East Lansing City Council voted 4-1 in favor of delaying enforcement on Newman Loft's zoning violations during the Tuesday meeting.
The Newman Lofts apartments violated the 55+ age restriction and rented three apartment units to individuals who are under the age restriction. The city issued two notices to the real estate company, citing their decision to rent to tenants under the age of 55 at Newman Lofts was a violation of the City Zoning Ordinance and their Master Ground Lease.
Members who voted in favor of delaying enforcement felt that it was unfair to evict or relocate the tenants and that a future mutually agreeable decision was the better option.
"It never sat right with me to evict people who entered into a housing contract in good faith," Mayor Pro Tem Jessy Gregg said in the meeting. "I don't think the tenants should be punished for the owner's poor decision."
Council Member Lisa Babcock was the sole vote in opposition, saying she was concerned about setting a precedent.
"For me, this comes down to trust," Babcock said in the meeting. "These are people who sent us an absolutely ridiculous attorney letter a few months ago, blaming the city of East Lansing for essentially for COVID, for COVID outbreaks in East Lansing, etc., etc. And they were going to sue us by Sept. 30, which has come and gone. We learned in a meeting that they were leasing against the terms of the master development agreement, and we gave them 60 days to cure it. On day 30, they send us a letter saying that, yeah, they'll talk to us over the next 60 days."
Harbor Bay Real Estate had attempted to have the age-restriction policy lifted for the building due to the COVID-19 pandemic; however, according to Tuesday’s agenda item report from staff, they are no longer interested in requesting the age restriction be eliminated.
Mayor Aaron Stephens also felt that evicting or relocating these tenants was unfair and that since Harbor Bay Real Estate has agreed not to lease to anyone under 55 in the future, a mutual agreement was the most reasonable.
"What they basically indicated is that they're not seeking that the 55 and over, you know, will get eliminated, and they've heard that very clear from council," Stephens said. "Honestly, right now, what I'm hearing is that this is a conversation about, do we let staff, the people that we trust, go and figure out if there's a mutually agreeable situation where we don't, we don't maybe get into a legal fight, over this. I think that's reasonable."
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