City commission discusses Capital Improvement Plan and housing study
The Mount Pleasant City Commission discussed its Capital Improvement Plan and the next steps to its housing study at its April 25 meeting.
Despite numerous citizens coming to the meeting and sending emails to the commission expressing concerns, decisions on Broadway Central and a potential marijuana ordinance have been put on hold until May. The deferral aims to give city staff more time to gather information and discuss the topics.
Bob Busch, Mount Pleasant resident, spoke to the city commission to urge it to support a free market for marijuana sales in the city.
"I think it's time for the city of Mount Pleasant to be bold. To be leaders on this. To embrace what it is," Busch said. "I'm asking you to be bold and to look into the future and help this town grow."
Capital Improvement Plan
The first work session for the city's Capital Improvement Plan was conducted to discuss the city commission's goals for the improvement of the city and its infrastructure.
The potential plans for 2023 to 2028 include improvements to sidewalks, parks, the downtown area and government buildings.
Commissioners had some questions regarding which roads would be repaired.
Commissioner George Ronan had concerns particularly for Franklin Street. Ronan called upon the City Engineer, Stacie Tewari, for answers.
“(Franklin Street) has all been torn up, it's probably the worst road in the city I would say,” Ronan said.
Tewari said due to budgetary issues, some decisions regarding road repairs had to be made.
“Structurally it's not terrible. I mean it doesn't look the greatest, but it is still structurally pretty sound,” Tewari said. “We had to make some tough choices ... so we decided to move that one out to 2028.”
Another work session is scheduled for the next city commission meeting on May 9. A public hearing for the topic is set for May 23.
A housing study, led by the city planning commission, was created to potentially look into affordable housing for the community.
The work session prompted discussion on the city's number of rental units compared to opportunities for homeownership. Commissioners discussed what housing types they believe could possibly provide better access to affordable housing.
“Isabella County is probably the second poorest county in the state — I think that is a fair statement,” Ronan said. “I think the way to increase affluence is homeownership to me, that's why I push it so much ... If you look at a lot of research nationwide, home ownership tends to be associated to affluence."
Commissioner Elizabeth Busch agreed with Ronan's statement, and said she thinks homeownership can often be more affordable and predictable than renting.
The city planning commission responded by noting that not everyone in town wants nor can afford homeownership. Rentals often are the best choice for these individuals.
“If you’re not fed then you don't have a stable safe roof over your head. You're not going be in a position to eventually own a house,” City Planner Jacob Kain said. “Part of that journey to homeownership for some people is going take them on that ladder involving affordable housing.”
Commissioner Brian Assmann asked the planning commission for their opinion on the best course of action.
“I would be interested to see if we could get updated Census information on homeownership,” Kain said. “These numbers are from 2017 and I suspect it may have shifted in that time. I think we will always have a lower-than-average permanent population for our town just due to our transient population.”
Kain said Mount Pleasant is in a unique position with its size being mostly dictated by students attending Central Michigan University making homeownership seem significantly lower than in other college towns around the state.
“I am thinking of what is urgent and what needs to be done now,” Commissioner Maureen Eke said, “People need affordable housing right now, it is urgent. I want to see something; I want to start something.”
Further discussion on the topic will continue at the next city commission meeting on May 9.