What’s in a plan?Much money & time

Published Sep 4, 2013 at 6:38 am (Updated Aug 30, 2013 at 4:37 pm)

Finally, the comprehensive plan process in Peters Township, and in other municipalities across the state, is coming to a close. In Peters, at least, it’s taken more than 14 months and it’s still not a done deal.

The state mandates communities prepare what is called a comprehensive plan every 10 years to outline what the local entity hopes to accomplish within the next decade or so.

In Peters, preparations for a comprehensive plan have taken on a life of its own. A steering committees was formed, an outside firm was hired at a whopping $150,000, and a member of the planning department was reassigned to work solely on the plan. (He was offered another job and left before the process ended.) There is a Website and the entire process has a name: Plan Peters 2022.

Overkill? Perhaps not, but it does appear to be a lot of money, time and effort to formulate a plan other communities have spent less time and money to achieve.

Peters Township has never been one to shy away from forming committees and spending money to tackle an issue. When the Southern Beltway was proposed to run through the township in the late 1980s or early 1990s, committees were formed left and right, and it was estimated it took more than $100,000 to reach an agreement with the state turnpike commission. Well, decades later the Southern Beltway is slowly progressing its way through phase 2 and is nowhere near Peters Township.

And even when the agreement was reached, it included the obvious, like the road would only run through the most unpopulated areas of the township, and that the township would be notified of any intent to acquire property.

Jump ahead to 2012-13. For $150,000, the township got a fancy, color-photographed 109-page booklet on somewhat thin paper.

Some of the items in the booklet are obscure and even included a reference as to how the media helped to publicize meetings. Duh. That’s the media’s job and what does that have to do with reaching a planning goal for the next decade?

One obvious error that was repeated over and over again was during a meeting Aug. 27, when the plan was presented to the township’s planning commission by Paul LeBlanc, a managing partner in the firm hired by the township, LSL Planning Inc. of Grand Rapids, Minn.

After more than a year studying the township, evaluating data and holding countless seminars and meetings, LeBlanc repeatedly referred to Donaldsons Crossroads as Donaldsons Crossing.

One could write off the mistake to nerves, perhaps, but Donaldsons Crossroads is not an obscure area of the township.

The Planning Commission decided not to make a recommendation to council during the Aug. 27 meeting because of a snafu where someone—no name announced—forgot to have the booklets delivered to the commission members before the meeting. Now, another meeting—Sept. 12—must be advertised and held before the plan can be recommended or rejected.

Council is holding a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 16 when, finally, the process can come to a close. Maybe.

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