CORUNNA — The city is expanding the reach of its adaptive reuse ordinance to include residential buildings in an effort to draw more attention toward vacant infrastructure.
The city council voted 5-0 Monday night to tweak the ordinance, which previously only applied to nonresidential buildings, according to City Manager Joe Sawyer.
The expansion of the ordinance, recommended by the city’s planning commission, was done with the soon-to-be vacant Michigan State University Extension building and the former Pleasant View site in mind, he said.
“The ordinance, as it was previously written, couldn’t even be used for either the medical care facility or the MSU Extension building because that’s all (zoned) residential, so that’s the first thing that this recommended change will do is to allow it to be used to those specific properties too,” Sawyer said. “This is just another tool to try to make sure we can get a good fit in there.”
Adaptive reuse allows properties that would be unnecessarily difficult to bring up to code under their current zoning to receive a special conditional use. For example, a residential property that qualifies under the ordinance could be developed as a commercial site.
It is up to the city council to determine properties that are eligible for adaptive reuse, according to Sawyer.
Qualifying criteria under the ordinance include:
n The current use can no longer be reasonably continued for its existing purpose due to market conditions and/or operational constraints
n Site redevelopment in accordance with local development codes would be unnecessarily burdensome by reason of ordinance compliance
Sawyer added that adaptive reuse is not designed for building on vacant land, rather the ordinance applies to existing infrastructure.
Property owners, developers and potential purchasers can ask the council to consider adaptive reuse eligibility for a given site, but absent the council’s approval, it cannot be done, Sawyer continued.
Once a site is deemed eligible for adaptive reuse by the council, developers can submit an application detailing the desired use of the site to the planning commission.
The planning commission then has the ability to not only evaluate criteria under the adaptive reuse ordinance, but also to set additional requirements with respect to how the proposed development would impact the neighborhood, traffic, noise levels, and so on, Sawyer said.
After evaluating the proposed development, the planning commission will submit its recommendation to the city council.
The council must approve the plans before any project can move forward, according to Sawyer.
City Assessor Merilee Lawson said the medical care facility is a prime example of a property that qualifies for adaptive reuse.
“Because of the size of the building, because of the location of the building, it’s hard to make that an exact fit in the district it’s in, so the council can look at a piece of property and they can say that this property fits the definition,” Lawson said.
“It gives the council a right to look at it and say, ‘Will this really fit with the city?” she asked. “Does it fit with the surrounding property? Could we let them use this property for something that’s not exactly defined in that district, but would fit because of the building’s size and can still blend with the surrounding properties?”
“It’s a very controlled process,” Sawyer added.
On Aug. 20, the city council established a Commercial Redevelopment District encompassing the former Pleasant View site, 729 S. Norton St. Individuals looking to renovate damaged or outdated property in the district can apply to receive a property tax abatement for up to five years.
Sawyer said the adaptive reuse ordinance and the Commercial Redevelopment District don’t necessarily overlap — it would be hard to qualify for both.
“The redevelopment district was focused around residential properties,” Sawyer said. “If you’re looking at a residential use, you don’t need the adaptive reuse because the property is currently zoned residential. If you’re doing adaptive reuse, you can’t qualify for the redevelopment district because that was intended to encourage residential development.”
Sawyer said the city is merely opening up all options for the vacant structures along Norton Street.
“We don’t want to sit on it forever,” he said.