Dearborn kicks off "master plan" initiative, seeks resident ideas
By Nick Meyer | Saturday, 07.23.2011, 09:39 AM

DEARBORN – Residents have the chance to play city planner this summer as part of a new "master plan" initiative designed to create a vision for the city's future.
On Tuesday, July 19, the kick-off meeting for all residents was held at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center during which about 40 residents took surveys, held group discussions, and asked questions about the project.  Four other meetings will also be held for specific areas of the city in the next month.
The master plan will eventually be created with input from residents on topics such as architecture, transportation, land use, the economy, sustainable issues relating to the environment and more.
"It will be interesting to get this background information done; we've got a great staff and we're hoping to come up with a plan that will guide us," Mayor Jack O'Reilly said at the meeting.
Northville-based McKenna Associates, an urban planning and community development company, was hired by the city to obtain community input for the plan.
"This is your plan so we need your ideas and we need them now," said Amy Chestnutt of McKenna, addressing the crowd.
"A lot of decisions need to be made throughout our lifetime and this is a collaborative effort between everyone." 
The Michigan Planning Act's Public Act 33 of 2008 requires that every city with zoning create a master plan with input from citizens.
At Tuesday's meeting, residents were shown slides of different types of businesses large and small, homes, apartment complexes, natural areas, sculptures, and more and asked to rate each image on a scale of 5 to 5 based on how well each potential city feature fits in with Dearborn's own image and culture. Most of the audience seemed to reject the idea of more superstores such as Kmart or Wal-Mart type projects in the city judging by their reactions. The survey can be taken by other residents at 
It was also noted that the master plan is not a law, it is merely a guide to be used by city officials and will be re-done every five years. 
The city's original master plan was done in 1962 during which each section of the city was centered around an elementary school, according to Chestnutt. Subsequent plans were made in 1985 and then 2007 based on improved Census data on demographics. 
A Southeast Michigan Council of Governments study found that Dearborn is expected to have a net gain of more than 8% in population from 2000 to 2035 while Wayne County is projected to lose more than 10% of its people, mostly due to Detroit residents leaving the city. The city's population is also projected to have disproportionate numbers of senior citizens and children as well, factors that attendees of the meeting were asked to consider when submitting their own suggestions for city plans. 
Among the proposals made by one group of six people during the breakout sessions were a simple train route from Dearborn to the Metro Airport and perhaps to other destinations such as Royal Oak and Detroit, more affordable housing for seniors and young people, and more. 
People from each part of the city who wish to participate in the discussion on site with planners may attend the following meetings: Northeast and southeast residents: 7 p.m. on Wednesday July 27 at the Ford Performing Arts Center Studio A, 15801 Michigan Ave; Southwest residents, 7 p.m. Wednesday, August 3 at the Dearborn Schools Admin. Building, 18700 Audette. Northwest residents, 7 p.m. Wednesday August 17 at the Robert Herndon Dearborn Hills Golf Course. A final summation workshop will also be held at the Ford Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, September 20.
Residents are encouraged to complete the online survey about Dearborn and its future development. The survey must be completed by Aug. 1.
Dearborn households will be receiving a post card with the online survey information the week of July 18.
In addition, paper copies can be picked up at City Hall, 13615 Michigan Avenue, in the City Plan Office. They can also be found at the Henry Ford Centennial Library.
It is important to note that Master Plan is not law and is not binding.
The Master Plan provides a basis for the city to write and enforce zoning laws that set forth how property owners can develop and use their land. It also recognizes the need to balance the interests of residents, businesses, and a large daytime working population. 

By Nick Meyer

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