By Meghan Christian
The Flint City Council unanimously approved three appointments at their Jan. 8 meeting, and also amended three city ordinances that will allow development projects to pay a service charge in lieu of taxes as long as certain quality standards are maintained.
Flint residents Charlotte P. Edwards and Rev. Herbert Miller II were both unanimously approved for the Hurley Board of Hospital managers. It will be Edwards’ second term on the board and Miller’s first. Both will serve for five years beginning immediately and expiring on April 30, 2022. Miller is replacing Ada Washington on the board.
Mona Moshen Munroe-Younis was unanimously approved as the Council’s recommendation for the Zoning Board of Appeals. Munroe-Younis, recommended by Ninth Ward Councilperson Eva Worthing, will serve for the remainder of a three-year term, expiring on Aug. 31, 2018. She is replacing David C. Veasley.
“She’s a very caring person and I know she has morals and cares about the community. And I feel confident in her decisions,” Worthing said of Munroe-Younis.
Service charge v. tax abatement for nonprofit housing projects
Next, City Council discussed changes to ordinances that would allow two development projects to pay a service charge in lieu of taxes as long as standards of quality are maintained. The two projects are Berkley Place Apartments at 1207 N. Ballenger Rd. and Eagle Ridge Square Apartments at 6101 Selby St., both of which aim to provide low-income housing to residents. For Berkley Place Apartments, it would be a service charge of 6 percent of the annual shelter rents. For Eagle Ridge Square Apartments, it is a service charge of 4 percent of the annual shelter rents.
In response to concerns that offering tax abatements could actually hurt residents by taking away money from the budget that could go toward other services like police and fire, Council President Winfrey touched on Communities First Inc., the nonprofit that owns Berkley Place, and on the ownership of Eagle Ridge, stating that both give something to Flint that other companies cannot match.
“They provide to a community something that for-profits don’t,” Winfrey said. “They provide opportunities for decent and affordable low-income housing for folks that wouldn’t normally have it.”
Councilman Santino Guerra echoed Winfrey’s optimism. Discussing Eagle Ridge Square Apartments, he said allowing them to pay a service charge in lieu of taxes would enable the owners of that property to maintain their low-income housing and would keep residents in the city.
“Giving them this opportunity allows them to maintain this low-income housing that they do have, so that residents aren’t forced to leave their homes that they have gotten used to and allows them to live a prosperous life inside…the city of Flint,” Guerra said.
Concerns aired about tax abatements
Councilwoman Monica Galloway voiced concerns that giving the companies tax abatements might mean other areas of the City’s budget might have to pick up the slack, which could impact public safety.
“Decent housing, affordable housing definitely is necessary. Yet at the same time, when you’re a community that is struggling financially to provide public safety to those very same low-income communities, we have to find a decent balance,” Galloway said.
“Even though you provide them a decent place that is affordable, if they can’t get the police to come when they need it you are not really helping them,” Galloway added.
After discussion, City Council voted unanimously to amend the ordinances, therefore allowing the owners of Berkley Place and the owners of Eagle Ridge Square Apartments to pay a service charge in lieu of taxes, as long as they maintain quality low-income housing to Flint residents.
New council hopeful about getting work done
Noting that while they may not always agree, council members ended the meeting–uncharacteristically brief at an hour and a half — hopeful that they can continue to get things done for the city. Councilman Maurice Davis added that residents can look forward for more opportunities to hear from the council and that their concerns do not go unnoticed.
“What’s important to you should be important to us,” Davis said.
EVM Managing Editor Meghan Christian can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.