Green GR being considered for Master Plan

October 28, 2011
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City commissioners will begin the process of adding the Green Grand Rapids Plan to the city’s Master Plan late next month when they hold a public hearing Nov. 29 on making that transition.

“It has taken a while to bring this project to you because of all the implementation,” City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz told commissioners last week. “This has been a wonderful story.”

The Green GR process was created in 2007 with an eye toward upgrading the quality of life in the city and improving the city’s infrastructure as it relates to parks, connectivity, natural systems, the Grand River and local food products. A year later, commissioners approved a budget for the information gathering that totaled $548,000, which was paid for by the Wege, Grand Rapids Community, Frey and Dyer-Ives foundations, the Downtown Development Authority and the city.

JJR Inc., a planning and urban design firm in Ann Arbor, served as the project’s lead consultant. Other team members were Fishbeck, Thompson, Carr & Huber; O’Boyle Cowell Blalock & Associates; and Clare Wade Communications.

“The project was delivered on time, on budget and within scope,” said Schulz.

Just a few of the plan’s goals are to provide all residents with an accessible park within a quarter-mile of their homes, to extend the riverwalk from Riverside Park to Millennium Park, to have trees cover 40 percent of the city’s landscape, to create an on-street route for bicycles, and to support a year-round farmers market in the downtown district. A 30-member advisory committee directed the process.

“Community input was sought through a number of initiatives, including stakeholder interviews, a game played by numerous citizen groups, public meetings and charettes, among other methods,” said Schulz.

The city’s Planning Commission held a public hearing a few weeks ago on adding Green GR to the city’s Master Plan, which was officially adopted in 2002, and planning commissioners unanimously recommended that city commissioners make the addition. Schulz said city commissioners adopted the parks-and-recreation portion of Green GR as an amendment to the Master Plan in August 2010.

After commissioners hold their public hearing, they can accept the plan, amend the plan, or reject the plan. If they reject it, they have to let the Planning Commission know why. Then planning commissioners will consider their objections and revise the plan.

A state statute, the Michigan Planning Enabling Act of 2008, sets the process the city has to follow to add Green GR to the Master Plan. The law also requires a two-month comment period that gives neighboring municipalities, Kent County, local businesses and neighborhood associations a chance to weigh in on the issue. The comment period ended May 25. Schulz said no comments were received.

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