Graham Sustainability Institute

City of Flint, MI

Flint at a glance

Geographic Location

S.E. Michigan

Population

102,434

Government Structure

Council - manager
Emergency Management

Process

Early

Invested, Collaborative

Highly invested

Median Income (USD)

$26,621

Context

The City of Flint is at the early phase of adaptation planning. The city adopted its first Master Plan in fifty years on Octobner 28, 2013, which will be followed by a review of the zoning code, Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), and other plans and policies. Since 1960 the city has lost nearly half of its population and over 70,000 jobs. However, the City planners and community stakeholders feel that the City is ready now to embrace wide reaching change and are eager to begin a process of rebuilding and visioning for the future that addresses systemic problems, versus band-aid solutions.

Small Grants Proposal

Flint’s Max Brandon Park is a valued public green space in the city.  In the western edge of the park, there is a one acre wetland which is not well maintained, compromising its filtration and habitat ecosystem services. Additionally, the wetland is inaccessible to residents and threatened by invasive species.  To restore both the ecological and community value of the wetland, the City of Flint proposal aims to reinvigorate the wetland through the removal of debris and unclogging of storm drains around wetlands; invasive species removal and native tree planting; and improvements to wetland access through the construction of a boardwalk. The City also plans to design and install interpretive signage to explain the ecological value of the wetland and the benefits of wetlands to the ecosystem and the City’s built environment and infrastructure systems.  

Opportunities / Current adaptation planning

As the city is at the earliest phase of this work, there is not significant adaptation planning taking place. However, there are sustainability initiatives, including extensive work around brownfield remediation and reuse, most notably at the Chevy-in-the-hole site. The City is also updating its waste water treatment process to move toward converting sludge to bio-solids which could be used to develop marketable biogases. Additionally, the City aims to close down the in-city incinerator, reducing carbon and improving air quality.

Challenges

The city faces declining city revenues and limited staff resources. Additionally, the City is under Emergency Financial Management adding additional stress to the decision making and potentially leading to questions of government transparency.

Potential impacts and risks

Given the anticipated climate change impacts for the region and the city’s current resources, the areas of greatest concern are extreme weather events and the secondary impacts of these events including water quality and flood management. As a result of extreme weather power outages and stormwater overflows are key concerns that the city needs to address.

Strategies

Going forward with the Master Plan process the City wants to ensure that natural systems are evaluated as part of the valued infrastructure of the City. This may include trees, wetlands etc.

The city has completed the Master Planning process, with the new comprehensive, long-rage plan passed unanimously by the City of Flint Planning Commission and the Flint City Council. The Master Plan incorporates sustainability and climate change adaptation strategies.  Flint still plans to re-write the City's zoning code and develop a 5 year Capital Improvements Plan.  The Planning department is going to lead an investigation into the City’s emergency response plan and see if there are adaptation measures in it, as well as review other city department plans and policies.

Community stakeholders

Decision making in Flint takes into account many stakeholders, including local, regional, and federal government entities, philanthropic donors, and community organizations. Some of the partners engaged in sustainability plans and climate change adaptation will be HUD, U.S. EPA, Genesee County Metropolitan Planning Commission, Genesee County Land Bank, Flint River Watershed Coalition, Center for Community Progress, Flint River Corridor Alliance, Flint Area Reinvestment Office, Crim Fitness Foundation, Swedish Biogas, Kettering University, University of Michigan – Flint, Michigan State University, and C.S. Mott Foundation. 

GLAA-C Focus Areas

Support the integration of sustainability and resiliency themes and approaches in Flint’s Master Plan

  • Provide technical and academic review of Flint’s Master Plan and provide general and specific recommendations on incorporation of these strategies through the process
  • Provide resources and references for cities in the region and beyond that have undertaken master planning initiatives with sustainability and resiliency as key tenants of the process
  • When necessary provide technical experts to speak or represent these views at public meetings or advisory council meetings.

Apply adaptation strategies to park naturalization and ongoing remediation efforts

  • Research and communicate strategies for naturalizing park areas, including alternatives to grasses, low maintenance cover crops, and climate change resilient tree species
  • Assist in identifying potential locations for the application of these approaches
  • Collaborate with the city to develop outreach and education materials to share why the City is making changes to the vegetation in City parks (or spaces) and linking these changes to climate change

Internal education and interdepartmental collaboration

  • Identifying climate change adaptation strategies for key city departments
  • Developing clear messaging on how climate change will impact the day-to-day work of key departments
  • Identify how climate change adaptation and sustainability can be integrated into Master Plan implementation
  • Identifying how climate change will impact the long term planning for key departments, including financial concerns and infrastructure maintenance
  • Identify cross departmental adaptation strategies to leverage for building interdepartmental relationships and communication

Provide research support to ongoing economic and sustainability efforts in the City

  • Provide a review of examples of stormwater utility development in cities in the region
  • Identify City outreach strategies to business and residents on the development of utility
  • Review existing literature and research on vacant space valuation and converting vacant land to City asset
  • Develop summaries and applied case studies for the maintenance or reuse of vacant properties in the City