Sept. 22 2016 10:38 AM

BWL Central Substation clears a major hurdle at City Council

THURSDAY. Sept. 22 – The Lansing City Council will likely decide Monday night on the plan to put a power substation in Scott Park after a committee approved it today.
Washington

The Planning and Development Committee forwarded a package of three resolutions to the full Council. They give the Lansing Board of Water & Light the green light to begin construction with a special land use permit and also rezone the property from parkland to public utility space.

“We have to move forward,” said Committee Chairwoman Jody Washington. She and Jessica Yorko voted for it. The other committee member, Council President Judi Browne Clark, was absent.

The action is a major setback for preservationists, environmentalists and gardeners who had hoped to keep the six-acre riverfront park intact. Their goal is to save the nearly 100-year-old Scott House and the Scott Sunken Garden. Under BWL’s plan, the Tudor-style Scott House would either be moved or demolished. The BWL plan calls for moving the sunken garden to the two acres of Scott Park that would remain.

Preservationists suffered a further setback today with an announcement that the nonprofit Habitat for Humanity has pulled out of a plan to rehab the house as part of a condominium development on city property on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard near the Capitol Complex. The BWL has offered to pay $100,000 to move the house if a qualified buyer can be found.

Washington bemoaned the loss of riverfront parkland for the proposed $27.4 million substation, but she said all the alternatives were too costly. “I have constituents who can barely pay bills” who would be impacted by higher rates, she said.

The vote came after BWL General Manager Richard Peffley answered questions posed by Washington for more than 75 minutes. His major point was that any alternative site would not only cost more money but would also delay construction. That in turn would put off retiring the coal-burning Eckert Power Station at a cost of at least $30 million. Eckert — better known as Wynken, Blynken and Nod — is scheduled to close in 2020. Keeping it open beyond then would require considerable capital improvements.

Yorko, who represents the ward that includes Scott Park, said she “comfortable as a ratepayer with replacing Eckert, but not comfortable with an increase to keep Eckert open.”

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