Flint, MI—Public meetings now have to be held in person–but not all officials are ready for that yet.

”Thank you for coming out this evening,” said Flint Planning Commission Chair Robert Wesley to a room of around 10 onlookers between staff, the public, and faces on Zoom. “But we’re now adjourned due to lack of quorum.”

It was 5:50 p.m., twenty minutes after the commission’s semimonthly meeting was meant to begin in Flint City Hall’s dome. 

The prior planning commission meeting on Jan. 11 had also been cancelled. The adjournment means none of the commission’s January business will be voted on this month.

“I think the overwhelming consensus of the commissioners is … we’ve got a (COVID) transmission rate that’s higher now than it was when we started the virtual meetings for boards and commissioners,” Wesley said. “And so that’s what we’re trying to do at this time, trying to get that, and make it safe for the public.”

Wesley said the last commission meeting was cancelled because they were simply “not set up yet” for the swap back to in-person requirements, which took effect after Michigan Senate Bill 1108 stopped allowing for medical exemptions for officials’ virtual participation on Dec. 31, 2021.

That bill, which has been in effect since Oct. 16, 2020, codified Governor Whitmer’s earlier executive order to provide guidance around electronic public meetings in response to COVID-19.

But now, as coronavirus cases climb in Genesee County, “only in the circumstances requiring accommodation of members absent due to military duty” can Flint’s planning commissioners take part in a public meeting remotely.

“That’s up to our representative in the Senate,” Wesley said in response to whether he believes the commission will move back to virtual meetings. “I’ve got information going out to them to try to get Bill 1108 re-established.”

Had the Jan. 25 meeting moved forward, the commission’s agenda included a site plan review of a children’s learning center along with reports on the city’s draft zoning ordinance, permanent marihuana ordinance, and an update on the city’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.

“Overall, I think we need a pandemic playbook for when things like this happen,” Wesley said. “Moving forward, hopefully we can get some things resolved before our next meeting.”

The next Flint Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2022 at 5:30 p.m.

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....