DETROIT — At Tuesday's regular City Council session, it was announced that state and city leaders executed a lease agreement effectively turning Belle Isle, one of Detroit's "crown jewels," into a state park.
The idea of ceding governance of the island from the city to Lansing has been floating for a while, with Gov. Rick Snyder suggesting the idea more than a year ago. Back then council demurred after city residents voiced concerns and staged protests against the deal. The governor withdrew the offer shortly thereafter, saying it could be revisited in 2014.
However, with the appointment of Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, who answers to the governor, a revisit of the agreement seemed likely after Orr indicated he would pursue the deal, originally involving a 30-year, rent-free lease that gave the Department of Natural Resources control of the island in exchange for state-funded improvements to the park.
Council President Saunteel Jenkins asked council lawyers to look into the state's emergency manager law in relation to leasing assets. Jenkins told reporters she had yet to see the document but was informed that it had been executed.
"I was not opposed to a lease for Belle Isle," she said. "I was opposed to a lease for Belle Isle that didn't include any protections for residents ... and didn't guarantee any improvements."