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East Lansing City Council Meeting Recap 4/12/22

** Thanks for reading!
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Thanks for checking out the East Lansing City Council Recap. This publication is sent out after each regular, discussion-only and special City Council meeting. Plan for future meetings by viewing the 2022 meeting schedule here: https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/997/2022-Meeting-Dates. (https://www.cityofeastlansing.com/997/2022-Meeting-Dates)

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


** Highlights from the April 12 Meeting
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Prior to this past Tuesday's East Lansing City Council meeting, City Council held a budget work session at the East Lansing Hannah Community Center to discuss the Preliminary Fiscal Year 2023 Budget and Fee Schedule, focusing primarily on the general fund. Community members can listen to the work session at the following link: https://youtu.be/mXEkdkQ_tZo?t=6.

Following the work session, Council met for its Tuesday, April 12 discussion-only meeting.


** Discussion of a Resolution on a Moratorium for SUPs Allowing Fraternities and Sororities
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Council discussed a draft resolution on a moratorium for Special Use Permits (SUPs) allowing structures in the City of East Lansing to be used as chapter houses for fraternities and sororities. Representatives from Michigan State University (MSU) were also part of the discussion, including Student and Community Relations Director Suchitra Webster and Interim Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life Erin Carter.

During discussion, Webster provided background information on MSU's policy requiring first-year and second-year students to live on campus. She explained that the policy requiring first-year students to live on campus has been in place for some time, but the second-year student live-on campus requirement was waived back in the 1980s.

After doing research on the benefits of second-year students living on campus, including retention rates and the likelihood of graduating, MSU has reinstated the second-year live-on campus requirement beginning with the entering class of fall 2021.

With the second-year live-on campus requirement being reinstated, MSU created a Group Housing Program. Webster explained that the program allows existing off-campus communal living organizations, such as fraternities, sororities and cooperative housing entities, the opportunity to house second-year students in their approved house/facility if they meet certain eligibility criteria. Webster went on to provide an overview of the eligibility criteria, which community members can watch here. (https://youtu.be/FVabtMDWwNQ?t=2194)

One of the requirements shared by Webster as a part of the program is that participant facilities must have a City of East Lansing Class VI rental license for group housing in a fraternity, sorority or co-op, or another valid City of East Lansing rental license type, including any relevant land-use approval, such as an SUP (when applicable), to operate as a group housing facility. She explained that MSU saw this requirement as important in order to bring organizations in line with the City's rules, policies and ordinances.

"MSU is taking a more proactive approach with many of its student organizations and trying to work with them so they can be successful, not only as individual students, but so that they are better members of the community and student organizations overall," Webster went on to share.

East Lansing Planning and Zoning Administrator Peter Menser was also in attendance and reported that the City does not currently have any pending SUP applications submitted by fraternities or sororities, and Carter noted that she doesn't foresee many more fraternity and sorority SUP requests coming down the pipeline as a result of the Group Housing Program.

Following questions, discussions and some concerns expressed by Councilmembers, it was determined that a moratorium will not be considered at this time; however, Council will be reviewing and discussing some potential text changes to the SUP ordinance to provide clarity on the process and review standards at a future meeting.


** Discussion of Decriminalizing Psychedelics
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Council discussed decriminalizing psychedelics. This item was brought to Council after they received communications from several people requesting that they take a look at how psychedelics are classified and consider decriminalizing them.

During discussion, Councilmember Dana Watson explained that psychedelics are currently classified as a Schedule I drug, meaning it doesn’t have medicinal purposes. She noted, however, that people have been using psychedelics for centuries and for religious, spiritual and medicinal reasons.

She also reported that there have been no notices of charges filed by the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office for psychedelic use in the past three to four years. “This is about considering taking something off the books that should no longer be on the books because there is proof out there that’s telling us otherwise,” said Councilmember Watson. “There are other cities that have seen that too, like Ann Arbor and Hazel Park.”

During her comments, Councilmember Lisa Babcock suggested that the best place for advocacy would be at the state or federal level since the laws that make the drugs illegal (or Schedule I drugs) are at the state and federal level. She went on to explain that the City doesn’t prosecute drug offenses; those go up to the county prosecutor.

East Lansing Police Department (ELPD) Capt. Chad Connelly also spoke during the discussion, agreeing with Councilmember Babcock that the laws are within the purview of the state and federal government. He also noted that ELPD does quite often see the use of psychedelics with other illicit narcotics, and in the last five to six years ELPD has had two death investigations that involved a combination of substances, which included psychedelics.

At the end of the discussion, Council directed the city attorney to draft a resolution to decriminalize psychedelics, which they will be considering at the next regular Council meeting on April 19.


** Discussion of Letter of Intent from Convexity Properties, LLC
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Next, Council discussed a letter of intent from Convexity Properties, LLC (Convexity) regarding the transfer of 341 Evergreen Ave.

East Lansing Planning, Building and Development Director Tom Fehrenbach began his presentation by providing background information on 341 Evergreen Ave. He explained that 341 Evergreen Ave. was a component of Convexity's Park District Project, which was approved in 2018 and consisted of two phases.

The first phase consisted of constructing The Abbot, The Graduate Hotel and improvements to public infrastructure. The second phase included plans to construct a residential building with low- to moderate-income qualified units at 341 Evergreen Ave., which would satisfy the City's housing diversity requirement.

Fehrenbach went on to explain that, due to economic factors, Convexity will not be moving forward with the building planned for 341 Evergreen Ave. As noted, if Convexity does not obtain a certificate of occupancy for the building by March 2025, the property would transfer to the City with a deed restriction that it be maintained as public open space.

The City received a letter of intent from Convexity to transfer the ownership of 341 Evergreen Ave. without any deed restrictions. Convexity would also transfer its site plan documents and architectural plans for the property. In exchange, Convexity expects the City to amend the development agreement to execute the transfer and accelerate the satisfaction of the housing diversity requirement.

Additionally, they are proposing that the City amends the approved Brownfield Plan #11 to include $1.56 million of additional eligible expenses and interest to offset additional costs that were incurred by Convexity. Fehrenbach provided a breakdown of the $1.56 million, which can be viewed in the agenda item report. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/document/75975/Discussion%20of%20Letter%20of%20Intent%20from%20Convexity%20P.pdf?handle=4859B1F8B1A84C34B5CE49291ADAE5E8)

During discussion, Council was generally in favor of moving forward with the transfer of 341 Evergreen Ave. and the amendments to the Development Agreement and Brownfield Plan as outlined in the letter of intent. Council will take action on the letter of intent during next Tuesday's (April 19) regular meeting.


** Other Items
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* Council deferred discussion of the City's ordinance regarding parking ticket fees to next week's (Tuesday, April 19) regular meeting.

To learn more about all items discussed during the meeting, view the Agenda Packet. (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/Portal/MeetingInformation.aspx?Org=Cal&Id=757)
Next Meeting: Tuesday, April 19

Budget Work Session & Regular Meeting


** Additional Information
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The City of East Lansing has transitioned back to in-person public meetings and East Lansing City Council meetings have been temporarily relocated to the East Lansing Hannah Community Center, 819 Abbot Road. Budget work sessions take place at 5 p.m. and regular and discussion-only Council meetings take place at 7 p.m. A remote option for viewing the meetings and providing public comment is continuing to be offered for City Council and Planning Commission meetings via the City's public meeting portal (https://cityofeastlansing.civicweb.net/Portal/) . The number to call in for public comment is posted at the top of each meeting agenda.

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