Says Master Plan “Needs No Big Changes;”

Adopts Resolution Supporting “North Village” Park Plan

by David Gordon

The Planning Commission voted 3-1 to cut ties with Cobalt Communications, a firm hired by the previous Board of Trustees to survey residents about issues raised by the Biltmore LLC subdivision proposal, which was eventually rejected.

The motion was made by PC Chair Larry Roman and supported by Commissioners Brad Cousino and Cecelia Infante. Trustee Janet Chick, the Board’s liaison to the PC, voted no. Commissioners Amy Steffens, John Zarzecki and Sam Iaquinto were absent.

The Cobalt survey has been bogged down since early 2016 because of problems identifying exactly what questions would be asked. Charges of bias and lack of focus headed the list of problems with the survey, according to public comments from citizens, the Board and the PC.

“I didn’t hear a lot of support from the Board of Trustees for continuing the survey” said Roman. “The use of Cobalt does not benefit the Planning Commission in reviewing the Master Plan.” Cousino clarified “we are recommending the Board nullify the contract.  If somebody wants to use it…it’s up for grabs….but the PC doesn’t need to participate.”  

Cobalt has already been paid $8,416 of its $16,832 contract, although no survey was ever finalized. Cobalt offered a refund of $3,916 in a February 24 email.

Chick claimed that the Board had voted to direct the PC to go ahead with the survey during the Joint Meeting on March 28, but Roman and Infante disagreed. “There were a lot of opinions, but no vote,” said Roman.  

He said the PC intends to use direct community participation such as workshops, plus possibly an online survey, to gather input as part of the Master Plan review being done this year. The PC directed township planner Patrick Sloane to provide by April 19th a proposal, timetable and budget for the review.

Both Roman and Cousino said that the current Master Plan did not need any major changes. Sloane said new Master Plan will incorporate recommendations for farmland preservation and for revitalizing of the entire downtown area, including the “North Village” concept plan that was unveiled at a joint BT-PC meeting on March 28.

In other action, Infante volunteered to act as a liaison with the Downtown Planning Group, and a PC member to be named later will do the same with the Farmland and Natural Features Preservation Committee.

The PC also will be working on updating the township sign ordinance and reviewing the implications of Michigan’s new law permitting medical marijuana businesses, among other projects during 2017.

Meeting documents: