Detroit City Council prepares for public hearing, vote on proposal to lease Belle Isle to state

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A vote to turn Detroit's Belle Isle into a state park could come as early as next Tuesday.

The day before that anticipated vote, City Council is set to hold a public hearing on the controversial proposed lease deal.

A deal to have the state operate and maintain Belle Isle would reportedly save the city $6 million a year. Under the terms of the deal the state would operate Belle Isle, but the city would maintain ownership.

Council members were concerned with the original proposed lease agreement that lasted 90 years. The new proposal lasts for just thirty years and allows for either side to opt-out of the lease every decade.

A yearly vehicle pass to visit Belle Isle and other state parks would cost $11, but pedestrians and bicyclists would still be allowed to enter at no cost.

Also included in the proposed lease deal is training for citizens and contractors from Detroit to work on Belle Isle and state-funded projects on the island.

While a public hearing is set to take place on 2:00 pm Monday, City Council will take public comment on the issue at 1:30 pm on Thursday, January 24.

However, it is still not clear if the plan will pass City Council. While some members like James Tate and Saunteel Jenkins seem receptive to the deal, others are not so sure.

"I still don't know if I'm a yes vote," said Council President Charles Pugh. "What I'm most disappointed about, in all of this, forget about what's in the lease. I'm most disappointed there is no viable plan from the mayor of Detroit to run Belle Isle, to fix Belle Isle, on our own."

That comment from Pugh drew a sharp response from Mayor Bing, who released the following statement:

The current plan for leasing Belle Isle to the State is my plan, a plan that I developed and the Governor and I agreed to.  Council President Pugh must be misinformed; I don't know what he's talking about.

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