Joint Planning, United Growth

September 8, 2008
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Grand Valley Metropolitan Council is living up to its mission and reputation with a short-term program of great value to assist municipalities, and a long-range impact on the regional community.

GVMC recently decided to poll municipal planning directors to determine needs and how Metro Council assets can assist. Planning directors told the Business Journal they are excited about the possibilities, particularly if vacant properties can be matched with development plans. Further, Metro Council is offering its consulting services to train municipal planners in emerging techniques and augment traditional planning activities throughout the region.

One GVMC member, Eastbrook Homes CEO Mick McGraw, hopes municipalities can create one single list of vacant properties that have been approved for development and how planners in individual communities are defining land use potential.

The assist from Metro Council accomplishes major objectives:

—Municipalities are struggling under budget cuts and restraints and the Council is providing funds and expertise that were founding principles for the regional planning group.

—The regional planning group also was founded to provide regional unity and unified planning, a concept not heartily embraced a decade ago though its formation was rooted in the “Four Corners Study” of southeastern Kent County as the suburban area growth began to explode.

—The list provides developers and realtors a better understanding of all available properties and intended use, so every community in the region has opportunity to attract new development, and the resulting property tax revenue.

—The initiative is underscored by the obvious sustainable land use activities.

Four years ago Gov. Jennifer Granholm signed a joint legislative act to encourage multi-jurisdictional planning. The plan was not initially supported by the Michigan Municipal League whose members preferred drawing boundary lines. The poor economy, however, has created a climate of growing partnerships. Two recent, successful projects include Avistar Park which straddles Walker and Grand Rapids boundary lines, and the sale of a former Steelcase manufacturing plant which straddles three communities and has new tenants.

Grand Rapids Business Journal encourages municipal planners to take part in this extraordinary effort that has positive long-term solutions for the entire region.

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