Planning Commission Reflections for January 27 and Upcoming Steering Committee Meeting

Good morning,

I wanted to let you know there will be a Master Plan Steering Committee meeting this Tuesday, February 3 at 5:30 pm at the Flint Public Library. Please note that the meeting will be upstairs in room 205 instead of in the basement. Items on the agenda include gearing up for the zoning code revision and an update on the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP).

At this past Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting, we took public testimony on the draft Beyond Blight 5-Year Blight Elimination framework. This is a working document that we will consider officially adopting as a strategy to address blight as based on the Master Plan. Although it was on the agenda to vote on its adoption, we postponed the vote until the next meeting due to having several commissioners absent due to illness or injury. No one expressed concern at the draft plan, and several commissioners noted that feedback from the community sessions held in the summer/fall had been quite positive, and that revisions were made based on the public’s input.

Much of the remainder of the meeting was spent addressing requests for medical marijuana provisioning center special regulated use permits that had been held over from previous meetings due to needing additional materials. The first, for the Green Bean East at 408 S. Center Rd, came to us after having gotten a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding the distance between it and another provisioning center. The ordinance states that centers must be 1,000 feet or more apart, but this one would be just shy of that. All other aspects of the request were in order and the applicant agreed to several adjustments (including building an interior wall to clearly separate the areas where people must be registered card-holders vs. public areas, meeting the more rigorous signage standards of the draft zoning code, and coming back to the Planning Commission with a specific plan for cultivation on site should they eventually get the point of wanting to add that to their operations). With those stipulations, the permit was granted.

The next two cases were considered together because they were in close proximity and approval of one would by definition make the other location out of compliance with the ordinance. They were located at 215 and 310 S. Averill. After hearing from both applicants, the Planning Commission granted approval to the property at 310 S. Averill (the former Raincheck Lounge). Some of the distinguishing factors noted were the location of the other site in a 100-year floodplain where the Master Plan calls for such areas to eventually be open space and where any incident of flooding could cause building security systems to fail or public safety to have to respond and the fact that the other location had a black mold problem and the owner went ahead with extensive abatement without getting the required building permits (despite having been encouraged last time to check with building safety first).

The fourth case considered was for “We Grow” at 2849 Miller Rd, a grandfathered location. The applicant provided the operational plan, floor plan, security plan, and other information that was missing from the original application. With the information in hand, the permit was approved.

The last case was for Michigan Safe Transfer at 3401 Corunna Rd, also a grandfathered location. With information related to a floor plan, security plan, and other items submitted, the permit was approved.

Finally, we had an update from staff on the Master Plan implementation. The biggest announcement was that City Council approved the Capital Improvement Plan by a 7-2 vote (with Galloway and Mays dissenting). This is an important moment because for the first time in decades, Flint has a comprehensive assessment of its capital and infrastructure needs that can be used as the basis for forming a budget and taking manageable bites out of the problem. For too long, infrastructure and capital needs were addressed on an as-needed basis, which often meant waiting for an emergency to happen rather than being proactive and planning ahead. If we had done this years ago, perhaps the challenges we face now related to an aging water distribution system, for example, would not be so overwhelming. Adoption of the CIP does not fix everything – and it does not magically create piles of money to draw on. It does give us a rational basis for prioritizing projects and seeking sources of support, though, and that is an important step.

Other updates: as you may have heard, the City of Flint and Flint Housing Commission were awarded a $500,000 planning grant from HUD through the Choice Neighborhoods program. Social equity is one of the core principles of the Master Plan, and one area that was highlighted was the need to change how we have done public housing, which for too long meant placing low-income residents off to the side, away from needed amenities and separated from neighborhood life. The planning grant will enable a community engagement process to work with residents of the Atherton East complex and other community members to re-think public housing in that part of town. The South Saginaw corridor will be an area of focus, as the Master Plan identifies parts of that area as suitable for mixed use/mixed income multi-family housing. Communities that complete a Choice Neighborhood planning grant are then eligible to compete for implementation funds from HUD. In the meantime, staff shared that Police Chief James Tolbert has started working with the Atherton East community to improve safety in the near term.

We also received updates on the status of the Master Plan Implementation Task Groups. These eight groups are each responsible for helping coordinate implementation of the strategies identified in chapters of the Master Plan and they include a total of 120 people, mostly residents (with some participation from organizations that have technical knowledge of the subject matter.) All groups have been meeting and have made progress toward developing and following up on action plans. The one group that appears to have stalled is the Arts and Culture group. Members of the group have requested that additional members be recruited to help move the process forward. While the Planning Commission is not re-opening the recruitment process for all groups, in this case by consensus we decided to accept applications from interested people who would like to join.

Have a great start to your week!
Elizabeth Jordan

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