June 14, 2021 City Commission Vote Explanations

Here are my vote explanations for the City Commission meeting on Monday, June 14. You can watch the meeting video at: https://youtu.be/i5ZjFjz4QQI?t=326.

Conditional Rezoning of 616 Fisher Street: YES (Passed 6-0)

The Superior Housing Solutions property at 616 Fisher St is outlined in red (rough approximation).

The house at 616 Fisher Street has operated as a boarding home for Marquette residents at risk of homelessness for nearly 20 years, and it is now being operated by Superior Housing Solutions as a Permanent Supportive Housing facility, with shelter and supportive services provided to individuals who would otherwise be chronically homeless and a 24-hour presence of Superior Housing Solutions staff on the property. Superior Housing Solutions wants to buy the property, but the old zoning variance is not transferable with the sale of the property. As a result, the property owners have applied for conditional rezoning of the property to allow for the continued use as a Permanent Supportive Housing facility once ownership transfers to Superior Housing Solutions. The Planning Commission held a public hearing on May 4 and unanimously approved the conditional rezoning of the property. Homelessness is a serious challenge facing our community, and voting against this conditional rezoning request would have resulted in at least 13 individuals becoming homeless. The new Ad Hoc Housing Committee Final Report also identifies a major shortage of Permanent Supportive Housing in Marquette, and the Planning Commission sought to address concerns from neighbors by requiring SHS to fix the fence on the property, pass a Fire Safety Code inspection, and limit socializing by residents to the backyard. There is also no record of any zoning code violations on the property. I voted Yes because I feel that this is a reasonable compromise and SHS is providing a vital service to our community and deserves the City’s support.

Resolution Opposing Short-Term Rental Deregulation Bills: YES (Passed 6-0)

Text of the resolution passed on Monday opposing HB 4722 & SB 446.

As I said during the City Commission meeting on Monday, the City Commission doesn’t usually support or oppose state-level legislation, but every now and then a bill comes along that is so uniquely terrible that we have to take a stand against it. HB 4722 and SB 446, which are currently awaiting floor votes in the State House and State Senate respectively, are two such bills. These bills would prohibit any local regulation of short-term rentals (STRs), preventing the City from maintaining our City-wide 250-unit cap and density limits on STRs. We would also no longer be able to prevent Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) from being used as STRs, and the City would even be effectively prohibited from regularly inspecting STRs, setting lower standards for STRs than either long-term rentals or hotels/motels and potentially creating a loophole for slumlords to avoid long-term rental inspections by having tenants sign month-to-month leases of 30 days or less. This legislation, which is being pushed by well-funded lobbyists and self-interested realtors associations, would needlessly strip away local zoning control, erode long-term residential neighborhoods, and potentially empower slumlords.

Worst of all, these bills would have a serious negative impact on housing affordability in Marquette and many other Michigan tourist communities like Munising, Traverse City, and Frankenmuth, which are also struggling with rising housing costs. The City currently has a very long waitlist for STR permits, and only about 10% of the short-term rentals in the City of Marquette are homestays – most of the other 90% could otherwise be long-term rentals. As a result, the deregulation of STRs in Marquette would lead to the loss of many long-term rental units (especially smaller, more affordable units in walkable neighborhoods) and the eviction of potentially hundreds of long-term City residents to make room for tourists, with minimal benefits to Marquette homeowners.

For all of these reasons, I proudly voted Yes on this resolution, and on Friday I will be attending a meeting with Rep. Cambensy and Sen. McBroom to urge them to oppose HB 4722 and SB 446.

Accept Grant to Replace Kids Cove Playground at Lower Harbor: YES (Passed 6-0)

The current Kids Cove playground at Mattson Lower Harbor Park, which will be replaced with a new, universally accessible playground based on Universal Design principles and community input by May 31, 2023.

This was a vote to accept a $300,000 Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) grant for the construction of a new, physically accessible playground at Mattson Lower Harbor Park. The design of the new playground will be based on Universal Design principles (i.e., exceeding ADA accessibility standards), and will involve extensive community input and involvement, potentially including a community build like the old Kids Cove playground. The Marquette Playgrounds for All group has committed to raise the $300,000 match for the grant, so aside from staff time and future maintenance, this project will come at no cost to City taxpayers. The new playground is to be completed by May 31, 2023, bringing over a decade of hard work by City residents, staff, and elected officials to fruition.

Appoint Terra Bahrman as New City Treasurer: YES (Passed 6-0)

Our former City Treasurer Mary Schlicht was recently appointed to serve as the City’s new CFO, as our former CFO Gary Simpson is retiring on July 1. This was a vote to appoint Terra Bahrman, who is currently the Deputy Treasurer, as the new City Treasurer effective July 1.  Terra has done a fantastic job so far with the City, and I’m confident she will continue to excel in this new leadership role.