neighbors divided on Sparrow proposal
The vocal opposition of some eastside Lansing residents to Sparrow Hospitals
proposal to construct a temporary parking lot for 588 vehicles on green
space at the southeast corner of Marshall and Saginaw streets is overshadowing
the views of other eastside residents who favor the project.
The opponents, who have demonstrated at the site and spoken out at City
Council meetings, have characterized the land as a park. They are skeptical
about whether a temporary parking lot makes sense and whether it will
do no harm to the park environment.
of their neighbors dispute that the property is a park. And they say
Sparrows proposal will reduce traffic through their streets.
Sparrow Hospital wants to lease 8.2 acres of the 27-acre natural prairie
grassland, known on some maps as 119th Armory Park, from the Michigan
National Guard as a temporary parking lot until June 2004 while a 1,200
car parking deck is under construction west of the hospital, above the
existing parking lot. Sparrow Health System executives say they intend
to return the property to its existing status at the end of the lease.
Some opponents fear that gravel, oil and antifreeze on the surface of
the parking lot will contaminate the soil. The Sparrow plan foresees
excavating and hauling off six acres of topsoil, re-grading the site
for proper drainage, installing a soil stabilization fabric under six
inches of stone and using catch basin bags to retain the oil and fuel
that leaks on the property.
Ray Ziarno, Green Party candidate for secretary of state, criticized
the plan and City Council for almost exclusively favoring business,
parking lots and higher income people.
They only want developers that will develop higher-priced homes
and upscale buildings, he said, recalling that in 2000, City Council
voted to sell Genesee Park so the Greater Lansing Housing Coalition
could construct two houses on the site. These are all the same
kinds of decisions in which green space in Lansing is under attack,
The Sparrow parking lot proposal failed earlier this fall by a 3-3 vote
of the city Planning Board. After a public hearing on Sept. 9, City
Council referred the issue to its Planning and Development Committee.
Following another hearing on Sept. 30, City Council is expected to vote
on the issue.
The second hearing is the result of a protest filed by John Mertz, an
attorney who is president of the Eastside Commercial Coalition. Mertz
had found that Council had not given proper notice for the first hearing.
Mertz opposes the parking lot proposal, calling the armory land the
last remaining open space of its kind on the east side. Fenced-in
ball parks, golf courses and schools dont count, he said.
But Nancy Parsons, president of the Eastside Neighborhood Organization,
which supports Sparrows plans, said, This is military land,
not the 119th Armory Park like people are referring to it. She
said that in the last 10 years the area had been used by Sparrow twice
during construction projects and none of the individuals
that are against it today came out and protested it. Parsons pointed
out that in both cases Sparrow Hospital cleaned the park up as promised.
There was a signed agreement with the Military and Sparrow Hospital
stating that once the project was over, Sparrow would put the property
back to the way it is now, she said.
Joan Nelson, director of the Allen Neighborhood Center, said the east
side certainly needs green space, but it would be a stretch to
characterize the area as green space. Its been used for many non-green
purposes, like Christmas tree sales and carnivals. She said Sparrows
plans to transport its 600 employees on three 20-passenger shuttle buses
would have a net effect of reducing traffic within the neighborhood,
because people wouldnt need to drive to Sparrows main campus,
but would park at Saginaw and Marshall. Residents near the proposed
parking lot have expressed their fear of the increased traffic.
First Ward Councilman Harold Leeman is working for a compromise by encouraging
Sparrow officials to look at alternative parking sites. If everybody
reviews the initial position and comes up with another solution, we
could get the job done here, he said.
His idea is to use public and private parking along the Michigan Avenue
corridor. Its a mile distance from Sparrow Hospital to Saginaw/Marshall,
but if you continue down Michigan Avenue its a mile and two tenths
to three public parking lots that the city controls near Frandor (shopping
center). By using Michigan Avenue, says Leeman, Sparrow would
keep 600 cars and shuttle buses away from the neighborhoods, and children
walking to one of the four public schools wouldnt be affected
by the increased traffic. Leeman said Sparrow has no way of insisting
that workers ride the buses instead of parking on neighborhood streets.
Leeman said the city has 250 spaces along the Michigan corridor, explaining
that there are 150 parking spaces at Municipal Field, a city-owned lot
at Clippert and Kalamazoo streets and another 100 city-owned parking
places north of Ranney Park on the eastern edge of Frandor. We
could make an arrangement with Sparrow to let their employees park there,
he said. Leeman said there are 250 private parking places adjacent to
Bud Kauts Chevrolet on Michigan Avenue and an additional 150 private
spots behind the water tower at Sears.
Leeman said that Sparrow might have to pay a little money for use of
the private parking spaces, but he estimated it would be only about
half the cost of building a temporary lot. According to the construction
company contracted by Sparrow, the cost for environmental maintenance
alone would be $300,000, making an estimated total of $500,000 after
construction costs. Leeman said his solution offered clear advantages
for the hospital, the residents and the environment. We wont
have any of the safety or green space issues. Its up to Sparrow
to change its mindset. I can understand that theyve put all that
time into their solution, but I dont think they realize how much
people would object to what they want to do, asserted Leeman.
Mertz suggested a site at the corner of Shiawassee and Larch streets
with about 400 spaces, and said Sparrow could also lease the needed
spaces from the North Police Precinct. To me the most important
way to bring more people to Lansing is not a new GM plant or a new parking
lot, but green space, Mertz said. You could put a plant
or parking lot wherever you want, but no one will want to live near
The outcome of the City Council vote, which is expected Oct. 7, is still
wide open. Council members Larry Meyer, Carol Wood, Saturnino Rodriguez
and Geneva Smith couldnt be reached for comment. Councilwoman
Sandy Allen said utilizing parking on Michigan Avenue would be an ideal
solution. Before making up her mind she wanted to see if Sparrow
had investigated all possibilities, Allen said. Councilwoman Joan Bauer
said shed vote yes if Sparrow promised to clean up the area after
leaving. Her colleague Tony Benavides said hed also approve the
proposal if this were the case. But Benavides, who is a Sparrow Foundation
Board member, hopes the parties will be able to compromise. Otherwise
hes afraid of a lose-lose situation for the city.
If we approve it a number of folks are going to be upset, and
if we dont approve it were going to have another group of
people upset, he said.
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