Big Questions Out of Dexter Forum

Dexter Forum moderators Karl Fink and John Hansen.
photo credit: Dexter Forum website

By Lonnie Huhman,

What does Dexter want to be?

That question was posed by Gene Utke at the Dexter Forum on Jan. 19, after he put forth the topic of affordable housing in the community.

As the snow came down outside, the forum met inside the Dexter Wellness Center and it again was a full room of attendees.

Utke said Dexter seems to be growing in one direction and affordable housing does not seem to be part of that because developers have said there is no incentive to build cheaper homes when there is a want for pricier homes.

He said Dexter has to ask itself some questions, from what is the value of diversity and what does the community want to be.

This led to city council members Paul Cousins and Zach Michels to chime in.

Cousins said the city is working with Avalon Housing, an Ann Arbor-based non-profit housing advocacy group, on developing a new residential project on city owned land on Dan Hoey Road. Cousins said the plan could be a big step for Dexter. He said the plan is in the early steps, but it could see up to 22 residences constructed that could range from one, two and three-bedroom units.

Cousins cited Avalon’s project in Chelsea, which saw the former Sharon Ann Apartments renovated to provide housing for people who make area median income or less, and some who have behavioral or health challenges or have been homeless.

In an effort to look at housing in general, the city formed a Housing Task Force. Its objectives include inventorying existing housing stock; identifying housing needs; identifying and researching housing case studies from other communities; researching strategies to address missing housing needs and affordable housing; and present findings to City Council for additional study or action.

Michels, who is also part of the task force, said they are looking for community input on affordable housing and other housing topics, and expect to have upcoming opportunities for public meetings. The task force will be meeting at 7 p.m. on Jan. 31, at the Dexter District Library.

Another forum topic was broadband internet access and how there are parts of the community not getting it.

In their forum notes. Moderators John Hansen and Karl Fink said, “We revisited the issue of the (lack of) high speed internet in our rural areas. Students and businesses are at a significant disadvantage without this service.  The problem is the cost of running the wires in lightly populated areas.  Our representatives at the state, county and township level are all aware of the problem but none see a solution coming quickly.”

Broadband is an issue around various area communities, including in Manchester and Dexter Township, which has formed a broadband committee to look at addressing areas lacking it.

The forum was rounded out by updates on pedestrian safety and the commercialization of recreational marijuana.

The takeaway from Dexter school board president Michael Wendorf’s update on pedestrian safety is that the school district and city are working on getting on the same page and things are looking more positive for the two to address pedestrian safety concerns.

As far as recreational marijuana, some local municipalities, such as the city of Dexter and Webster Township, are moving, at this point, to opt out of allowing marijuana business operations in their areas while Scio Township is waiting to see what rules the state puts in place. Representatives from Webster Township and the city said they also want to see what the state decides on for the final look of the new law and its regulations.

Hansen and Fink summed it up well when they said, “It seems that folks have gotten the message that it is wise to wait until the state finalizes all of the regulations before setting things in stone.”

The next meeting of the Dexter Forum will be at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, at the Dexter Wellness Center, 2810 Baker Road. Hansen said this meeting marks the beginning of the forum’s fifth year.  Those in attendance determine topics and all are welcome.

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