Sept. 8 2016 10:53 AM

Council committee delays vote on proposed BWL substation

An undated winter photo of the Scott Sunken Garden in Scott Park, which was built in the late 20's and early 30's.
Courtesy photo
THURSDAY. Sept. 8 — A decision granting a special land use permit to the Lansing Board of Water & Light to erect a power substation in Scott Park has been delayed for at least two weeks by the Lansing City Council Committee on Development and Planning.

“So many things have come to light since the last Development and Planning meeting that I really need answers to questions before we move this out of committee,” committee Chairwoman Councilwoman Jody Washington said at a meeting this morning.

The entire Council was scheduled to vote on the permit on Monday if the committee acted.

BWL announced in February it wanted to take over a portion of Scott Park, at Malcolm X and Washington avenues, to construct a power substation at a cost of at least $26 million as part of its plans to shut down the coal-burning Eckert Power Plant by 2020. Officials have said the park is the only viable location because it is near a point where all the electrical lines feed out into downtown.

One question is whether GM might reconsider housing the substation, which would also provide power to the automaker’s Grand River plant. BWL officials have said they spoke with GM about using some property at the site, which is across from Scott Park, but they say they were told the company has other plans there. However, Washington said a coalition of citizens, Preservation Lansing the Lansing Garden Club members and others has reached out to GM.

Washington also raised questions about the substation’s construction timeline. And she questioned whether BWL officials had presented incomplete information to the Council regarding underground electrical transmission infrastructure that already runs up South Washington.

She held up two maps, One presented to the Planning Board in May identified underground transmission infrastructure running up South Washington; the other showed no infrastructure on South Washington.

“What is that? Why are they gone?” She asked BWL General Manager Richard Peffley.

Peffley, seated on the opposite end of the long conference table in City Council’s conference room shook his head, and mouthed, “I don’t know.”

The committee also tabled a resolution that would authorize the sale of property bordered by Hillsdale and Lenawee streets and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The property would be sold to Habitat for Humanity Capitol Region in order to move the current, nearly 100-year-old house in Scott Park, known as the Scott or Jenison house, to that location. Habitat has proposed developing the old home into three or four condos and then building another 18 to 20 units.

The committee tabled consideration of the resolution until Sept. 22 because of concerns and questions about the proposed project. No representative of Habitat was present at the meeting to answer those questions.

Besides the Scott House, BWL’s opponents are concerned about the Scott Sunken Garden. The BWL has proposed moving it to elsewhere in the park, but opponents argue it would lose its historic value if that happens.