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Community Updates: Friday, May 13

Grand Rapids City Commission meeting interrupted by protestors; Grand Rapids City Planning Commission hears development applications; and more
A view of downtown Grand Rapids.

A view of downtown Grand Rapids. /Ann-Marie Jurek

Grand Rapids City Commission Meeting Interrupted by Protestors

Tuesday night's City Commission meeting was adjourned prematurely due to disruptions by protestors. At first, the meeting progressed as usual -- with the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance and opening statements given by Mayor Bliss. "Disrupting the order of a meeting is committing a breach of peace and, under state law, it actually is a misdemeanor," she reminded the crowd. "If the disorder continues and we need to recess, we'll recess, we'll clear the room, [and] this body will come back together [and] we'll finish the business we have before us." This statement caused some irritation amongst members of the gathered public, but things seemed to settle back down shortly after. 

Tensions began to mount as members of the community stood up to address the mayor and the commissioners during the public comment section of the meeting. Many citizens expressed their concerns about and dissatisfaction with the FY2023 Preliminary Fiscal Plan presented by City Manager Mark Washington earlier this month -- especially as it relates to funding for the Grand Rapids Police Department. "These plans are not only unnecessary, they're just disgusting," said one citizen. "They're literally militarizing themselves just to harrass, brutalize, victimize, and execute people -- black, brown, and Indigenous people of the southeast side." Another Grand Rapidian took the podium to address the lack of change the city has seen in the wake of the April 4 officer-involved shooting that killed Patrick Lyoya. "I want to thank y'all for showing us that we need to get up and get out, show up and show out, because y'all are not going to do anything for us," she said. "At the end of the day, if you don't like what we're saying, change it. You're in the position to do so." Other members of the community voiced similar concerns, especially around issues of police budgeting and the handling of the Patrick Lyoya case by city officials. However, one attendee did commend members of the City Commission for taking baby steps towards participatory budgets, mental health response, and more.

There were a few instances throughout the meeting where individuals in the crowd became restless and began to shout. Eventually, the shouting became so disruptive that Mayor Bliss called a recess and asked those responsible to leave. As the commissioners stood up to leave the room, many of the protestors approached the table. The audio was cut off just after the recess was called, so it is uncertain exactly what the protestors were saying. The meeting was then adjourned. GRPD later stated that they had arrested one person after a physical altercation broke out outside City Hall.

The last Grand Rapids City Commission meeting, which took place on April 26, was also adjourned early for the same reason. 

The full meeting was uploaded on the City of Grand Rapids' YouTube channel and can also be viewed down below:


The Grand Rapids City Planning Commission Hears Development Applications

The Grand Rapids City Planning Commission met on Thursday to hear and discuss four applications for development projects within the city of Grand Rapids. The Commission approved a 16-space parking lot at 1145 McReynolds Avenue NW, a new veterinary clinic at 3250 and 3260 Plainfield Avenue NE, and the rezoning of 2550 Eastern Avenue SE. However, there was contention over the proposed construction of a two-family home at 63 Aster Place NE. The proposed floorplan of the duplex shows the residence as having eight bedrooms total, each with their own ensuite bathroom. Concerns were raised by members of the Planning Commission over unclear parking accomodations and the residence's lack of access to city services (as Aster Place is a very narrow, driveway-like road road off of Fountain Street). Members of the neighborhood where the dwelling would be built also submitted a petition against the construction and showed up at the meeting to voice their disapproval of the plan. Their main concerns seemed to be traffic/parking issues and visual/noise pollution.

One resident took the podium to speak against the plan. "To have eight vehicles at any given time starting up, pulling in and out, right behind my fence is depressing to imagine after 33 years of living and enjoying a quiet [and] serene garden space," he said, referencing the grassy lot that is 63 Aster Place. "Add to that a potential student population that would be housed in this prison box partying all the time and, by the way, I don't threaten to call the police for noise and nuisance complaints -- I promise to call the police." Several other members of the neighborhood took the podium to echo these sentiments. The City Planning Commission eventually decided to deny the proposed two-family home over concerns about parking accessibility, lack of public support, and other factors. However, a few members of the Commission took time to respond to comments made by the neighbors. "College students, formerly unhoused people, [and] low-income people do not create nuisance in and of themselves in our neighborhoods," remarked Commissioner Lawrence Williams. "We are talking about people. We are talking about human life and I think any time we're talking about that, especially in respect to housing, the language that we use is important." Similarly, Commissioner Stacie Behler explained why the Commission was denying the application. "I want to be clear that my motion, which will be to deny the application, is not based on an expectation by any adjacent landowner that this space is theirs or that it needs to be maintained in an undeveloped way," she stated. "My motion will be based on the application as it stands today and whether or not it's consistent with the adjacent uses."

The full meeting was uploaded on the City of Grand Rapids' YouTube channel and can also be viewed down below:


Also in the News:

  • The Grand Rapids Public Museum has announced that its Spillman Carousel, which was built in 1928, will be reopening on May 25, 2022 after nearly 5 years of renovation.


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