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Kaya Coffee House to remain in location

The former SBX Building rezone was denied in a close vote at a special public comment hearing by the Mount Pleasant City Commission.

The former SBX building that houses Kaya Coffee House will not be rezoned following a Mount Pleasant City Commission vote.

The city commission voted 4-3 Monday to deny a request that would rezone the location from commercial to residential.

Local developer Rick McGuirk was in the process of purchasing the property on the condition that the rezoning request would be approved. He intended to demolish the building to develop the property for residential housing.

“We are not responsible for rezoning every parcel (of land) or building that has difficulty selling,” said Commissioner Lori Gillis. “(This) is not compatible with the goals that we are trying to achieve south of High Street.”

Dozens of people attended the public hearing to speak against the proposal.

Kathy Martin has been a resident of Mount Pleasant for more than 40 years. She said that Kaya Coffee House has been a staple of the community and there isn’t a place like it near campus.

“Mount Pleasant says that it supports small businesses,” Martin said. “It’s time for the city commission to ‘walk their talk’ in support of small bussinesses.”

The building has been for sale since the SBX Bookstore closed more than two years ago. Emily Miller and Abigail Chambers, the owners of Kaya, lease a space in the property. They were preparing to find a new location if the request had passed, Miller said.

Miller said she understands economic concerns for the SBX Building, which has remained mostly vacant since 2015. However, she argued the location is commercially viable.

“We respect everything that is going on but we also do respect where our business is located,” Miller said. “It is a nice safe haven for the students and we do think it’s successful as a business area.”

Josh Geary, who represented the CMU Student Government Association., said an overwhelming amount of student comments opposed the rezoning.

He read one statement written by a student.

“Kaya is a safe space for minority students and many students on campus to come together and express themselves,” he said.

McGuirk, the operations manager of United Apartments, said he understood people’s anxiety in regard to the request.

“Change is tough and I respect everyone’s position,” he said. “I feel the best use of the land, as this parcel touches Central Michigan University, is for high-quality student housing.”

Commissioner Jim Holton supported the rezoning request and acknowledged it wasn’t a popular opinion.

“Looking at the building, the state of the building and the land use which doesn’t show it as being a commercial area, “ Holton said. “Knowing those facts, that’s the way I’m voting this evening.”

John Belco is a managing partner of the SBX Bookstore building. He supported the zoning request alongside McGuirk.

“The building has been for sale for more than two and a half years and I hear a lot of great ideas about what can go there — (but) the phone isn’t ringing,” Belco said. “We’ve been paying a lot of expenses and taxes as that building has stood vacant and I’m not sure the business climate can hold a retail space that big.”