Making property sales easy could be hard

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Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 11.52.22 AMBy Chris Boggus
Entirely East Lansing

It would be easier for the city to sell land it owns under a proposed change to the City Charter. The change would lower the margin needed on the ballot to approve sales from 60 percent to 50 percent.

A plan to sell three city-owned parking lots near Abbot and Grand River fell short in November when it received just 57 percent of the votes.

A simple majority of the vote is a standard in some cities, however it is not coming to East Lansing as easily.

“The November ballot saw a vote to the people for the sale of these parking lot properties,” said City Manager George Lahanas. “This vote will be on the percentage of voters needed to approve the property sales.”

City Council wants to lower this requirement to make property sales easier, but they can not change the property sales amendment on their own. “The charter amendment on property sales must be a vote of the people,” said Lahanas.

“We need to have a high standard to make city officials think twice before selling taxpayers’ property,” said Don Power, executive board member of Neighborhoods 1st in East Lansing.

Neighborhoods 1st is a group of East Lansing citizen-activists who have “been involved in the community for 40-45 years now,” according to Power.

Moving the voting requirements to a 50 percent majority would make it easier for the city to move quickly on property turnover and new opportunities. However, some community members raised concerns.

“Selling property is irreversible,” said Sally Silver, a neighborhood activist and retiree.“Once city property is sold it is gone and can not be reversed. That is why it requires a three-fifths majority.”

The issue could affect the Bailey Community Center, a city landmark and home to a day-care center. It is unclear what the city will do with the building after its official shutdown this year.

Neighborhoods 1st focuses its active agenda around improving schools, sewer and water lines, roads and sidewalks. It has recently taken legal action against the city council for its actions around the property sales amendment.

Power said, “$16,000 was spent to revote on the charter, we have invited the city council to join us in public debate on this topic, whether they show up or not, we will still provide our argument against them.”

City Council did not respond to the invitation from Power and Neighborhoods 1st, but a debate will still be scheduled sometime before the May 5 election.


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