as low- to moderate-income housing.

The DDA has extended the deadline for the development agreement to May 25 and will allow for three 30-day extensions. The developers must submit their site plan for the Park Place West building by June 1 and their brownfield plan by July 24. View the staff memo here

Form-Based Code for Downtown East Lansing 

East Lansing Planning & Zoning Administrator David Haywood presented to Council an update on the Planning Commission’s efforts to formulate a form-based code in the form of an ordinance for downtown East Lansing.

In September 2018, the Planning Commission began looking at the form-based code and realized it was going to take a more focused, streamlined effort to get through the dense document. In October 2018, a subcommittee was created with objectives to simplify the form-based code, tailor it to East Lansing and ensure it’s consistent with the City’s master plan. So far, the subcommittee has held seven meetings and has contracted consultants to answer questions, provide input and make edits. Haywood explained that the subcommittee expects to hold five to six more meetings before forwarding their recommended changes to the Planning Commission. View the timeline here.

Haywood also explained that staff is recommending having public participation prior to the introduction of the ordinance. “We would like to engage the community to help make sure the code is meeting their goals as much as it’s meeting your (Council’s) goals as an ordinance,” said Haywood.

East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows voiced concerns about changes being made to the form-based code as development projects are being proposed where the form-based code would be applied. The form-based code would be applied within the following areas: the Grand River Avenue and Michigan corridor, from the west edge of the City to just east of Hagadorn Road; the southwest corner of the Bailey Neighborhood (diagonally going up toward Burcham Drive); and Valley Court Park. Mayor Meadows recommended a moratorium be placed on development projects within this area until the form-based code is finalized. East Lansing City Attorney Tom Yeadon said that is an option. Council agreed to discuss the idea of a moratorium at their next discussion-only meeting on Tuesday, June 11. View the staff memo here.

Placing West Road Property Sale on November Ballot

East Lansing City Attorney Tom Yeadon presented to Council a proposed ballot resolution to place the West Road property sale on the November 5, 2019 General Election ballot.

In November 2018, the City purchased 27 acres of vacant land off of West Road to protect a special assessment that was owed to the City. The previous owner of the land was in tax foreclosure for several years due to unpaid property taxes, including up to $1,225,000 owed to the City for special assessments, property taxes and related interest. As is standard in these types of cases, Clinton County began making annual payments that were owed to the City when each year's property tax bill on this land went unpaid. Once the foreclosure was finalized, the County put the land up for sale. If the land had been sold to a third party for less than what the County had paid in special assessment costs and taxes to the City over the years, the City would have been required to pay back the difference. By purchasing the property, the City has the option of selling the land with a vote of the people, which will allow the City to recover the full amount, if not more, that the City is owed. View the City's news release on the land sale here.

Council will review the proposed ballot resolution and it will be a business agenda item at the Council meeting on June 18.  If the proposal is approved, the property sale will be placed on the November 5, 2019 General Election ballot for voter authorization.

Public Safety Review Board

Additionally, Council discussed a proposed ordinance that would create a Public Safety Review Board. Councilmember Stephens explained that the East Lansing Human Relations Commission (HRC) and East Lansing Police Department leadership have been discussing the creation of a public safety review board to review complaints against public safety personnel, both internal and external. The review board would include members from the HRC, University Student Commission and public, who would have oversight on the investigative process. If the review board had an issue with the way a complaint was being investigated, they could request that the City Manager review the complaint. Stephens hopes that creating the review board will increase transparency and engage citizens in the complaint process.

“Being proactive on things like this is really, really important because communities shouldn’t have these conversations after something happens,” said Stephens. “I think this is a step in the right direction.”

The ordinance will be introduced at next week’s Council meeting and Council will set a public hearing for the ordinance for its June 18 meeting.

Allocation of One-Time Revenue Sources

East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas presented to Council staff’s recommendations for the allocation of additional one-time revenue sources. Lahanas explained that, through the budgeting process, staff identified one-time revenue sources that could pay for projects that were removed from the Fiscal Year 2020 budget. Potential one-time sources of revenue include the PA289 Fire Protection funding and the sales of the West Road property and former East Lansing Department of Public Works (DPW) site.

Staff prioritized projects that could receive the additional funding, and this includes, but is not limited to: repairing the East Lansing Hannah Community Center (ELHCC) pool basement ceiling, replacing the East Lansing City Hall boiler, renovations to existing ELHCC program areas and construction of a solar park in front of the current East Lansing DPW building. Lahanas reported that staff is estimating 2 to 2.5 million in additional revenue, but they won’t know the exact amount until after December 2019.

Priority Based Budgeting Results

Since its approval in March, the City has been in the process of implementing Priority Based Budgeting (PBB). PBB uses software to provide analytical reports to identify the true costs of each service the City provides. View the City's news release on PBB here. During the meeting, East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas presented to Council the proposed PBB and results and their definitions, which are necessary to begin scoring and prioritizing all the City’s programs. Councilmembers provided their suggestions to the drafted document, which included adding additional language under certain sections. Watch Council provide their suggestions here.

During the communications from Councilmembers, Councilmember Draheim reminded everyone that the East Lansing Art Festival is taking place this weekend, Saturday, May 18 from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday, May 19 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. View the City's news release on the festival here. Mayor Pro Tem Erik Altmann encouraged residents to sign up for the free water testing opportunity that the City is offering to homeowners with lead or galvanized steel water lines. Learn more about this opportunity in one of the City's previously-sent Dialog E-Newsletters. 
To learn more about all items discussed during the meeting, view the Agenda Packet. 
Next Meeting: Tuesday, May 21

Additional Information

Regular meetings and discussion-only meetings begin at 7 p.m. Meetings take place at 54B District Court, Courtroom 2, 101. Linden St. Meeting agendas, minutes and recordings can be found here. Recorded meetings are also televised and replayed on Channel 22 (WELG).

Copyright © 2019 City of East Lansing, All rights reserved.

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