Berkley to gather more info for master plan amendment

Residents unhappy with time frame

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published October 3, 2016

File photo


BERKLEY — The Berkley Planning Commission has been working for about two months to gather information to create a new amendment to the city’s master plan.

The commission held an open house in August to hear residents’ opinions about how they saw the future of Berkley’s landscape. The hope was that the information gathered would lend itself to creating a master plan amendment that would supercede the last amendment passed in August 2015.

At its most recent meeting Sept. 27, the commission laid out more plans to schedule meetings with local schools and seniors, to get a Michigan State Housing Development Authority study done, and to have one more open house.

“My general sense is we’d like (the school and senior meetings) to happen as quickly as possible, so most likely a lot of it will be done prior to the next meeting,” Commissioner Joe Tangari said. “Some of it may not be. I don’t really have a sense of how quickly we can get it all together, but the city staff was given the charge to come up with some dates, and we’ll kind of figure out how we’ll split up on those dates.

“At the very least, it’ll be scheduled prior to the next (meeting),” he said. “Whether or not they’ll occur prior to the next one is an open question, but they should at least be scheduled by then, so we’ll know when they are and we can report that out.”

Some residents at the meeting were upset with the news, as they felt it appeared to be stalling tactics to make changes, and others believed the commission was out to search for data or results that suit its agenda.

As to why residents were upset, resident Rachel Piacentini cited a sheet passed out to citizens detailing the amendment-crafting process.

After a part that lists a meeting for an open house, the process discusses the creation of a master plan amendment document, where the commission would compile the feedback, engage other city officials, and create a working draft amendment.

“In those steps they laid out, it doesn’t say, ‘We’re going to have an open house, and then we’re going to get an assessment from MSHDA,’” Piacentini said. “‘And then we’re going to do another open house for the seniors. And then we’re going to do another whatever survey.’ It doesn’t say that.

“They sort of threw that wrench into the works when this was not their original planning. So it appears to residents that … the perception that they’re giving, they didn’t like the feedback, per se, that they got from the open house, nor did they like the feedback from … Berkley Residents Against Rezoning.”

The feedback from BRAR that Piacentini was referring to was a survey conducted about residential land use that garnered 545 responses from residents regarding the quality of life in Berkley and where they would like to see redevelopment in the city — specifically with multi-family dwellings.

The results showed that residents were most favorable to multi-family redevelopment on Woodward Avenue and 11 Mile Road, while they were down on development on Coolidge Highway and 12 Mile Road.

“So they didn’t like their survey results, and so now they’re going to seek additional feedback, which will hopefully meet their needs,” Piacentini said. “That’s the perception they have put out there. And so when you have that perception, you now have created additional lack of trust in the (Planning Commission), which serves the residents.”

When asked if the target market analysis study by MSHDA, which could take a few months, is something needed, Tangari said he hopes that it will get done and provide some data the city doesn’t have yet.

“It gives you some very targeted information about your community’s housing needs on the basis of its current and projected future demographics,” he said. “My general feeling is that there’s really no way we can go wrong having all that information. It’s going to tell us something that we didn’t know. So I’d like to know what we don’t know.”

As for having another open house for residents that weren’t able to attend to first one in August, Tangari said his sense right now is yes, but if it does happen, it can’t be a repeat of what they did before.

“It would be instructive to take what we’ve already learned — and the citizens produced a survey for us — we could present all that information at an open house so anyone that hasn’t been involved can take stock of it, and people who have been involved could also use that as an opportunity to take stock,” he said. “It’s likely that we will have at least one more before we proceed to any kind of draft of a new amendment.”

The process of developing a master plan amendment can be long, Tangari said. For these meetings with schools and seniors, he said getting them done is a “matter of logistics and scheduling.”

“The people we want to talk to have to be available, and we have to be available to talk to them,” he said. “I guess we’ll see what happens in the next week or two.”

Had the Planning Commission, at the beginning of the process, laid out that there might be all these meetings and a MSHDA study, Piacentini said the residents might not be this upset.

“Logically speaking, the MSHDA assessment and maybe a second open house and things like that that they mentioned, they’re not bad ideas,” she said. “But it’s the planning, it’s how they went about it — that is the bad problem. If they would’ve said all of this at the beginning, nobody would’ve been angry right now.”

Piacentini said it feels like the commission is changing the rules as it goes, and “it’s kind of not cool.”

“The perception they have created in the community is we don’t trust what the residents say, and we’re going to get other opinions that basically says what we want to hear,” she said.

Tangari said they’re going to do their best to make the amendment process expedient and possibly look to schedule work sessions in the meantime, maybe in October or November, though he’s not sure at the moment.

“Given that we are going to be trying to collect certain types of information that’s going to somewhat govern our time frame, our time is certainly going to be affected by the target market analysis, because that’s going to take a certain amount of time,” he said. “But my guess is once we have a contract in place for that, we’ll have a very good sense of where our end point is, because that’s going to have a time frame on it. They’re going to have a deadline by which we get our target market analysis, and from there, I don’t see why it would take terribly long, because we’ll have by that point gathered all the other information we need.”