Flint, MI—The timeline to adopt Flint’s updated zoning ordinance is again in question as the city’s Planning and Development Department completes edits, and a Flint City Council member waits to review them.

The ordinance is meant to codify Flint’s Master Plan—an award-winning land use visioning document adopted in 2013.

While the Flint Planning Commission passed the draft ordinance back in 2017, it has remained an issue for residents and business owners. Its lack of City adoption has kept landlords from filling commercial buildings and potential developers from investing in Flint.

At a May 10, 2022 meeting, Planning Commission Chairman Robert Wesley asked Suzanne Wilcox, Flint’s Director of Planning and Development, for an update on the zoning ordinance, which she last said would appear before council on May 4.

“I know that it went to the legislative body and came out of the legislative body—I think (with a vote of) 5-0—and was scheduled, as I thought, to go before council,” Wesley said. “And that didn’t happen, so I would like to know what’s happening.”

Wilcox explained that her office met the city administrator’s deadline for the ordinance to be added to the council’s May 4 agenda, but she then received a call from Flint City Clerk Inez Brown asking that the ordinance be postponed because Flint City Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer requested time to review the 784-page document.

“I got a problem with that,” Wesley replied. “We went through a review process with (Pfeiffer), and to hold this up for him to review all 700 and something pages? That makes absolutely no sense to me.”

Wilcox said she could not “force this” onto a Flint City Council agenda and added that there were also “minor” revisions and formatting changes that Brown requested her department make, and they are in the process of completing those edits now.

“I pushed pretty hard for (the ordinance) to continue to go forward while those changes were made, and unfortunately, I was unable to prevail,” Wilcox said.

For his part, Pfeiffer said he was surprised Wilcox mentioned him during the May 10 Planning Commission meeting.

“It sounds like she’s trying to use me as a scapegoat because she hasn’t provided anything to us,” Pfeiffer told Flint Beat. “I’ve been asking for that (final ordinance language) from her ever since her (April 20) presentation and the City Clerk has been trying to facilitate that, but we have yet to receive anything from Suzanne.”

Brown confirmed during a May 11 Planning and Development Department budget hearing that her department had yet to receive the requested information from Wilcox’s office.

“For clarity of the body as well as the public body, I think it’s important to understand that what I was seeking from you is what Mr. Pfeiffer is looking for in terms of the overall plan itself,” Brown said to Wilcox. “You indicated that you would be getting it to me by Friday or no later than Monday, so what I have is not exactly what he’s requesting. It’s not the final product.”

After a back and forth regarding who was responsible for making the requested formatting changes to the draft ordinance, Wilcox confirmed her office would complete the edits and furnish an updated copy to Brown no later than Monday, May 16.

But that doesn’t mean the public should expect it on the city council’s May 18 agenda.

“Don’t give it to me on Monday and put it on the agenda on Wednesday and expect us to move it forward,” Pfeiffer told Flint Beat before the May 11 budget hearing. “I’m not going to jam it through and put it on a committee meeting in three days. I want to do it right, and I want to do it right one time.”

Flint’s updated zoning ordinance was partially adopted in 2021 by Flint’s last city council body. However, the adopted ordinance was later deemed invalid, and the Planning Commission has since reverted back to reviewing applications under the city’s former zoning code, parts of which date back to the 1960s.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....