Comprehensive planning continues in Peters Township

Published Aug 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm (Updated Aug 30, 2013 at 4:40 pm)

Moments after a meeting of the Peters Township Planning Commission began Aug. 27, Chairman Jeff Mills announced commission members would not make a recommendation to council regarding the 14-month process of formulating a comprehensive plan.

The commission recommends, one way or the other, while council has the power to adopt or reject.

Mills said the reason for the delay was that members did not have adequate time to review the 109-page Plan Peters 2022 document.

A special meeting was set for 7 p.m. Sept. 12 when commission members are expected to announce a recommendation, four days before council has scheduled a public hearing for 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16.

While there was no recommendation Aug. 27, members listened to a summary of the plan by Paul LeBlanc of LSL Planning Inc. of Grand Rapids, Minn. The company was hired by the township at a cost of about $150,000.

Township residents have indicated that they would like to see more of a sense of community and more control of traffic along Route 19. Residents have indicated that the township should become more walkable, have more office space, have better use of open space and not just strips of land at the rear of houses, and respondents would like to see the elimination of sameness.

During several workshops held during the past 14 months, LeBlanc said attendees offered several questions such as: Where do we want to grow? How big do we want to be? Are we growing responsibly? Can we pay for the growth?

The vision for the township should be: Continue to do what the township does best, LeBlanc said.

The perfect future would include great schools, walkable neighborhoods, higher density housing in select areas, and homes that would provide a wide range of housing for varying age groups.

“Keep 15 percent of the township’s land as permanent open space,” LeBlanc told the commission members, as well as several members of the township’s steering committee and a few audience members.

LeBlanc offered a glowing report on how and where the township should grow. High-wage employment should be solicited. The development of the McMurray Town Centre area, as well as the land near the Donaldson’s Crossroads, should be developed further.

To accomplish many of the goals established in the preliminary comprehensive plan, the township would need “a major overhaul of the zoning ordinances,” LeBlanc said.

Robert Lewis serves not only on the township council, but was also council’s representative on the steering committee.

He told the planning commission that he did not object to the concept of multi-family housing, but the plan did not “provide the tools to create this image.” Lewis also said he hoped future development would shy away from cookie-cutter developments.

He questioned where the money would come from, as the township has numerous bond issues to pay for improvements in the park. Money, Lewis said, is a big issue.

William Merrell, who once served on council and who is now a member of the Peters Township School Board, questioned whether the current infrastructure could handle an additional 500 vehicles or more daily that would be generated by new developments.

Merrell, whose wife Monica Merrell serves on council, said he couldn’t see empty nesters selling their older homes on half-acre lots for $300,000 or $400,000, to move to a smaller home on less land, often for a same price or higher.

“The pictures (in the 109-page document) look great, but some homes don’t sell,” Merrell told the commission members.

Merrell, a native of Peters Township, said infrastructure is a problem, as is the lack of transportation.

“Some of the roads are as they were when I was in high school,” he said.

Other who spoke stressed that the township should not lose focus, and should remember to keep finances in check.

Mills said he’d like to see more mixed use housing and that he’s received complaints about too many car dealerships on Route 19. Mills also said he did not know if the township could dictate the quality and architecture of the development, either residential or commercial.

The public will have the opportunity to express opinions and concerns about the comprehensive plan at the public hearing Sept. 16.

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