Many Big Issues Coming Before East Lansing’s Elected and Appointed Officials

Print More

Gary Caldwell for ELi

The Center City District, which includes The Landmark, pictured here, is on the agenda at City Council on Nov. 10, 2020.

It’s going to be a busy week in East Lansing. ELi’s staff estimates that, based on the agenda, Tuesdays City Council will be at least three hours long, and there’s plenty else going on based on other posted agendas for this week.

The big show at City Council this Tuesday evening will likely be the pair of discussions on the Center City District project. 

According to the published agenda, Council is set to have some kind of discussion on the controversy-laden bonds. The agenda materials on this include only a previously-issued memo from Miller Canfield, the City’s bond counsel. To see ELi’s latest on this issue, including on that memo, see this article or listen to this episode of the East Lansing Insider podcast (starting at about the 17-minute mark).

Council will also consider a request from the Center City District developers, Harbor Bay and Ballein Management, “to delay enforcement” of the zoning violation caused by renting apartments in Newman Lofts to people under age 55. According to staff’s memo on this, the developers seem to now be coming with their tails somewhat between their legs, as they have backed off on asking for removal of the age restriction entirely. The developers had previously threatened legal action if the City did not engage in “good faith” efforts to reach an agreement about that restriction.

Now the developers are just trying to get Council to agree they should be allowed to rent 20% of Newman Loft apartments to people under age 55. For why that would not follow East Lansing law or the contracts signed in 2018, see this reporting from ELi, and see this for historical context.

And there’s lots more on Council’s agenda.

Council is going to consider a $1.6M contract with Sandborn Construction for major infrastructure work on Evergreen and Albert Avenues as redevelopment of the “Park District” area proceeds. These changes implicate Convexity’s plans for building affordable housing at 341 Evergreen Ave. and the DDA’s properties on the other side of the street.

Council will also consider spending more (in the five-to-six figure range) on support for businesses downtown, including on innovative ideas to get more people to feel safe coming downtown to consume goods and services.

Council will consider a request from Council member Dana Watson related to her home. Before being appointed to Council, Watson received housing assistance from the City and now she needs special permission to deal with a refinance and a possible conflict of interest. 

Council is also set to approve:

Council is also expected to extend the local public health emergency orders (including the mandatory downtown facemask order) and extend the policy allowing temporary outdoor seating expansions.

The Parking Task Force will start up again.

East Lansing’s special Parking Task Force will meet on Tuesday, Nov. 10, for the first time since March 12. The meeting, starting at 9 a.m., will include discussion of revenue, expenses, and vacancies in the City’s parking system. 

The posted agenda actually provides the Task Force much less information on parking system use than was provided recently to the Downtown Management Board (DMB). Data provided to the DMB shows that even before the pandemic the system was operating at peak times only at about 65% capacity. 

City Manager George Lahanas has said that those rates are well below rates the City needs in terms of economics, and that people need to learn to walk a few blocks from parking to destination. In 2018, just as the new Albert Ave. garage was being constructed, East Lansing Planning Director Tim Dempsey suggested the City had overbuilt parking ramps.

Significant framing steps are expected to be taken at the Study Committee on an Independent Police Oversight Commission.

This committee of 11 appointees will meet for the third time on Monday, Nov. 9, starting at 6 p.m. 

The agenda shows plans to consider breaking into work groups to try to get more material drafted and to the full committee to stay on the originally-mandated 6-month time frame. Work groups could take on special tasks like reviewing how other cities’ oversight commissions function and developing plans for communicating with the public and police unions.

Two members of the committee, Chuck Grigsby and Erick Williams, also provided for discussion their takes on what a review board might do in terms of its goals. Read more about the last meeting of the Study Committee in ELi reporting here and here.

The School Board will talk about Sex Ed, in-person instruction and more.

The East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education is due to meet on Monday, Nov. 9, starting at 7 p.m. The virtual meeting info is now available as is the agenda. The Board will hear a presentation from the Mental Health Advisory Committee and will also hold a public hearing on sex ed, specifically about an “affirmative consent” curriculum.

The Board is also planning to review “Draft Guidance Metrics for In-Person Instruction,” an ongoing point of contention in the district.

As a reminder: Debbie Walton, Elizabeth Guerrero Lyons, and Monica Fink were (in that order) the top three vote-getters in last week’s election for the ELPS Board. They will replace Erin Graham, Hillary Henderson, and Nichole Martin. Graham, who did not run for reelection, was elected to the Ingham County Board of Commissioners. Henderson also did not run for reelection, while Martin did run but was unseated.

According to Superintendent Dori Leyko, new Board members will be sworn in at the first meeting of 2021 and then the Board will elect new officers.

And on Thursday, the DDA and Historic District Commission will also meet. 

The Historic District Commission will see the usual array of requests for approval of changes to historic district properties and will also review their Guidelines. See the agenda for that group here.The DDA agenda covers review and discussion of a number of ongoing proposals and projects, but nothing too extraordinary from our look.

Help ELi inform East Lansing.

Comments are closed.