With or without a PLA?
|By Andy Balaskovitz|
City Council scheduled to vote tonight on offering tax breaks to two Gillespie projects amid union controversy over one of themMonday, Oct. 11 — The Lansing City Council is scheduled to vote tonight on tax incentives for the Marshall Street Armory redevelopment in the east side neighborhood. The question remains whether the resolution will include a project labor agreement, or PLA, that bargains for union contracts on the site’s construction.
Pat Gillespie’s contract with the city to repurpose the armory for office space for five regional nonprofit organizations does not include a PLA, which drew scorn from local builders unions last week.
Gillespie is seeking an extension to a brownfield tax incentive plan that the Council approved in June. Because estimated project costs increased by about $1 million, Gillespie is seeking a two-year extension, from 18 to 20 years, and thus the Council must approve a new plan.
That resolution is before the Development and Planning Committee, which will hold a special meeting before tonight’s regular City Council meeting to discuss amending the resolution with a PLA attached. Details on a resolution were not available.
At-Large Councilman Derrick Quinney, who sits on Development and Planning, has suggested that Gillespie’s project include a PLA. Quinney is the health and safety director for the Michigan AFL-CIO.
Critics of the PLA say requiring a 100 percent unionized labor force to remodel the armory would exclude local construction workers who are non-union. They also fear a PLA on this project could set a precedent for major redevelopments in the future.
“If this PLA (amendment) passes, these local (non-union) workers would be blackballed based on union status,” said Chris Fisher, executive director of Associated Builders and Contractors, a statewide trade association based in Lansing. Fisher said a PLA permitting only unionized workers is an “extremist” position.
“This goes beyond the armory, frankly,” Fisher said in reference to Gillespie’s Marketplace project and potential improvements to the Knapp’s building downtown. “This could affect all future development if PLAs are in force and discriminate against non-union workers.”
Zane Walker of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, who was included in talks last week between Gillespie and the Development and Planning Committee, did not return calls for comment.
Ingham Co. Treasurer Eric Schertzing, who is also chairman of the Ingham County Land Bank, agrees with Fisher that PLAs run the risk of discouraging future development in the city. The land bank develops foreclosed properties.
“To mandate conditions is really just a challenge,” he said. “Development in an urban area is already more difficult than surrounding green spaces. Any barrier, either directly economic or (that causes) time and fatigue, is going to discourage the marketplace.”
Schertzing said unions’ trying to get a piece of the pie is a “natural angst,” but said it is important that whoever gets the jobs should be well paid.
Another of Gillespie’s proposed redevelopments, the mixed-use Market Place project near the City Market, also has a brownfield tax incentive plan scheduled for a vote tonight. This brownfield plan would span 24 years and reimburse Gillespie over that time for paying upfront costs to clean the site.
Jet Engineering, a high-tech manufacturing company in south Lansing, is also seeking tax breaks for a planned $5.5 million expansion at its site near the intersection of Jolly and Aurelius roads. The incentives would span 12 years and would be on costs for acquiring new property, additional building costs and new equipment. The Council is scheduled to vote on this incentive plan after Gillespie’s.
It could end up being a long night for the Council, which is scheduled to vote on 17 other resolutions and one rezoning ordinance at tonight’s meeting:
In other business, two more public hearings separate from the tax breaks for development projects are scheduled for tonight’s meeting. One will be on the city’s sale of a Parks and Recreation Department storage garage to Neogen, while the other will consider the rezoning the property at 110 N. Magnolia Ave. from commercial to residential so the owner can apply for lead paint abatement credits from the city.
Finally, the Council will introduce an ordinance and vote to schedule a public hearing for Nov. 8 in regards to a planned residential development by local builder Dave Muylle in the east side neighborhood.