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Posted: 08/06/14

WT wants public input for
review of master plan

by JERRY FRAEYMAN
Observer Special Writer
      Are you a Washington resident interested in helping shape the township's future? Your chance is coming.
       The Washington Township Planning Commission is undertaking a review of the township's master plan, during which public input is welcome.
       The master plan defines the community's projected growth and development. It is the blueprint for how the township might look in 10 or 20 years.
       "Our master plan is the vision in which we see our community in the long-term," said Dana Coleman, Washington's planning and zoning administrator.
       The first step in refining that vision takes place at a workshop to be held in August. The workshop is intended to educate people about the master plan review process and is open to the public.
       Coleman says the review process give residents a unique opportunity to help have a say in shaping the township's character. She would like nothing more than active participation.
       "I would love to have the workshop filled at capacity," Coleman said.
      
What is a Master Plan?

       A master plan is a comprehensive, long-range plan intended to guide growth and development of a community or region. It indicates where a community prefers its residential, agricultural, industrial and commercial enterprises to be located.
       Creation of a master plan includes analysis of a community's population, economy, housing, transportation, community facilities and land use.
       The master plan is based on public input, surveys, planning initiatives, existing development, physical characteristics, and social and economic conditions.
       In Michigan, municipalities are required by law to develop master plans and to review them every five years. Washington's was last reviewed in 2011.
       The review process can take several months to complete. It gives community leaders a chance to assess present and future growth in the context of larger trends.
       "We'll ask if there is anything that has changed that would lead us to change what our plan is for the township," said Washington Supervisor Dan O'Leary. "You change it because there is a legitimate, significant reason to change it. For instance, if we wind up getting sewer to a part of the township that wasn't expected to get sewer, that could change the (population) density in that part of the township."
       Washington is facing such a proposition. The township's wastewater treatment plant will impact sewer capacity. So, too, would a sewer line along Hayes Road up to 32 Mile, which Macomb County is exploring.
       How that plays out in the upcoming review remains to be seen. But, according to O'Leary, "given that we have the sewer potential, I think we might see changes to the east side densities. Nothing significant, but some changes."
       The master plan review is conducted by the Planning Commission. The commission is a seven-person citizen body, chaired by Barb Wolf.
       The final plan is presented to the Board of Trustees for approval, after which it is shared with adjacent communities and the county.
       O'Leary said that the board usually abides by the recommendations of the commission.
      
The Master Plan vs. the Zoning Map

       For all of its visionary power, the master plan does not regulate land use. The recommendations in the master plan are for guidance, but they do not dictate what can or can't be built on a piece of property.
       To regulate land use, communities create zoning maps.
       "The master plan is different from the zoning map," Coleman said. "When a rezoning is being requested for a property we reference the master plan. If the property is master planned for the rezoning requested, then it would meet the intent of the master plan and the planning commission would recommend approval to the township board."
       Copies of the master plan, as well as the zoning map, are available on the Washington Township website www.miwashington.com.
      
Boom Times Again

       The master plan review occurs at a time when the township is experiencing a renewed building boom. Currently, there are 12 residential construction projects in the township.
       "We're definitely busy," Coleman said.
       Part of the reason for developer interest is that Washington is still largely rural and undeveloped. In terms of land use, the township is 40 percent agricultural or vacant land. Residential areas fill 22 percent of the township, with office and commercial space occupying 1.5 percent and industrial 0.5 percent.
       Coleman said her department makes sure that the development standards of the township, as well as the atmosphere of the community, aren't adversely affected. The master plan, along with the zoning map and township ordinances, contribute to that effort.
       "We have high standards," Coleman said. "And we make sure that all of our developments meet those standards."
       The specific date of the Washington Township master plan review workshop is still being decided. For more information, visit the Washington Township website at www.miwashington.com.


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