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Detroit signs deal to lease Belle Isle to state

By Joseph Lichterman

DETROIT (Reuters) - The state of Michigan signed an agreement Tuesday with Detroit to lease Belle Isle park, saving the city at least $4 million in annual maintenance and operation costs for the recreational landmark.

Leasing the park in the Detroit River has been a priority for Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr since he was appointed in March. The Detroit City Council failed to approve a similar plan in January before a deadline set by Republican Governor Rick Snyder.

Under Michigan's emergency manager law the city council has 10 days to approve the 30-year lease with two 15-year renewals.

If the council rejects the lease it would have seven days to propose an alternative plan to save the city the same amount or more. A state emergency loan board would then need to approve one of the proposals.

The state said it plans to spend up to $20 million to improve the park during the first 18-36 months of state management.

Belle Isle was established as a city park in 1881. Detroit filed the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history in July, and is struggling to overcome more than $18 billion in debt and other liabilities.

(Reporting by Joseph Lichterman; Editing by Richard Chang)

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