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City Council LPD Report on Community Benefits Ordinance Amendments

City Council LPD Report on Community Benefits Ordinance Amendments

Below is an excerpt from the full LPD report that includes the Equitable Detroit Coalitions Recommendation for Amendments. Download the full report.

City of Detroit
CITY COUNCIL
LEGISLATIVE POLICY DIVISION
208 Coleman A. Young Municipal Center Detroit, Michigan 48226
Phone : (313) 224-4946 Fax: (313) 224-4336

To: The Honorable Detroit City Council
From: David Whittaker Legislative Policy Division (LPD) Staff
Date: July 23, 2018
RE: Community Benefits Ordinance Amendments

As Council Members know, Detroit voters approved a ballot measure designated Proposition B, as the attached alternative “Community Benefits Ordinance” in the November 8, 2016 election. Pursuant to Section 12-109 of the City Charter, such an ordinance adopted through initiative proceedings may be amended or repealed by the City, after a period of twelve (12) months after the date of the election at which it was adopted. Therefore, if Council wishes to amend the existing “Community Benefits Ordinance”, it is free to do so at this time.

The City’s limited experience to date with implementation of the ordinance designated as Proposition B has generated calls for further reforms. In LPD’s judgment, the community engagement procedures specified in this ordinance would benefit from amendments intended, in general, to provide more time for Neighborhood Advisory Councils (NAC) established by the ordinance to become informed about the development proposals at issue and formulate their proposals on behalf of the community, and to require that more useful, relevant, timely and comprehensive information be provided to the NAC throughout the development project. Also, the name of the ordinance should be changed to reflect its actual terms as a local law requiring community engagement in the course of large developments that are supported by public money, in order to avoid misleading the public regarding the scope and purpose of this ordinance. 1

1 Other, more substantive changes – such as the threshold amounts for public support of private investment, or even the addition of required benefits via enforceable contracts with community advocates, as originally proposed in Proposition A – beyond the community engagement procedures called for in the instant ordinance, would of course be within Council’s authority. Although LPD believes that a full discussion of “community benefits” in connection with the ordinance adopted by the voters as Proposition B would be beyond the scope of this referral, it should be noted that to date the procedures adopted as a result  of  this ballot initiative and the ordinance have not resulted in any substantial  community  benefits,  if indeed  they can be credited with generating any community benefits at all. This evaluation, based on LPD staffs ordinance-mandated participation in the community engagement processes established by the ordinance to date, in tum leads to the question of whether or not the significant staff time and other resources devoted to these procedures can be justified, for a process that effectively produces little or no benefit. In addition to improving the accuracy of the ordinance’s title, substituting the word ··engagement” for “benefits” in the name of the ordinance would therefore be expected to result in substantial savings of staff time and other resources that could be devoted to adequate public community engagement, rather than a fruit less, hollow and impractical discussion of nonexistent bene fits.

LPD recommends the following changes to the current so-called “Community Benefits Ordinance”:

1) That the title be amended to “Community Engagement Ordinance” (Change the word “Benefits” under Article XII to the word “Engagement”. In Section 14-12-1 (b), change the language to “This article shall be known as the Detroit Community Engagement Ordinance”.) The administration has indicated that the benefits to the community from development deals arise from the deals themselves, as negotiated by the administration. On the other hand, the American Planning Association and others in the national community benefits movement define “Community Benefits Agreements” as enforceable legal contracts, between developers who receive tax support for their investments, and affected community representatives. Changing the name of the ordinance would reflect its actual terms, which do not call for legally enforceable “Community Benefits Agreements” in the accepted sense of the term.

2) That the number of community meetings be amended from stating “at least one” to ”no fewer than five.” (In Section l 4–l 2-3(a)( l ), change “at least one” to “no fewer than five, unless a majority of the NAC deems otherwise”.)

3) That the procedures for the selection of the NAC be revised, so that at the inaugural meeting an overview of the process and presentation from the developer are given, and that community members nominated to the NAC present at the second meeting, prior to a vote on the members of the NAC, rather than at the conclusion of the first meeting. (Change the entire subsection 14-12-3(c)(l) to read as follows: “At the first meeting of the NAC, the developer shall provide an overview of the community engagement process, and the details of the proposed development. At the second meeting of the NAC, any proposed NAC member(s) nominated by residents shall be permitted to present their ideas and suggestions regarding the community engagement process and the proposed development, before the members of the NAC are elected”.)

4) That a list of alternate NAC members be generated and maintained by the Planning and Development Department, in the event that an elected or appointed NAC member is unable to fulfill their duties. (Add a new subsection l4-l2-3(b)(6) to read as follows: “The Planning and Development Department shall maintain a list of  alternate NAC members to be appointed in the event that an elected or appointed NAC member is, for whatever reason, unable to serve on the NAC”.)

5) That attendance at NAC meetings for all elected and appointed NAC members is mandatory. Should a member fall to attend an alternate may be selected. (Add the following language to subsection 14-12-3(b)(5): “Attendance at all NAC meetings by all elected and appointed NAC members shall be mandatory. If a member fails to attend an NAC meeting, an alternate may be appointed by the NAC as a permanent replacement member”.)

6) That at the inaugural meeting that the developer present “how” their development qualified with specificity, i.e., total investment amount, and which tax incentives arc being sought. (Change the entire subsection l4-l2-3(c)(2) to read as follows: “At the first meeting of the NAC, the developer shall provide a specific explanation of how the proposed development qualifies for public support of investment, the total amount of private investment involved, and the statutory authorizations and amounts of all tax abatements or incentives sought for the proposed development”.)

7) If the proposed development includes residential housing, that at least 20% affordability at 80% Area Median Income (AMI) be incorporated into a single-site development. (Add a new section 14-12-3(7): “If the proposed development includes residential housing, then at least 20% of the units for a single site shall be designated as affordable housing, defined as affordable by those earning at least 80% of Area Median Income (AMI)”.)

8) That at the second meeting of the NAC, the NAC members are provided with an informational package from the developer detailing the level of environmental remediation the site may need, including but not limited to: Phase I and Phase II environmental studies (if available), Commercial Rehabilitation Facility District application (if applicable), Obsolete Property Rehabilitation District application (if applicable), and Brownfield Redevelopment District application (if applicable). (Add a new section 14-12-3(c)(4): “At the second meeting of the NAC, the developer  shall provide NAC members with an informational package detailing the level of environmental remediation the site may need, including but not limited to: Phase [ and Phase lI environmental studies (if available), Commercial  Rehabilitation  Facility  District application (if applicable), Obsolete Property Rehabilitation District application (if applicable), and Brownfield Redevelopment District application (if applicable)”.

9) That a webpage be created and maintained detailing the specifics of the development along with a projected timeline on the Planning and Development Departments website for each development project subject to the ordinance, which also contains the contact information for the POD project manager and general contact information for the developer. (Add a new section 14-12-3(c)(S): “The Planning and Development Department shall create and maintain a page on the City’s web site detailing the specifics of the development, along with a projected timeline, for each development project subject to this article. The web page shall also contain the contact information for the PDD project manager and general contact information for the developer”.)

The Equitable Detroit Coalition, sponsors of the original Proposition A Community Benefits Ordinance that was defeated by Proposition B, has provided the attached critical report regarding their observations of the first six projects subjected to the ordinance. Based on these experiences, they propose 12 amendments that would, in effect, convert the Proposition B community engagement ordinance into a “true” community benefits ordinance, featuring reforms like enforceable community benefits agreements and independent community participation without mediation by City government. As noted in footnote l, LPD understands these substantive transformations of the Proposition A community engagement policy to be beyond the scope of this particular referral. However, such further reaching amendments would be within Council’s authority, and if Council Members seek any particular amendments, whether suggested by the Equitable Detroit Coalition or anyone else, they could be drafted in response to specific referral of those items to the Law Department and/or LPD.

If Council has any other questions or concerns regarding this subject, LPD will be happy to provide further research and analysis upon request.