New Chelsea Housing Commission Generates Abundance of Community Interest 

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By Melinda Baird,

The city of Chelsea received an overwhelmingly positive response to its call for volunteers willing to serve on a newly established Housing Research Advisory Commission.  With more applicants than available seats, Council was introduced to five of the six applicants during the March 5 meeting.  Meanwhile, two other community members wrote letters to Council encouraging the body to expand its representation among the now seven-member commission.

Applicant Adam Ellison, Chelsea resident for two and one-half years, works as a local plant manager and serves on the city’s planning commission.  Witnessing his employees struggle to find affordable housing in the city and having struggled similarly himself, Ellison commended Council for creating the much-needed commission.

Vince Elie, resident for 18 years, is a physician whose children are grown.  Hoping to remain in Chelsea with his wife but not necessarily in senior housing, Elie understands firsthand the plight of seniors regarding affordable housing.

Joshua Tucker finds himself on the opposite end of the spectrum being freshly out of college and “about $150,000 in debt.”  As a young person “with big dreams who would like to start getting out on his own and maybe start a family in Chelsea,” Tucker hopes to help find solutions for other younger people in the same predicament of unaffordable housing in their own community.

Terris Ahrens, a local realtor for over four years, ironically can no longer afford to live in the city after his roommate moved out in December.  An Ambassador with Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce, Ahrens said he has “a unique perspective through being younger, working hard and trying to survive in this town.”

MacKenzie Pfeiffer, a 16-year resident with kids in the school district, said her role as parent combined with her work at the local senior center lends a broad spectrum of understanding across age groups.  Having earned a Master’s in Counseling, MacKenzie said she has learned to set her opinions aside and truly listen to what people need.

Stephen Fetyko, a 17-year resident, is Chief Financial Officer at United Methodist Retirement Communities.  Unable to be present at the meeting, Fetyko stated in his application he “has a strong interest in identifying potential ways to expand housing options for all age groups and all income levels to help enhance our community.”

Once appointed, the commission is charged with researching existing housing stock in Chelsea, including size, type and value; identifying housing needed to achieve balanced growth in the city’s demographics; researching innovative and successful affordable housing strategies; identifying opportunities for cooperation with other city and county departments, local employers, and non-profit organizations; and seeking ways to partner with local townships to address affordable housing in the region.

Further, the commission shall be comprised of seven members, two of whom will be city council members Rick Catherman and Peter Feeney.  It will also include one Planning Commission member, one real estate professional and three at-large members.

Councilwoman Jane Pacheco advocated for adding a community service provider seat to the commission after receiving feedback from at least two integral community members.  Nancy Paul of Faith in Action and Rev. Joe Jeffreys of Chelsea First Congregational Church sent letters urging Council to consider adding representation of Chelsea-based organizations and faith-based communities, respectively.  These groups bring a depth of understanding and compassion to the issue as well as a unique dedication evident in their chosen daily work, they said.

Due to an error in the city’s posting of the application deadline, appointments and any other related action were rescheduled to take place during the March 19 meeting.  Both Mayor Melissa Johnson and Councilwoman Cheri Albertson said every applicant is stellar and would make an exemplary participant on the commission.

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Seth Kinker

Reporter/Digital Media for The Sun Times News

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