Planners with local ties hired in Shores

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published February 5, 2014

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — New development in an older community like the Shores can be a delicate balancing act, as officials try to preserve the character of the area and its history while being open to some changes.

And so the city’s choice of a new planner was no minor decision. When Shores Planning Consultant Chris McLeod left his firm to take a position with West Bloomfield Township last year, the city began a search for a new consultant. During a Jan. 21 City Council meeting, City Manager Mark Wollenweber said they sought proposals from several firms and received six proposals by the deadline. He and Planning Commission Chair Mary Matuja reviewed the proposals and selected four of the six for interviews Dec. 18.

After conducting those interviews, Wollenweber said he and Matuja both decided to recommend the Ann Arbor-based firm of Carlisle-Wortman Associates Inc. The Shores’ primary planning consultant would be the firm’s vice president and one of its owners, R. Donald Wortman, who grew up in the Grosse Pointes, and his alternate would be David Scurto, a principal with the firm and another native east-sider.

Based on their proposed fee schedule, the new firm would save the Shores $2,000 annually over what it had been paying, Wollenweber said.

“Our recommendation is based on, one, saving money, and two, getting quality folks,” Wollenweber told the council. “Dave and Don’s proposal results in savings in an area where we don’t spend that much money anyway.”

Mayor Ted Kedzierski said Carlisle-Wortman created a master plan for Grosse Pointe Woods. He said the firm does “certainly high-quality, high-caliber” work.

City Council member Robert Gesell agreed.

“It’s very impressive,” he said of Carlisle-Wortman’s background.

Scurto said he grew up on the south side of St. Clair Shores, so he knows the area well. He also noted that he has 29 years of experience in the field.

Besides Grosse Pointe Woods, other cities that have used the firm include St. Clair Shores, Northville, Ferndale, Birmingham and Plymouth. Since the company was founded in 1987, Scurto said they’ve had more than 70 clients. The firm only offers its services to governments and nonprofit agencies, such as counties and community-development organizations.

In addition to working as planning consultants, they are trainers who could lead workshops for the city in areas such as zoning and economic development.

The council voted unanimously in favor of the recommendation, selecting Carlisle-Wortman Associates Inc. as the Shores’ new planning consultants.

Next up for the council is a look at a proposed plan-review fee, as suggested by Carlisle-Wortman officials. Wollenweber said such fees are fairly common, and if the city were to charge such a fee, the person seeking review of their building proposal would pay it, saving the city money. The Planning Commission is expected to take a look at this concept and make a recommendation to the council, which could be voting on such a fee as soon as its next meeting Feb. 18.