Planning Commission postpones M-2 zoning discussion, seeks input from local developers

Mount Pleasant's Planning Commission expected to move forward on its M-2 zoning codification process at its Thursday work session.

However, the group came to an impasse when looking at how their vision for a possible buffer zone and new professional housing could affect the bottom line for its local developers.

The impasse forced the planning commission to postpone its codification discussion until they could gather input from the developers.

"My job is to come up with a vision," Alan Bean, a planning consultant with Spicer Group, told Central Michigan Life. "I want town homes with nearby bike paths and walkable communities. But if banks can't finance these properties and builders can't see black, it's not going to happen."

Bean is filling in as the city's planner until they can permanently fill the position.

The M-2 districts makes up an area of Mount Pleasant between Preston Road and High Street, starting to the east of Glen Avenue and tapering off just before Mission Street. The area is bordered by the R-3 district to east, which contains Fancher Elementary School.

During the first half of the session – which was cut short due to the impasse – the planning commission debated the repercussions involved with potential changes.

Bean said the City Commission asked the Planning Commission in 2013 to determine a way to codify – or make into an official ordinance – the various non-codified M-2 staff procedures to make them more formalized.

The Planning Commission hired a consultant to figure out what their options were. The consultant offered three, one of which was the best fit. That option was to just write every existing procedure as it is into law, said planning commissioner and CMU professor Mark Ranzenberger.

City commissioners are expecting a decision in July.

In the process of codifying, the planning commission wants to establish more housing units for young professionals in addition to its student and single family units along the M-2 and R-3 border.

A few problems arise by doing that, said Commissioner Keith Cotter.

The main issue, Cotter said, was requiring the developers to redevelop their existing student housing into the professional units.

Cotter said this move could greatly affect the way these developers can generate cash flow from renting to students. Cotter himself is a landlord in Mount Pleasant.

"If you have a five-bedroom housing unit and you rent to five students for $250 a room, you'll be making $1,250 a month," Cotter said. "If you do the same with a single family, you'll only make around $1,050."

As Cotter broke down the numbers, Commissioner Allison Quast moved to postpone their discussion until the next work session. Quast said she was uncomfortable talking about codification without the involvement of developer perspective.

Planning commissioners also moved to invite local developers to the next session, like Joe Olivieri and the McGuirks, to name a few.

In addition, the group worried about the potential disruptions that could occur with lining up high density student housing against smaller single family units right next to each other.

The M-2 district contains a high amount of student housing along its side of the R-3 border. The adjacent side of the R-3 border contains mostly single family dwellings.

Planning commissioners want to develop a buffer zone in between these two areas to avoid potential disruptions.

"Students have different priorities than families, and they hold completely different hours," Bean said. "If a group of students are out on their back porch having a party, a family is looking out at them on the other side."

However, Bean said the question becomes "if a buffer zone is in place, how do you make it market ready?"

Check back with for more on the M-2 project.




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