City Commission roundup: Human rights and CPTED ordinances approved

Published on August 28, 2019

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids City Commission held its bimonthly meetings Tuesday and took action on such topics as the human rights and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) ordinance, voiced its opposition to two proposed medical marijuana facilities, among others. It also held a public hearing on a request to designate a section of Michigan Street as the Medical Mile. Here’s a recap:

Human rights ordinance
The City Commission voted unanimously to approve a human rights ordinance that updates and expands definitions of protected classes. The ordinance came to be after a Community Relations Commission subcommittee reviewed the proposal from LINC UP and identified best practices of other municipalities and a MDCR Civil Rights template to create the City’s new human rights ordinance.  The multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-generational subcommittee also met with partner investigative agencies, including the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, Fair Housing Center of Western Michigan and Disability Advocates of Kent County to outline and identify the current state of investigations in the community. 

The human rights ordinance goes into effect on December 1.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) ordinance
The City Commission voted unanimously to approve the CPTED ordinance. The CPTED Ordinance is unique; there are no known examples in the country where an ordinance is dedicated to CPTED for the purposes of addressing uses related to tobacco, alcohol, marijuana and illicit massage businesses. The ordinance and accompanying education and awareness campaign with a potential façade improvement program has the potential to be a leading-edge best practice for urban communities that are attempting to address matters related to public safety in new ways. It is anticipated to reduce calls for police service, increase public safety and empower local communities to have greater ownership in the management of public and private spaces.

West Michigan Express pilot project
The City Commission approved public support for the West Michigan Express Pilot Project. The City has partnered with the cities of Hudsonville, Holland and Grandville, and the Grand Valley Metro Council (GVMC) and the Macatawa Area Coordinating Council (MACC), to study whether express bus or rail transit service in the Chicago Drive Corridor between Grand Rapids and Holland is feasible. The concept of the proposed transit service along the corridor is called the West Michigan Express (WMX) and its purpose is to increase connectivity in the region to serve an already well-traveled corridor that continues to experience residential, commercial and industrial development.
No financial support has been requested outside of staff time for identifying parking locations, potential transit stops and signage.

Potential park separation distance waivers for proposed medical marijuana facilities
City Commission voted to voice its objection to separation distance waivers for proposed medical marijuana facilities at:

  • 1000 Ken O Sha Industrial Park Dr. SE and
  • 549 Michigan St. NE.

It did not voice an objection to proposed medical marijuana facilities at

  • 49 Coldbrook St NE
  • 1109 Michigan St NE
  • 940 28th St SE, and
  • 910 (aka 928) 28th St SE

The City, as the “owner” of the public parks, is the entity assigned to determining whether to file an objection. The City’s medical marijuana ordinance places a 1,000-foot separation distance between marijuana businesses and specified sensitive land uses. Publicly owned parks are considered sensitive uses. The ordinance allows the Planning Commission to waive the required separation distance for publicly owned parks with input from the landowner. Because the City owns the parks, the City Commission can object to requests for waivers. The Planning Commission will take the City’s objections under consideration when deciding whether to grant waivers.

Contract for housing practice leader services with Housing Next
To reach the next level and accelerate housing production, the City Commission voted to approve a contract with Housing Next to focus on housing matters and coordinated application of resources that drive results. The Housing Next model is an innovative public/private partnership approach to increasing housing supply and affordability and is well-positioned for success in Grand Rapids.

Under the nine-month contract, Housing Next will:

  • Analyze and recommend the use of all local, state and federal incentive tools available to support the construction, rehabilitation and preservation of housing at all price points.
  • Review and analyze all publicly owned property in the City of Grand Rapids pertaining to marketability for development of additional affordable and mixed-income housing.
  • Partner with community agencies and non-profits to overlay additional data sources pertaining to home ownership rates, shelter over-burdened households and access to economic opportunities based on geography, race, income, age and gender. This data will be used to inform dialogue pertaining neighborhood-based development strategies to pursue neighborhood goals and broader city goals of housing affordability, housing at all price points and equitable economic development.
  • Produce a best practice report on community housing funds. It will review similar housing funds across the U.S., including funding models & sources, use of funds and efforts to ensure equitable neighborhood investments in housing. DRAFT recommendations will be provided for the City of Grand Rapids prior to the final completion of the Housing Needs Assessment.
  • Produce a final report on the Grand Rapids Community Housing Fund. Utilizing data it gathered in the best practice report, along with the market data provided as part of the Housing Needs Assessment and Equitable Housing Strategies framework, a final recommendation pertaining to the utilization and growth of the Community Housing Fund will be provided. This will include both short-term and long-term funding strategies as well as short-term, medium-term and long-term investment strategies to ensure a sustainable path forward with opportunities to maximize community investments in housing over each time period.
  • Review the current zoning standards and make recommendations to reduce/eliminate any remaining regulatory hurdles for building more housing at all price points which are aligned with the general goals and objectives of the Master Plan and Area Specific Plans across the City.
  • Provide direction and support to the consultant hired to conduct a comprehensive County-wide Housing Needs Assessment with specific focus on the City of Grand Rapids.

Medical Mile public hearing
The City Commission held a public hearing to listen to feedback about the prospects of formalizing the name “Medical Mile” on a portion of Michigan Street between Monroe and College avenues.  Stakeholders requesting the commemorative designation include: MSU-College of Human Medicine, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University and Van Andel Institute.

Usage of "Medical Mile" to designate this area started in the mid-2000s and has become more frequent in recent years as more than $1 billion has been invested in new hospital, medical office buildings, medical education buildings and research facilities. Formalizing the usage of “Medical Mile” would complement efforts to create a distinctive identity for this burgeoning healthcare and life sciences corridor in Grand Rapids.
Grand Rapids already has granted commemorative designation street names in honor of:
Roberta Hunter Memorial Way – Sheldon Ave., Hall to Highland streets
Museum Row – Pearl St., U.S. 131 to Division Ave.
Historic Cobblestone Hill – North Ave., Walnut to Cedar streets
Dirk Vlug Way – Fulton, Sheldon, Library & Park streets adjacent to Veterans Memorial Park
Cesar Chavez Way – Grandville Ave., Franklin to Wealthy streets
Martin Luther King Blvd. – Division Ave., 28th to Coldbrook streets
Veterans Memorial Bridge – North Park Bridge over the Grand River
Officer Bob Kozminski Way – Tamarack Ave., Leonard to Richmond streets

City comptroller resigns
The City Commission accepted the resignation of City Comptroller Sara VanderWerff. VanderWerff resigned to pursue a new job opportunity out-of-state.

Mayor Rosalynn Bliss stated that the deputy city comptroller will assume the duties of the office until such time an appointment is made to fill the vacancy.

Under City Charter, the City Commission has the authority to make an appointment to fill a vacancy. The City Commission will work with the City Clerk's Office to determine the process to fill the city comptroller vacancy. The City will release those details when finalized.

For a complete look at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting agendas, CLICK HERE. To view the meeting CLICK HERE.

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