City Commission discusses CMU Smartzone at June 24 meeting

Gillis, Tolas concerned Smartzone could compete with Mount Pleasant businesses


Commissioner Kathleen Ling discusses the Central Michigan University Smartzone at a city Commission Meeting June 24 at City Hall.

The Mount Pleasant City Commission passed multiple pieces of legislation and discussed the conceptual plan for the Central Michigan University Smartzone at its June 24 meeting in City Hall.

The Central Michigan University Research Corporation (CMURC) presented its conceptual plan for the Mount Pleasant Smartzone at a City Commission meeting April 22. The 300-acre area on the south end of Mount Pleasant was designed to attract high-tech businesses to bring more jobs and professionals to the city. 

At the June 24 meeting, the commissioners voted to endorse the conceptual plan. After some discussion, the motion passed 5-2. Vice Mayor Lori Gillis and Commissioner Petro Tolas voted against it.

The conceptual plan includes corporate offices, specialty retail stores and high-end housing for professionals. Tolas said he is concerned the buildings in the Smartzone would compete with local businesses and housing complexes in Mount Pleasant.

"You're actually building a city inside of a city," Tolas said. "You're competing with local tax payers here."

Gillis was worried about CMURC building mixed-use and commercial properties in the Smartzone when there are already vacant properties in Mount Pleasant. 

"I do not want competition with our zoning we just changed along Mission," Gillis said. "We are trying to accommodate mixed-use buildings with the vacant malls that are all the way up and down the strip. If you do develop a city within a city and start to provide housing and all kinds of mixed use… I don't want that to compete with us."

The commission also discussed the design of Pickard Street after it gets resurfaced in 2020. The non-motorized plan suggested the road be reduced from four lanes to three, and the extra space be used to make bike lanes on either side.

City staff cited multiple reasons why the commission should keep Pickard's current four-lane design including potential traffic back-ups at the railroad tracks, and significant public opposition and a lack of support from the Isabella County Road Commission and the Michigan Department of Transportation .

During public comment, Mount Pleasant resident Jon Joslin expressed his concern about changing Pickard's striping. He felt reducing the amount of lanes would cause traffic back-ups similar to High Street.

"If your objective is to eliminate crashes, then you could do that just by closing the actual street," he said. "But that is not the only objective. The objective is to get traffic flow."

Joslin started an online petition to keep Pickard Street how it is. He hoped to get 100 signatures, and now the petition has more than 900.

The commission voted unanimously to keep Pickard's current design.

The commission also voted to set a public hearing regarding Special Assessment District #2. The public hearing is scheduled for the July 8 City Commission meeting.