Belle Isle Lease To State Tabled By Detroit City Council, Delaying Vote

Downtown Detroit is shown from Belle Isle park in Detroit Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Under a lease agreement with the state a
Downtown Detroit is shown from Belle Isle park in Detroit Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012. Under a lease agreement with the state announced by Gov. Rick Snyder and Mayor Dave Bing Wednesday, people driving onto the island will either pay $10 per visit or need a $10 recreation passport that covers admission to state parks. Michigan is leasing the city park for 30 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A plan for Belle Isle is off the agenda for Detroit's City Council -- at least for the moment.

A contentious vote to lease the city's island park out as a state park managed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) had been scheduled for Tuesday. But the Detroit News reports that council's Neighborhood and Community Services Committee decided Monday to table the issue for another two weeks. Committee members Kwame Kenyatta and Joanne Watson outvoted third member James Tate, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Under the deal, the DNR would handle operations and expenses for the park for 30 years, with two optional renewals. Pedestrians and bicyclists would be able to access Belle Isle for free, but those driving motor vehicles would have to purchase an $11 pass good for all state parks. The statewide Recreation Passport fee was raised a dollar for 2013.

Backers have said the plan would save Detroit $277 million over 30 years, but some council members have expressed skepticism about the plan -- and the issue has been kept tied up in committee.

On Monday, citizens spoke at a public hearing on the matter. Many were opposed to the possible deal.

"I want you to go out to the suburbs and tell them that you are part of a black authority from Detroit and you want to take over all of their damn parks, and all of their assets," said Detroit activist Morris Mayes, according to WDIV-TV. "You ain't never gonna do it because by the time they get done beating you upside your head, they'll be tar and feathering your black behind."

In order to consider the lease now, a supermajority consisting of six of council's nine members would need to vote Tuesday to put it back on the agenda, the Detroit Free Press reports. The DNR has stated it wants a final decision by the end of the month, but another full council session isn't scheduled to take place until Feb. 5, according to the newspaper.

Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown made a plea to Council President Charles Pugh to not wait for a vote any longer, the Detroit News reports.

"You can discuss this forever," Brown said. "At some point, you owe it to your constituents to vote it up or down. We're at that point," the newspaper quoted him as saying.

UPDATE: 12:40 p.m. -- Detroit City Council decided against taking a vote on leasing Belle Isle to the state Tuesday. The body voted 6-3 to not bring the issue up as new business on the day's agenda. On Monday, a committee tabled discussion on leasing the island park. Only City Council members James Tate, Saunteel Jenkins and Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown voted in favor of putting the state lease up for a vote.

A supermajority of six of the nine council members would have been required to bring it before the whole body. Earlier in the meeting, the council voted 5-4 to take the issue out of committee, so they could consider putting it on the agenda.



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