Michigan Land Use Institute

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New Designs: Alternatives to Sprawl

Traverse City project educates officials

December 1, 1997 | By Keith Schneider
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

New Designs For Growth, organized by the Traverse Area Chamber of Commerce, is a pioneering growth management project for Northwest Michigan. It was launched last year to enhance the economy and preserve the environment in a five-county region by providing public education and land use planning services in rural communities.

The project is organizing a series of workshops to familiarize townships with modern tools for growth management. The first workshop was held in Benzonia in late October. Seven others, including Suttons Bay and Elk Rapids, have been scheduled.

New Designs also is evaluating economic and regulatory incentives from other regions that successfully encouraged development patterns to preserve a community's character.

In fast-growing Traverse City, New Designs is working with local officials to limit the size of business signs and the number of driveways on busy commercial streets, to reduce clutter and congestion.

New Designs For Growth was developed by a coalition that included the Institute, planners, business leaders, educators, and environmental specialists. It is managed by Keith Charters, a consultant and chairman of the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.u

For more information: New Designs for Growth, P.O. Box 5316, Traverse City, MI 49685; Tel. 616-947-7566

Benzie County Updating
Master Plan

The Benzie County Planning Department is updating its Master Plan, a project that is expected to take two years.

After hosting six "visioning" sessions last summer and generating widespread community support, the Planning Department now has formed a 60-member Citizens' Advisory Committee. The Institute's delegate to the Committee is Hans Voss, who joins county representatives from local governments, business interests, conservation groups, and community organizations.

"Everyone is concerned about growth," said David Neiger, Director of Planning for Benzie County. "We are looking at ways to make it friendly to the environment and make sure it occurs in the appropriate places."

Mr. Neiger and the planning commissioners are working with Mark Wyckoff, a highly respected land use consultant from the Planning and Zoning Center in Lansing, to coordinate the project. Citizens for Positive Planning, a local community group, is providing support for public education and fundraising.

Mr. Wyckoff has furnished the Citizens' Advisory Committee with tools that local governments can use to ensure that rapidly growing counties like Benzie do not succumb to a fragmented landscape and loss of community character.

The Committee will spend the coming year in smaller working groups to develop recommendations for a variety of pressing issues affecting economic development, transportation, residential and commercial building, farm land, open space, and recreation.u

For more information: David Neiger, Benzie County Planning Department, P.O. Box 398, Beulah, MI 49617. Tel. 616-882-9674.

Michigan Land Use Institute

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