Grosse Pointe Park to seek additional input on proposed new master plan

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published January 21, 2020


GROSSE POINTE PARK — A revised master plan that some officials say has been in the works for as much as the last two years will remain in the works a bit longer in Grosse Pointe Park.

With some residents and City Council members calling for additional professional input into the draft plan, the council voted unanimously Jan. 13 to direct City Manager Nick Sizeland to come back to the council at a future date with costs and options to engage a professional planner or firm to review and possibly revise the draft plan prepared by members of the Planning Commission. But while the vote was unanimous, it didn’t happen without considerable debate first.

Mayor Robert Denner had been hoping the council would approve the draft of the master plan so that it could be submitted, as required, to neighboring communities — Grosse Pointe City, Detroit and Wayne County — for their review and comments. Denner said the neighboring communities would have had 63 days to offer their input, which would have been sent to the Park Planning Commission for it to consider and possibly incorporate, before final approval by the City Council. He said the Planning Commission voted unanimously in favor of the draft master plan at its last meeting.

City Councilman Vikas Relan said the master plan “has come a long way” but “is still lacking a professional aspect.”

“I think there’s still room for improvement,” Relan continued.

Denner said some of the issues Relan and others wanted to see in the plan — such as the need for more child care in the community — “are clearly referenced” in the draft. Critics of the plan said more needs to be done on it.

“I had a lot of residents reach out to me once this was an agenda item,” City Councilwoman Lauri Read said. “Every one of them was asking us to slow this down. … This would be considered a business plan for our city. It’s supposed to be a visionary document.”

Planning Commission member David Gaskin chaired a subcommittee that worked on the master plan; he said other Planning Commission members on the subcommittee were Malik Goodwin and Michael Fikany. Gaskin told the council he looked at several master plans prepared by professional firms and estimated it would cost the Park about $40,000 to $50,000 to hire a professional planner.

“We are basically 100% developed,” Gaskin said. “Some of the areas may be changed, but they’re going to change gradually. … Do as you wish, but you will spend a lot of money on a professional plan.”

Over what he said was a nearly two-year process, Gaskin said the Planning Commission made an estimated 15 “significant revisions” to the draft, incorporating resident feedback as part of that.

Some officials felt the city needed to take the next step.

“The council slowed the process down last year … to get more public input,” City Councilman Daniel Grano said. “The city has taken efforts to make sure the public has a way to weigh in. … I’m in favor of moving forward.”

Denner and Grano were the only ones who voted in favor of a motion to send the draft master plan to neighboring communities for their review. Relan, Read and City Councilwomen Aimee Rogers Fluitt and Michele Hodges voted against the motion. City Councilman James Robson was absent from the vote, having needed to leave the meeting early.

Relan said he spoke to members of a group of residents who worked with the Planning Commission on the master plan, and “none of them were happy with it,” he said of the draft.

“A master plan is such an important building block for our community,” said Hodges, “and I think the act of creating the document is as important as the document itself. I think we want it to look exceptional.”

Hodges acknowledged that people “have put a lot of work into this” already, a sentiment echoed by several of her colleagues.

“I know this has been a ton of work,” Fluitt said, “(but) we need somebody who is certified in this area” to work on the master plan.

Denner said Goodwin is a certified urban planner.

Park resident Brian Vosburg said he’s also a certified urban planner, and he was one of the residents who worked on the draft master plan. Vosburg thanked the Planning Commission and the council for their deliberation on the plan.

“Based on the feedback I got from the community, there are varying levels of professional (planning services) that we can have,” Read said.

The last major update of the city’s master plan took place circa 2010 or 2011.

The Michigan Planning Enabling Act requires that municipalities review their master plans at least every five years, but substantial overhauls aren’t mandated.

Denner said the city will need state approval for an extension on its new master plan, but they should be able to obtain that because they’ve been actively working on the document. He cautioned that the city will need to figure out how to pay for a professional planning consultant.

“The city is going to have to spend money if we’re going to take (the master plan) to any other level,” Denner said.

It wasn’t known at press time when the council would have additional data to consider on this issue.