June 15 2017 03:26 PM
Groesbeck_Paper copy

Mayor distorts history in defending his road thru Ormond Park

Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero insisted on Tuesday that back in 1989 the Lansing City Council purchased parcels of land for Ormond Park for one purpose and one purpose only: a new entryway to Groesbeck Golf Course.

“It was purchased by a previous city council that included the likes of Lucille Belen and Alfreda Schmidt,” he declared in an interview on WKAR. “It was adopted unanimously for the express purpose of creating a driveway into Groesbeck Golf Course.”

Trouble is: The City Council resolution says specifically not that the parcels must be used for that purpose but that they “could” be.

The language is clear: “A new drive could be constructed through Ormond Park if the City acquired access to E. Grand River” Avenue.

The 1989 resolution cited improvements that would increase traffic to the course and that the only access to it was through residential streets.

Over the years, neighbors have successfully fought the entryway through the park despite traffic through their streets.

But this year, Bernero succeeded where other administrations have failed. His plan to spend $358,000 in parks millage money for the new road survived neighborhood opposition. Bids are being sought to build the road by fall.

The 1989 resolution reflects that all eight members, including Belen and Schmidt, voted for it. But if the intent was that the land must be used for a road, the resolution does not say so.

The current Council is already looking into how the road proposal ever got inserted into the city’s master plan for parks. The Council voted 8-0 on Monday to investigate that, just hours after the state Department of Natural Resources said it too was looking into it.

In his WKAR appearance, Bernero accused Council members of “giving us histrionics” rather than “read the history.”

But Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann — who served on the Council in 1989 — suggested it was the other way around. He said it’s Bernero who is “misreading” history.

“It says it could be used for that,” said Lindemann. “It was our intent when I was on the City Council to look at a variety of different options. And we didn’t know back then what some of the options would have been.”

However, Sid Worthington, another Councilman from then, recalled the exact opposite.

“Yes, yes,” he said by phone Tuesday. “That’s what it was for.”

He recalled the purchase was part of a larger plan to revitalize the languishing course. Those plans, he said, including sprucing up the clubhouse to include a restaurant. The city, he recalled, had just obtained the course from the State of Michigan.

Lindemann said at the time there was discussion about creating an entrance off of Wood Street, which he said “would be ideal” because it would remove the traffic concerns from the neighborhood. But Worthington said he didn’t think that idea had come up in “88 or ‘89.”

At the end of the day, Lindemann argued, the city hasn’t “really looked at all the alternatives.”

He noted he recently completed a drain-related redesign of property owned by the Lansing Board of Water & Light which abuts both Bancroft Park and the golf course. That area would be right for putting in a driving range, a new entrance and parking — and has the bonus of moving the golf traffic from the neighborhood and protecting Ormond Park.

“So there’s an opportunity for looking at some alternatives here,” he said. “I think that’s what they should do.”

He doesn’t dismiss the Ormond plan out of hand, but he said no one knows if that is the “best way.”

“If that was me out there, I’d take a hard look at all the options and think outside the box,” he said. That thinking, he said, should look at the golf course as a whole — the greens to the clubhouse, to entrances to functionality and accessibility.

That process, he said, has to be done in public and with a public hearing — something the Bernero administration has rejected out of hand. Asked if he thought the city should hold a public process to develop an outside-the-box plan, as Lindemann called for, Worthington said he did — with a caveat that it not delay transfer of management of the course to the Lansing Entertainment and Public Facility Authority. That move, he said, was something he’d supported for years.

Bernero has done exactly that in the new budget, which takes effect in July, despite the Council’s opposition. Bernero vetoed the Council measure, but opponents to the transfer to LEPFA were unable to overcome it.

But as for a public process and that outof-the-box plan?

“I don’t want to be a buttinski into what the city is doing,” Worthington said, “But it’s never a bad idea to look at that.”