Flint, MI—Flint’s Department of Planning and Development wants to get an updated draft zoning ordinance to the Flint City Council by the end of March.

“We have not received information from the Clerk’s Office regarding all the zoning ordinances that need to be updated,” said Suzanne Wilcox, the city’s Planning and Development Director, at a March 8 meeting of the Flint Planning Commission. “However, I am moving forward.”

The city’s draft zoning ordinance, or the set of rules which governs Flint’s land development, has been under scrutiny since roughly fall 2021 after officials realized the previous, partially-adopted draft code was invalid

Since then, the Flint Planning Commission has been forced to review site plans under the city’s old zoning code while a new draft is being compiled for another City Council vote—something which has frustrated multiple commissioners.

“I’m appreciative of being updated,” Commissioner Robert Jewell said at the Planning Commission’s Feb. 8 meeting. “But the task before us is: what are the actual action steps, and date, and outcomes?”

At the same meeting, Commissioner Elizabeth Jordan underscored the importance of getting the draft zoning code passed, not just on behalf of the city’s property owners and would-be developers, but for the Flint community as a whole.

“I will echo just that sense of urgency,” Jordan said to the Feb. 8 assembly. “This is important. And until we get the zoning code passed by City Council, everything else we do is made more challenging. Development in the city is made more challenging, and realizing the vision that we as a community set out in the Master Plan is more challenging.” 

Mark Baldwin is a Flint resident who was part of development discussions for Flint’s Master Plan in the early 2010s. He is also a member of Flint Residents for Stronger Neighborhoods, a grassroots organization that has been working to garner support for the updated zoning code’s adoption to make the Master Plan a reality.

“Oh, this is excellent news,” Baldwin said of the Planning Department’s draft code timeline. “We didn’t finish the Master Plan we started in 2012. We didn’t finish because the council didn’t say yay or nay on the zoning.”

Baldwin said he is not sure the draft ordinance has enough support from the city council to be adopted at this time either, though he is hopeful members will see the value of its passage.

“Zoning outlines what we can do and how we can do it,” he said. “So if we don’t have that in order, then how is a developer going to come in and say, ‘Oh, I want to build a track of 50 houses in here,’ or ‘I want to put a small electric bike factory here’? How can they do that without knowing what’s allowed?”

Wilcox said her office aims to get the updated draft zoning ordinance on the Flint City Council agenda before the end of March, depending on formatting needs. 

She added that as part of the updated draft zoning code’s feedback process, she presented it at a citywide meeting where “many, if not most of the city council members that were there were in support.”

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....