Kids in the Hall

By Andy Balaskovitz

At final meeting of the year, Council approves a parking lot

Monday, Dec. 17 — At its meeting tonight, the Lansing City Council gave the Michigan Retailers Association approval to build a surface parking lot on a small vacant parcel of land it owns near downtown.

Some neighbors had hoped for a small park on the .36-acre plot, which formerly housed the retailers association’s headquarters before it moved on to Washington Avenue. Others, including the Downtown Neighborhood Association, questioned whether the small lot conforms to the city’s new Master Plan.

Before tonight’s vote, though, Council members said that the project had the approval of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and the Genesee Neighborhood Association.

The retailers association, which owns the property at 221 N. Pine St., was seeking a special land use permit on the property at 221 N. Pine St. The permit allows the trade association to use it for rental parking, as the land is zoned for a professional office building.

The Council approved the special land use permit to construct the parking lot 7-1. Fourth Ward Councilwoman Jessica Yorko was the no-vote.

Yorko wanted the Council to hold off on the approval until another ordinance was adopted by Council that seeks to place safeguards on special land use permits and future development on those sites. That ordinance, inspired by the Niowave pole barn controversy in the Walnut Neighborhood, is working its way through committee.

“I feel we’re at a crossroads with this new policy on special land use permits coming,” Yorko said.

Council President Brian Jeffries said comparing this particular SLU with the one approved for Niowave in 2006 is “apples and oranges” because the retailers association merely wants the permit for parking — Niowave needed one for its business and general. Moreover, a site plan was submitted with designs for the lot, unlike the pole barn, which seemingly rose under anyone at the city’s radar.

“This SLU that we’re approving is a much different situation than what happened at Niowave,” Jeffries said.

And thus concludes the Council’s 2012 season. The Council’s first meeting next year is on Jan. 3, starting a new schedule in which the body meets every other week rather than weekly.