Come November voters in Charlevoix will decide whether to turn an empty lot of public land on the corner of Stover Road and Ferry Avenue into a new park or a new housing development.
If voters choose the park the city will spend $2 million dollars on construction. If voters choose the housing development it would make housing on the land de-restricted, meaning the land can only be used for year-round housing.
A group of former and current local officials and business owners say the area’s need for housing is dire and are urging residents to choose more housing.
“[The land] has been housing designation for 40 years and it would be irresponsible to pay $2 million to transform that into a park when we’re having a housing crisis, and there’s already a park across the street,” pointed out the former mayor of Charlevoix Luther Kurtz.
Some neighbors have been vocal about keeping the land for public use; however, housing advocates point to the lack of housing across the board and the struggle it’s brought local businesses. The Charlevoix School Board President Tom Kirinovic, admitted teachers and administrators they’ve hired have had a tough time finding housing.
“Over the past two or three years in particular there have been some challenges for folks we’ve hired and of course these are professionals. They have come to the community, and it’s been a difficult thing for them to find.”
According to a report from Housing North Charlevoix needs to build 1,628 homes and 730 rental units over the next five years in order to keep up with the current demand. Housing growth in Charlevoix County is among the lowest in the area with the vacancy rate sitting at an alarming 0 percent.
“The houses that we have here they’re filled up, we’re pretty much at capacity, but we still have a need across our businesses,” explained Housing North’s Zachary Sompels. “We really want our focus on being sustainable year round and that’s where the housing portion comes in.”
Should voters approve the housing proposal the city will then develop a public process to seek out developers for the property.
“We want people living here year-round to create that community and this project is really going to help with that,” Kurtz said.