There is no question that the City of East Lansing made a mistake when it made its application to HUD to use CDBG funds for the project in question. Specifically, the city should have disclosed to HUD that one of the four properties abutting the sidewalk housed the City Attorney. This was the city’s error. People make mistakes, and the city owns this one.
The problem with Mr. Bellfy’s accusation and the reporting by ELi is that both imply that the City Attorney was colluding with the city to get a retaining wall for free. There is absolutely no evidence supporting this accusation, and it is irresponsible and possibly libelous to make it. In fact, the City Attorney had no idea that this project was being funded with a federal grant since CDBG grants do not go through the City Attorney’s office.
In addition, Mr. Bellfy and ELi downplay the fact that along Abbot road, property owners gave up valuable property so that the sidewalk could be widened to improve pedestrian safety. It is NOT unusual for the city to pay for sidewalks and retaining walls when the property owners give up land for their construction. The city recently offered Harper’s the same deal that it offered the Abbot Road property owners — a sidewalk/retaining wall in exchange for an easement. Another example of trading property rights for sidewalk/retaining walls is the Saginaw Street pathway project. Property owners were not charged for these improvements because they were willing to give up land so that pedestrians could walk more safely. Community members with additional questions about this standard engineering practice and how it has been used throughout the community can contact the East Lansing Department of Public Works at (517) 337-9459.
East Lansing City Council