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State and Detroit officials strike tentative deal to lease Belle Isle

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan has signed a deal to lease Detroit’s Belle Isle.

Governor Snyder and emergency manager Kevyn Orr have both approved the plan.

The state won’t pay anything for the 30-year deal, which has two 15-year renewal options.

But the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will run Belle Isle as a state park, saving Detroit an estimated $4 million a year in maintenance costs.

“The city will maintain ownership of Belle Isle, while the Michigan DNR will assume responsibility for managing Belle Isle according to the standards of other Michigan state parks,” Bing and Snyder’s offices said in a joint statement.

The Detroit City Council rejected a longer-term lease earlier this year. Some Council members were concerned about the length of the lease — originally 99 years — and said the state needed to have a more concrete plan for upgrading the island.

This time around, the Council wasn’t involved in hashing out the agreement, and was only informed this week that a deal had been reached.

Council President Saunteel Jenkins had not seen the lease agreement as of Tuesday morning. She was hopeful the new deal has more specifics.

“From what I’m told, this lease that’s being considered has some benchmarks,” Jenkins said. “It also has some protections for both sides, where the city can get out and the state can get out. That’s what I’d like to see.”

According to city and state officials, under Michigan’s emergency manager law, the City Council has 10 days to approve or disapprove the lease. If it rejects it, the Council then has seven days to “advance an alternative that would save the same amount of money or more as the lease.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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