The East Lansing City Council considered concerns over small cell towers potentially being installed in residential neighborhoods in the city, recognized Black History Month and announced it is working to create a new Youth Committee at the Tuesday, Feb. 7, Council meeting.
Council still isn’t sure how much it can regulate cell towers.
Glencairn neighborhood resident Marc Breedlove used the public comment portion of the meeting to once again raise concerns about Pennsylvania-based company Crown Castle’s plans to install more than 50 small cell towers in East Lansing. (See the link to the map here.)
Breedlove took issue with Crown Castle deciding to come to next Tuesday’s discussion-only Council meeting on Valentine’s Day.
Previously, Crown Castle announced a plan to install two cell towers in a Lansing State Journal advertisement that ran days after Christmas, when newspaper readership is low. Breedlove was not personally notified of the plan, despite his address being printed in the advertisement as the site for one of the towers.
“The one thing that I know about Crown Castle is that they like holidays,” Breedlove said.
Breedlove also said he believes the city can do more to regulate the addition of cell towers. City officials have been looking for ways to work around a state statute, which limits what Michigan municipalities can do to regulate the installation of cell towers less than 40-feet tall.
City Attorney Anthony Chubb said the city is “largely preempted by state law from instituting strict limitations” on small cell towers, adding city officials are working with connections in Lansing to see if the state legislature can change the law.
He also said he is in touch with city attorneys around the state who are exploring avenues to regulate tower installation. He said there have been talks of litigation, but there have not been any suits filed yet.
Mayor Ron Bacon called Crown Castle’s rollout of the plan “botched.” He expressed hope the company will communicate with the public better going forward and do business in good faith.
In addition to planning to attend the Feb. 14 Council meeting, Crown Castle is hosting a public meeting at the Hannah Community Center from 5-7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 27.
East Lansing’s Police Chief and Acting City Manager Kim Johnson announced an interim city clerk and the police department’s accreditation.
Following former City Manager George Lahanas’ contract termination last month, Police Chief Kim Johnson filled the role at the meeting.
Johnson thanked City Clerk Jenifer Shuster for her years of service to East Lansing. Last week, Shuster and Deputy Clerk Kathryn Gardner announced they would resign.
Johnson said it was Shuster’s idea to bring back former East Lansing Clerk Marie Wicks on an interim basis while the city finds someone to fill the position. Wicks held the position for 12 years before leaving to pursue other opportunities in 2018.
Johnson said he thought keeping continuity for the position was a good idea and that Wicks will be sworn in Friday, Feb. 10, once Shuster formally vacates the post.
Johnson also announced that the East Lansing Police Department received approval for full accreditation at a hearing in front of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.
“Basically, from an accreditation standpoint, it just says that the policies and procedures that we are doing in the police department are the best practices around the state of Michigan and the nation,” Johnson said. “We are excited about the opportunity to prove them correct.”
Johnson said the department has been working towards the accreditation for the last two years.
Council approved a site plan to expand a commercial building on West Road.
Council approved a site plan from Gentilozzi Real Estate to construct two building additions totalling just over 5,500 square feet to its building at 3410 West Road. The site plan also allows for a chiller accessory building of about 1,250 square feet and modifications to the parking lot.
The additions are requested to accommodate for the building’s new tenant, ATESTEO North America Inc. ATESTEO is a German-based drivetrain testing company with five facilities in Germany and two in China. The East Lansing facility is the company’s first in North America.
ATESTEO North America President Roy Schulde said at the meeting the company believes its new branch will create 46 jobs over a five-year period.
The City Council also recognized Black History Month.
Councilmember Dana Watson moved a resolution recognizing Black History Month from the consent agenda to the business agenda for discussion. Watson explained she did this because she wanted to take a few minutes to express the significance of the celebration.
“It’s exciting to walk through Meijer and see more things around Black History Month, talk with my children about it and just recognizing how important it is to see people that look like me in various places,” she said. “Especially in communities where there are smaller numbers of us.”
Watson said the resolution should be highlighted in schools to celebrate living in a city that recognizes the importance of Black history.
Bacon also shared his thoughts on celebrating Black History Month.
“I think it’s really the only path towards healing and making things better – is acknowledging and understanding the history,” he said.
Council members received their committee assignments and discussed plans for a new youth commission.
Bacon announced plans to create a new East Lansing Youth Commission that will engage with high school students – similar to how Council engages with Michigan State students through the University Student Commission.
It is unclear what the commission will look like in action, but Bacon mentioned engaging with the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Department, the Public Library, Parks Department and public safety to create the commission.
Chubb said this new commission would have to be drafted through an ordinance amendment. Gregg and Garcia both expressed interest in serving as liaisons to the commission once it is created.
Council will retain the same committee assignments they had previously, with a few changes. New Councilmember Noel Garcia will be taking former Councilmember Lisa Babcock’s assignments.
Garcia will also serve on the Tri-County Office on Aging and will take over Bacon’s liaison position on the Independent Police Oversight Commission, a commission Garcia served on before he was appointed to City Council.
Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg said a personal schedule change will prevent her from serving as liaison to the Arts Commission and serving on the Art Selection Panel. Garcia volunteered to take over on those committees.
Watson will take over as the liaison to the Human Rights Commission, which Bacon served as previously.