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Purchase Agreement Approved for Vacant Land at Former DPW Site
At its March 5 meeting, East Lansing City Council approved a purchase agreement with Kodiac Landarc, LLC in the amount of $1,000,900 for the northern portion of the remaining vacant land at the former East Lansing Department of Public Works (DPW) site located at Park Lake and Merritt roads. The prospective buyer’s intent is to establish a Medical Marihuana Provisioning Center at the site and, to do that, they will be required to go through the City’s standard approval process.

The site is zoned B-2 Retail Sales Business District, allowing for a variety of retail uses compatible with adjacent properties. In addition, this land has been designated for medical marihuana, thus adding value to a site that has stood vacant for more than 15 years despite several attempts by the City to sell the land dating back to 2003.

East Lansing voters gave the City of East Lansing authority to sell the former DPW site back in 2002. The land sale authorization was placed on the August 6, 2002 Election ballot and it surpassed the super majority voting requirement in place at that time, with 65 percent of East Lansing voters approving the proposal. Upon this voter approval and the relocation of the DPW offices out to 1800 E. State Road, the City worked diligently over the years to sell the land and spur economic development in that area:
  • In 2003, the City issued its first Request for Proposals (RFP) and placed a for sale sign at the site.  
  • In 2007, the site was approved by City Council for a mixed-use redevelopment project that never materialized.
  • In 2010, the City issued its second RFP, at which time 10.4 acres of the site, including the main building, were successfully sold to Spartan Technology, LLC for $350,000. Spartan Technology undertook extensive renovations to the building for Working Bugs (a bio-based products manufacturer) and later added Red Cedar Spirits – a distillery and tasting room.
  • In 2016, the City received and accepted an offer to purchase the northern 6.4 acres of the site for $850,000. After completing their due diligence, the prospective buyers indicated the need for significant brownfield tax increment financing (TIF) support of more than $3 million, the bulk of which would be used to address poor soils at the site. City Council was not supportive of that request and the potential buyers let the purchase agreement expire. 
The City has faced many challenges with selling the northern part of this property over the years due to the poor soils and environmental remediation that is required to build on the land. There has been little interest in purchasing the site without an approved brownfield plan.

After adoption of the Medical Marihuana Provisioning Center overlays in 2018, which encompass the site, several interested parties came forward with unsolicited purchase offers. Recognizing this new demand, the City placed the land up for auction on eBay and notified all of the parties that came forward with an interest in buying the property. By thinking outside of the box and placing the land up for auction on eBay, the City saved approximately $100,000, as eBay does not charge the typical 10 percent of a sale price for land auctions, only a nominal $150 fee. Additionally, the property was auctioned with a notice informing bidders that no brownfield incentives would be available.

According to an appraisal of the entire 18 acres of net area at the site (including the portion that has already been sold and the portion that the City will retain), the property was valued at $975,000 in 2009. The offer on the table now is for 6.42 acres of the site and it is the area that requires the most environmental remediation.

If the land is sold to Kodiac Landarc, LCC, upon completion of the buyer’s due diligence and the City’s approval process, it will result in more than $1 million in additional City funds that will directly benefit the community, full property taxes paid to the City and all other taxing jurisdictions and City income tax revenue from the business that will establish there. If the land is not sold to the prospective purchaser, the City has the option to remarket the property and sell it to another interested party.   
Council Approves Electric Scooter Ordinance
In anticipation of the return of electric scooters to the community this spring, the East Lansing City Council unanimously approved Ordinance 1453 at its March 5 meeting, which adds an article to the City Code about electric scooter companies (they’re referred to as electric skateboards in the ordinance).
Under this new ordinance, electric scooter companies must apply for a license from the East Lansing City Clerk’s office and pay a $2,500 annual licensing fee before deploying scooters throughout the City. The companies will also be required to pay an additional fee of 10 cents per ride and $100 each month for each electric scooter that remains impounded by the City for more than 30 days.

Once licensed, the electric scooter companies will need to adhere to a number of regulations, including maintaining a 24-hour customer service phone number for customers and members of the community to report safety concerns, complaints or ask questions. Licensed companies must also respond to reports of incorrectly parked or inoperable electric scooters within two hours of receiving notice. Additionally, companies must educate electric scooter users about the rights of pedestrians, including those with disabilities, to travel unimpeded by electric scooters, whether in use or parked; permissible parking locations, speed limits, safety equipment requirements and general courtesies. Companies will be required to deploy electric scooters in designated City areas and they will need to be removed between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. each day. They will also need to be removed during weather conditions that require important City operations, such as plowing and maintenance of streets and sidewalks. If any scooter is deployed in an undesignated area or incorrectly parked and not addressed, they would be subject to impoundment.

The ordinance also includes important rules for electric scooter users to keep in mind. Users are asked to park electric scooters upright on the sidewalk, but only if at least 5 feet of unobstructed sidewalk is preserved for safe pedestrian travel. Electric scooters may be parked on streets without sidewalks, but only if the roadway travel lanes and bike lanes are not impeded. Electric scooters may not be parked in a way that interferes with access to the following: sidewalks, crosswalks, or sidewalk ramps; bus stops, shelters or waiting areas; loading zones or handicapped parking spaces; fire hydrants; benches; parking meters or pay stations; commercial window displays; access to or from any buildings; any bicycle racks; streets, driveways or alleys; metered vehicular parking spaces located on the street, within City parking garages and surface lots. Additional rules for where scooters can or cannot be parked may be determined and communicated at a later date. When driving electric scooters, no more than one person can ride them at a time (per state law) and they cannot be driven at more than 10 miles per hour on sidewalks in East Lansing. If any of these rules are violated, the user could be charged with a civil infraction.

Community members can view the full ordinance here. The ordinance will go into effect on Wednesday, March 20, at which time scooter companies can begin the licensing process, which will be administered by the East Lansing City Clerk's office.                 
ELFD Training is Key to Keeping the Community Safe
The East Lansing Fire Department’s (ELFD) motto is to “preserve and protect life and property through preparation, education and implementation.” It is with that motto in mind that ELFD personnel undergo ongoing, extensive training in order to be prepared to respond to any kind of emergency that may arise in the East Lansing community.

Just this week, ELFD joined other area fire departments at a confined space rescue training at the T.B. Simon Power Plant on the MSU campus. This three-day training provided ELFD firefighter paramedics with hands-on experience rescuing individuals from a small, enclosed space. In the case of this week’s training, the “mock victim” was located in a coal bin and the rescuers had to repel down, place a harness and oxygen mask on him/her and bring them back up. The confined-space rescue training exercise is applicable to any real-life rescue involving a worker/individual trapped in a small, enclosed space; from sewers to tunnels, vaults, utility sub-stations and more.

Other specialized trainings that ELFD firefighter paramedics participate in on an annual basis include, but are not limited to: structural collapse training, rope training, Hazmat training, extrication training, ice rescue training, water rescue training, tower rescue training and trench rescue training. Due to how labor intensive these rescues can be in real-life situations, mutual aid (the lending of assistance across jurisdictional borders) is often necessary to effectively respond. For that reason, ELFD is often joined by other area fire departments for these specialized training days.
In addition to specialized training, ELFD firefighter paramedics also train on a weekly basis to respond to EMS and fire emergencies in the community.

“All of our shifts participate in regular training each week on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays,” said ELFD Safety Training Officer Jim Pontack. “It’s important that we; as a full-time, comprehensive fire department; are fully trained and prepared for the many different kinds of emergencies that may occur in our community. We take the responsibility of serving and protecting the community very seriously and, with that in mind, our training is ongoing.”

ELPL to Host 8th Annual Books, Bites & Bids

Community members are invited to the East Lansing Public Library's 8th Annual Books, Bites & Bids fundraising event on Friday, April 12 from 5:30-9 p.m. Proceeds of this year's event will go towards an interactive and educational children's garden. Learn more and RSVP here.

Free Parking on Saint Patrick's Day

In an effort to encourage safe rides home on Saint Patrick's Day, free overnight parking is being offered at specific locations in downtown East Lansing on Sunday, March 17. Cars can remain parked in designated locations from 6 a.m. on Sunday to noon on Monday. Learn more.

Summer Jobs at the Aquatic Center

The East Lansing Family Aquatic Center is currently accepting applications for multiple seasonal positions for summer 2019, including lifeguards, slide operators and customer service assistants.

Learn more and apply here.
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