FAQs about the proposed character-based code

The City of Mt. Pleasant is excited to present the updated draft character-based code. The new ordinance provides a regulatory framework that will help the City to achieve several key objectives prioritized by the community, including preserving family neighborhoods, enhancing Downtown Mt. Pleasant, and transforming our commercial corridors including Mission Street.

  • Click HERE to download the draft code (Updated Jan. 8, 2018).
    • Click HERE to see amendments to the draft code (Dec. 11, 2017)
  • Click HERE to download the draft zoning map.

For more information, see the following frequently asked questions about the proposed character-based code.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a character-based code?

A Character-Based Code is an approach to zoning that is intended to produce predictable outcomes that are aligned with community goals and objectives.

You have probably noticed a business or home in the community that “just doesn’t fit” with its surroundings. In districts designed to preserve or enhance existing character, the new code will be designed to ensure new development “fits.”

Specifically, a character-based code is best suited to preserve and enhance the unique character of Mt. Pleasant; transform areas of the City (such as Mission Street) by creating character and improving walkability, bikeability, and safety; and improve the overall livability of the community.

A character-based code includes a range of standards regulating:

  • use,
  • frontage type,
  • building form,
  • building placement,
  • density,
  • civic space, and
  • parking standards for each character (zoning) district.

Character districts are assigned to areas of the community and depicted on the zoning map. 

Why is this project important?

Zoning regulates the size, shape, location, and use of buildings and property; the quantity and type of landscaping; the quantity and location of parking; and the quantity and type of signage among other things.

Zoning regulations apply to all properties in the City, including residential properties. This is a once-in-a-generation project. The zoning ordinance has not been significantly updated since 1984 and the last complete overhaul was in 1971 – 46 years ago.

How were the proposed ordinance and map developed?

The proposed zoning ordinance and map are the product of a robust and extensive public engagement process.

The City Commission budgeted money for a complete rewrite of the City’s zoning ordinance in 2015. The City engaged with Town Planning & Urban Design Collaborative (TPUDC) to provide consulting services for the project in June 2016.

In September 2016, the City and TPUDC held a kick-off event that included a public presentation on the project.

In November 2016, the City hosted Planapalooza, a four-day engagement event that included a public workshop, four public roundtable discussions, an open design studio, and a work-in-progress presentation to the public. This event included over 40 hours of public engagement.

The ideas obtained through the kickoff and Planapalooza events were used to develop a draft zoning ordinance and map. Those documents were presented to the public in July 2017. The draft ordinance and map were subsequently updated and re-released in September 2017.

The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the proposed zoning ordinance and map on October 19, 2017. Following the public hearing, the Planning Commission recommended that the City Commission adopt the proposed zoning ordinance and map but seriously reconsider whether all the parcels east of Main Street, south of High Street, and west of Fancher Street that are currently zoned M-2 should be zoned CD-4 with student organizations and rooming dwellings permitted. (Please note: The area suggested for reconsideration is proposed to be zoned as CD-3 on the proposed map.)

The City Commission held a public hearing on the proposed zoning ordinance and map on Nov. 13, 2017. They also held a work session on the proposed zoning ordinance and map on Nov. 28, 2017.

How has the public been notified about and involved in this process? 

The City views public engagement as paramount to both a successful process and a successful final product. To that end, the City used traditional and non-traditional methods to notify community members about the project and opportunities to participate. A partial list of those methods is provided below.

  • City Website – project webpage, homepage links, and web banners
  • Community presentations
  • City newsletters
  • Posters and flyers
  • Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube
  • City calendar
  • Emailed notices
  • MAC TV
  • Full-page color advertisement in the Morning Sun
  • Public hearing notices as required by law
  • Newspaper articles
  • Radio interviews
  • TV interviews
  • Water bill advertisement
  • MP City Link app
  • Mt. Pleasant Public Schools’ Friday Folder

Will my property be rezoned? 

Most properties transition into a district that is equivalent to the current zoning designation in terms of intensity and use. The proposed code includes new character-based districts to replace existing zoning designations (i.e., R-3 to CD-3 and C-2 to CD-5).

Some district boundaries are changed to reflect the City’s Master Plan and input obtained from the public during the engagement process.

Will we see rapid changes in the community after adoption of the new code? 

Very unlikely. In fact, one of the most immediate impacts of the new code is likely that new development will be less noticeable and more in keeping with the character of the community.

The current zoning ordinance prescribes minimums and maximums as well as allowable uses but provides very little clarity on exactly what type of development might result.

You have probably noticed a business or home in the community that “just doesn’t fit” with its surroundings. In districts designed to preserve or enhance existing character, the new code will be designed to ensure new development “fits.”

In districts where transformation to a new character is intended with the new proposed code – such as Mission Street – new development over years and decades will bring to life the community’s vision for those districts.

How are properties that do not meet the requirements of the proposed new regulations impacted? 

Lots, structures, and buildings that do not conform to the dimensional requirements of the new ordinance may continue to be used and improved as long as the manner of non-conformance is not increased.

  • For example, if a building is 5 feet from a side property line where 10-foot setback is required, the building may be used and improved. However, it may not be expanded in a way that increases that particular non-conformity (i.e. a building addition within the required 10-foot setback).

Uses that existed prior to the adoption of the zoning ordinance that do not conform with the new allowed uses are considered non-conforming uses.

  • These uses may continue, but not expand.
  • The non-conforming use can continue even if ownership changes.
  • The lapse of a non-conforming use for 12-months or more ends the use on a permanent basis. An appeal can be made to the Zoning Board of Appeals to reinstate the use, but such reinstatements are expected to be very rare.
  • The voluntary discontinuation of the use ends the use on a permanent basis.

Buildings that contain non-conforming uses can be maintained in a variety of ways, but may not be expanded. Maintenance activities include:

  • strengthening or restoring any portion of a structure;
  • improvement to a safe condition, provided no material enlargement results;
  • repairing or replacing interior walls, fixtures, wiring or plumbing;
  • repaving driveways and parking lots;
  • replacing exterior windows and siding; and
  • painting exterior structures and fixtures.

The proposed non-conformance regulations are consistent with the City’s current non-conformance regulations.

How are current residential rental properties impacted? 

The zoning ordinance does not regulate whether or not a rental license may be issued, only the type of license that is allowed.  The primary difference in the type of license permitted is the number of unrelated occupants allowed per unit. In most districts, family occupancy (no more than two unrelated occupants) is the maximum. In the current M-2 district, rooming dwellings and Registered Student Organization dwellings (RSOs) are permitted to have higher occupancies depending upon location, lot area, and building area among other standards.

Existing rental properties may continue to renew and use their rental licenses indefinitely as long as they are in compliance with the City’s Housing Licensing Code, even when that license is of a type that would not be permitted for a new rental property.

A non-conforming rental license can be transferred to a new owner.

New rental licenses for properties not licensed by the date the proposed zoning ordinance is adopted would be subject to the regulations of the new ordinance. 

How is student housing impacted?

64 parcels (less than 10 acres) currently zoned M-2 Multiple-Family Residential are proposed to change to CD-3 Sub-Urban district.  These properties are located east of Main Street, south of High Street, and west of Fancher Street.

  • The CD-3 district permits detached single-family residential dwellings.
  • This change was recommended by TPUDC based upon the character of the neighborhood as well as extensive public input received during the engagement process.
  • Existing multiple-family, rooming, and RSO dwellings in that area would become non-conforming uses (see above questions about how a non-conforming use is impacted/handled).
  • Existing single-family residential (both owner- and tenant-occupied) would remain a conforming use.

Pictured below: Current (top) and proposed (bottom) zoning in the neighborhood north of Central Michigan University. On the current zoning map, the dark orange represents the current M-2 zoning district while the light yellow represents the current R-3 zoning district. On the proposed zoning map, the blue crosshatch areas denote the proposed CD-4 and CD-5 zoning districts. Dark yellow area represents the CD-3 zoning district. The area delineated on the map on the bottom includes the 64 properties that are recommended to be zoned CD-3. 

Current Zoning Map
Proposed Zoning Map

As with a similar change in 1984 that resulted in many multiple-family, rooming, and RSO dwellings becoming non-conforming north of High Street, it is not expected that the housing types of multi-family, rooming, and RSO dwellings will be completely eliminated from the area east of Main Street, south of High Street and west of Fancher Street in the short- or long-term.  As a matter of fact, the non-conforming uses north of High Street from the 1984 zoning amendment may continue to be exist as non-conforming under the new proposed zoning ordinance as well.

Opportunities for multiple-family and mixed-use (residential and commercial) development will increase.

  • More than 200 acres of additional land within the City, including along the Mission Street corridor, that do not currently permit residential development would allow residential development under the proposed ordinance.
  • Rooming and boarding dwellings and RSOs would be permitted as a special use in new locations as shown on the map at right. The crosshatched area in the map below depicts locations where rooming and/or RSO dwellings would be permitted:
    • Along the west side of Mission Street south of Preston Street, adjacent to Central Michigan University; and
    • In the area east of Mission Street and south of Broomfield Street.
The crosshatched area in the map above depicts locations where rooming and/or RSO dwellings would be permitted under the proposed zoning ordinance.

The proposed ordinance would increase opportunities for attached housing types that are attractive to diverse populations including students, young professionals and empty-nesters.

Why are the 64 parcels in the area north of campus proposed to be rezoned to CD-3?

The project consultant, TPUDC, recommended the rezoning of this area based on the existing character of the buildings in this area and the public input received during the engagement process, which included a desire to increase the supply of single-family housing in that area. The proposed change also aligns with several goals and objectives contained in the 2014 City Master Plan, which can be viewed online at www.mt-pleasant.org/ourcity.

The East Michigan Council of Governments and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority completed a Target Market Analysis for Isabella County in 2016. One of the results of the analysis was a need for a variety of housing types including single-family housing. This analysis was not specific to these 64 parcels. The analysis can be found online at www.mt-pleasant.org/planning.

How are duplexes impacted? 

The current zoning ordinance allows duplexes as a special use in Residential districts (R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-4) and as a permitted use in Multiple-Family districts (M-1 and M-2).

The proposed zoning ordinance would continue to allow duplexes as a special use in the new Residential districts (CD-3L and CD-3) only when one of the two units was owner-occupied. In response to public input on the proposed language, an amendment was introduced exempting existing duplexes in those districts from the owner-occupancy requirement.

In the new CD-4 district, duplexes would continue to be a permitted use and both units could be tenant-occupied.

What is the impact on tax revenues as a result of the zoning changes for the 64 properties north of the campus? 

A property that becomes non-conforming due to the zoning change will be allowed to continue its current use, even if it is sold after the change takes effect. As a result, the City Assessor indicates there will be no immediate change in tax revenues.

If a property is converted to a single‐family home and is no longer a rental property, the taxable value may be subject to change.


Have any changes been proposed following the two public hearings?

The City Commission requested staff provide amended language on the following topics:

  • Exempt existing two-family dwellings (duplexes) from the Principal Residence Exemption standard that would be imposed on new two-family dwellings in the CD-3L and CD-3 zoning districts.
  • Modify the bicycle parking standards for commercial, retail, and service uses to prevent an excessive standard for large format “big box” retailers.
  • Add review standards for site plans that do not proposed vehicular parking.
  • Clarify the language concerning non-conforming uses, structures, and improvements; set the replacement value for such uses, structures, or improvements damaged by fire or other cause at 50% or more of its replacement value; and ensure that the Zoning Board of Appeals may consider permitting resumption of a non-conforming use damaged by fire or other cause.

Staff introduced the amendments to the text at the City Commission meeting on Dec. 11, 2017. See the amendments here.

What is the next step in the process?

It is expected that the City Commission will take action on the proposed zoning ordinance and map in January 2018.

How can community members provide input?

There are two ways community members can provide input to the City Commission. First, written communication may be sent to manager@mt-pleasant.org, or by mail to City Commission, 320 W. Broadway, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48858.

Second, opportunities for public comment are provided during City Commission meetings.

When does the new zoning ordinance go into effect?

A new ordinance is effective 30 days after the City Commission officially approves it.

Can I watch any of the previous events online?

Yes, the kickoff presentation, community workshop, Planapalooza work-in-progress presentation, and presentation of the draft code were all taped and are available for viewing on the City’s YouTube page. 

How can I learn more?

City staff is available to discuss the character-based code and what it means for you and our community any time. You can visit the Planning & Community Development Department at City Hall, 2nd floor, or contact City Planner Jacob Kain by email at jkain@mt-pleasant.org or phone at (989) 779-5346.

City staff can also come to you; contact us if your workplace, neighborhood, or community organization would like to arrange for a project presentation and Q&A session.

Additional information can be found at www.mt-pleasant.org/character.