Lansing Council Readies for RACER Presentation

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People living on Lansing's west side say they wouldn't be as concerned about their new neighbors if they had a better idea of who they are.

"I guess my biggest concern is if they put something down there if it's going to be noisy?" said Julie Durham, who lives on Lansing's west side. "Is it going to be as polluting as what was there before?"

What was there before, just down the street from Durham, was 250 acres of property that used to belong to General Motors and now is in the hands of the Revitalizing Auto Communities Environmental Response (RACER) Trust.

When GM went through bankruptcy, the federal government created the RACER Trust and put it in charge of cleaning up old facilities and finding people to redevelop them.

The problem, many neighbors say, is that they've been left in the dark about who the land may be sold to.

"If they were going to build something loud and noisy that made the neighborhood smell, I wouldn't like that," said Jon Dunham. "But if they're going to build something that's going to create jobs and bring money to the area then I'd be OK with that."

It may not be long before Durham gets her answer. Representatives from RACER are scheduled to give a presentation to the Lansing City Council Monday night. Council members like Carol Wood are looking forward to the information she figures to receive.

"There's an entity out there that owns this property, what we're trying to do is to understand what they're doing with the property, how they're cleaning it up, and then how they're marketing it," she said.

Wood was one of several council members that raised concerns at a Committee of the Whole meeting July 14. Council members voiced questions about maintenance, transparency and environmental issues like groundwater contamination.

"When we're talking anything that deals near our water system, we want to be confident that there are no issues out there and I think those are things that we need as a body to be able to ask RACER," said Wood.

Wood is concerned about what she says is an underground plume of a chemical known as 1,4-dioxane. RACER says it has been working with the Department of Environmental Quality to test plants, soil and groundwater.

RACER says the plume does not extend to municipal water supply wells and isn't likely to affect drinking water in the future.

Wood also wants to make sure that whatever takes the place of the GM site is beneficial for the neighborhood.

"RACER has made some commitments to the west side neighborhood," she said. "So we just want to make sure those commitments are followed through and that people feel better about what the situation is."

Mayor Virg Bernero says he hears -- and even has shared -- some of the concerns of nearby residents. But he says he has complete confidence in RACER.

"We have an assurance that the site will be properly cleaned up," he said. "We have an assurance that most communities never get."

The city isn't fighting with a private company, Bernero said, and the money is in the bank, giving him confidence things will be done right.

The local RACER property spans Lansing and Lansing Township, meaning there could be two different sites with two different developments.

Unless the redevelopment changes the zoning, the city council has no say, Wood said. All it would take is approval from the mayor to move forward.

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