Council approves rezoning for Mary Crapo property

SWARTZ CREEK — Communities First Inc. has cleared a couple more procedural hurdles but negotiations continue regarding the future use for the ballfield and green space at the site of the former Mary Crapo school.

The Flint-based nonprofit continues to await state approval of their requests for the funding needed to turn the 92-year-old building into senior citizen apartments.

At this time, the Swartz Creek Community Schools still owns the property, but Communities First – which has renovated many abandoned, ramshackle schools in Flint – has an option to purchase it, with the caveat that its use be limited to senior housing for at least 30 years.

April 27, the Swartz Creek City Council approved Communities First’s request for payment in lieu of taxes, which will allow the developer to pay for city services based on annual rent, rather than property value. Under the ownership of the school district, the city receives no taxes.

April 13, the council rezoned the northern 2.2- acre portion of the site to Multi-family Residential from Downtown Residential.

Communities First has offered to lease the southern 2.8 acres to the city for use as a park. Details of the lease agreement and potential plans for the property are yet to be determined.

The offer followed on the heels of public outcry over the potential loss of the baseball diamond and park-like surroundings.

Communities First has said they would want a provision in the lease agreement stating that the ballfield would be left intact, as the residents requested.

Under the terms of the purchase option, if the ballfield is removed, Communities First must pay the school district $70,000 to install a new baseball diamond at another school property.

City officials have yet to vote on whether the city will take on the responsibility of another park. To date, decision-makers have expressed differing opinions about whether the city should enter into the lease and, if so, whether it should maintain the ballfield, develop the property for active recreation, or transition the land into a green space that would require minimal maintenance.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is likely to have considerable influence regarding the future of the site. The park board was expected to meet Wednesday, May 6, to discuss general business, including the 5-year park plan.

Communities First proposes to overhaul the old school and install 40 one- and two-bedroom apartments. Rent will be based on income and range from $343 to $1,100 per month. Occupancy will be limited to people age 50 or older, with allowances made for younger spouses.