Has Calder Hotel Option Faded Away

December 5, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Why didn’t Grand Rapids city commissioners vote two weeks ago on a motion to extend the option held by Gallium Group LLC on Calder Plaza?

Because it was tabled, a move that sent the motion into a political limbo, a place where it might eventually die a quiet death.

Even a tabled motion that has been assigned a specific date for when it will come back on the agenda, like the one concerning Gallium’s option, can simply fade into oblivion.

At least in Grand Rapids, it can.

“A motion can remain on the table and die on the table,” said City Clerk Terry Hegarty last week.

Other cities, however, require a motion that has been tabled to a specific date be placed on the agenda for that date under the heading of “old business,” even if the only purpose for it being there is for commissioners or council members to take it off the table and kill it.

Some municipalities do that because it reminds local officials of their previous action and it could spark further discussion of an issue. But if it’s not on the agenda, it may not come up. And the one affecting Gallium didn’t at the city commission meeting held on Nov. 25, as those who attended the Oct. 28 commission meeting thought it would.

Third Ward Commissioner Robert Dean moved to suspend the rules at that October meeting in order to get a non-agenda item on the agenda. First Ward Commissioner James Jendrasiak supported the motion, which passed 5 to 2 and was opposed by Mayor John Logie and 2nd Ward Commissioner Lynn Rabaut.

Dean then moved to extend for six months the one-year option that Gallium held to buy City Hall, Calder Plaza and the Government Center parking ramp. Gallium wants to build a hotel on that property, which sits across Monroe Avenue from the new convention center. Again, Jendrasiak supported the motion.

Second Ward Commissioner Rick Tormala moved to amend the motion to include an appraisal of the city-owned property and for Gallium to pay for it.

After commissioners finished their discussion of extending the option, it appeared the motion, and possibly the amendment, would pass by a 5-to-2 margin, as only Logie and Rabaut spoke against extending the option.

Then the mayor suggested that the vote be tabled for 30 days so commissioners could digest the purchase proposal they had received from Gallium earlier that day. Dean moved to table both motions until Nov. 25. Rabaut supported that motion, which carried 7-0. The minutes from that meeting stated that both motions were tabled until Nov. 25.

But the tabled motions weren’t on the Nov. 25 agenda and a discussion to extend the option never took place.

More specifically, this motion wasn’t on the agenda because, in a very catch-22-like sense, commissioners voted to table it.

City Attorney Philip Balkema said that when Dean agreed to table his motion to extend the option he effectively killed any chance to lengthen it because the option Gallium held expired on Oct. 29, the day after Dean moved to extend it. Balkema noted that tabling a vote to extend an option to a time after the option has expired made the motion meaningless.

Still, the motion and amendment are technically on the table and Hegarty felt Dean could request that both be removed from the table at a future meeting.

“I think that he can,” said Hegarty.

A majority of commissioners, however, would have to agree to take the motions off the table.

The city commission does not follow Robert’s Rules of Order for procedures, following instead a set of standing rules that the city adopted in February 2000. When a procedural issue arises that isn’t covered by the standing rules, the city can consult Robert’s Rules for clarification.

The city’s standing rules do not spell out how tabled motions are to be handled, even if one does carry a specific date to appear on an agenda. Nor does Robert’s Rules. Robert’s Rules, though, does say that a motion can be removed from the table at any time.

Gallium is an investment partnership between Blue Bridge Ventures of Grand Rapids and Hines Interests LP of Houston. The partners want to build a 400-room hotel on Calder Plaza, but to do so they have to relocate the city at no extra cost to taxpayers.

The city said Gallium hasn’t met that requirement, falling nearly $80 million short of that goal. But Gallium said it has reached zero, a point where it won’t cost the city any more than it now spends to operate City Hall and will spend at its current location in the future. 

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