Host promotes false narrative on 2040 Plan
By Lisa Brody
Birmingham City Commissioner Brad Host has posted two videos on social media promoting false information on a portion of the city's 2040 Master Plan, dealing with seams between neighborhoods, and despite being repeatedly corrected by city administration, he defended his actions during commissioner comments at the commission meeting on Monday, November 28.
The city began the new master plan process in 2018, now called the 2040 Master Plan, when Birmingham City Commissioners approved a contract of DPZ Partners, LLC, to provide professional services to prepare an update to the city's comprehensive master plan, seeking to focus on the neighborhoods, residents, and how they work with one another, parks, downtown, transportation and other issues, as the widely followed 2016 Plan focused on the downtown area. It's all about managed growth for the city for the next generation. A master plan does not dictate what will occurs, nor determines zoning, but provides guidance for development and ordinances.
Currently, the master plan process is in a mandatory 63-day public distribution period for the city’s final draft of the 2040 Master Plan in order for residents and businesses to comment and provide their opinions and insights into the proposed plan before it is finalized and approved by the city commission.
However, Host and some others have asserted that the 2040 Master Plan will be rezoning single-family homes to build multifamily, and that somehow the city of Birmingham is ignoring its residents in favor of developers and profit. Birmingham City Manager Tom Markus pointed that out in his manager's report in the commission packet, and noted the false narrative while clarifying the facts. However, Host fought back with his own interpretation.
“I represent single family homeowners, the renters, the residents of our town, the people who sleep here...We want to live here and we want to die here...DPZ, the planning board and the city don't get it. All they see are dollar signs and commercial development opportunities. Let's not pretend that this master plan results in future land use documents which will not lead to rezoning,” he stated at the commission meeting.
As fellow commissioner Clinton Baller responded, “We all represent the residents of this town.” Mayor pro tem Elaine Mclain said, “Under no circumstances do I think there is a fraud being perpetrated upon the residents.”
Markus noted that one of Host's videos, espousing false information on the master plan, was shot at Host's home on Oakland Avenue, in which he erroneously stated “these five homes as well as the two lots over near Woodward are going to be rezoned to multiple.”
“It's important – especially as representatives of the city – to be as accurate as possible,” Markus said, who noted he has tried to point out when information is given out that is not accurate, “and I do it on a regular basis. It is important for him as a commissioner to be as seamlessly accurate as possible. Commissioners are the final arbiters of the decision making process. There is public comment, and I encourage that. I say, let the process play out.”
Host does not state why multifamily of any kind would be hazardous to the city or residents, especially as the commission and planning board seek more affordable housing options. However, the 2040 Master Plan does not order the rezoning of those sites, nor any property sites.
“The city has reiterated that comprehensive master plans do not rezone property once adopted,” Markus wrote in his report.
Master plans for cities are documents and policy guides that are designed to help the community, their elected leaders and staff create a long-term vision of what everyone wants it to look like in the future. They are a living, breathing guide – a road map that helps planners and city officials determine land use, development, reinvestment, transportation, housing and infrastructure renovation for the next 20 to 30 years. As Markus noted, the words “rezone” or “rezoning” are never mentioned in either the 2040 document nor the Michigan Planning Enabling Act, which regulates comprehensive master planning in Michigan.
Host's refusal to acknowledge the master plan process, and the master plan itself, brings up similarities to a recent Ethics Board advisory opinion against Samuel Oh, a member of the city's Triangle District Corridor Improvement Authority, for, among other things, disseminating disinformation, notably after city staff repeatedly provided him with the correct information.
Markus said he is considering what alternatives he may proceed with if Host continues posting false information. “I or others may file a complaint with the Ethics Board,” he said. “You cannot treat one person one way and another person another way. This is not the first time we have pointed it out (to Host).”
“As city attorney Mary Kucharek said of Oh, it was a reckless disregard of the truth,” said one current city commissioner, who asked not to be named. “It's the same with Host. It's not just self-serving. We are supposed to listen to the community. The city commission will be the final determinant of the master plan. Host is not listening – he is trying to gin up anger against it.”