2017-11-13 / Front Page

‘Shared vision’ of city’s future emerges from meeting

By Steven Kovac
810-452-2684 • skovac@mihomepaper.com

Are Brown City’s best days behind it? Not according to these enthusiastic folks at the recent Master Plan ‘Visioning Session.’ Writing some of her aspirations for the city’s future on the ‘Aspire Board’ is city council member Alecia Parks. 
Photo by Steven Kovac Are Brown City’s best days behind it? Not according to these enthusiastic folks at the recent Master Plan ‘Visioning Session.’ Writing some of her aspirations for the city’s future on the ‘Aspire Board’ is city council member Alecia Parks. Photo by Steven Kovac BROWN CITY — About 30 people turned out Nov. 2 at the elementary school multi-purpose room to talk about the future of Brown City.

The meeting was held in conjunction with the regular meeting of the city planning commission.

Billed as a “visioning session,” the gathering was another step in the process of revising the city’s Master Plan.

A Master Plan is an official guide for the city planning commission, city council, prospective developers, the business sector, and residents, that encapsulates their shared vision of what they want their municipality to look like five to twenty years from now.

Michigan law requires a community’s Master Plan be revised every five years.

A revised plan is a prerequisite for the city being designated as a Redevelopment Ready Community. The designation is a vital component of the state’s economic development grant application process. It also serves as a flag to potential commercial, residential, and industrial developers signifying that Brown City is willing and ready to do business.

Senior planner Michael Deem of McKenna Associates of Northville, the municipal planning firm hired by the city to assist the planning commission in the Master Plan revision, began the meeting by emphasizing that a Master Plan does not have the force of law. “It is a guide for future growth and development, and it serves as the basis for zoning,” he said.

Deem discussed the results of the survey recently sent to more than 400 city households.

“We received 128 responses to the survey,” said Deem, “which is remarkable. We seldom get that many responses, even in communities 20 times the size of Brown City.”

Deem’s power-point presentation of the results showed 88 percent of the respondents were single- family home owners.

The majority of the respondents were over 51 years of age and have lived in the city for more than 11 years.

Seventy-eight percent of the respondents had no school-age children in their household.

Yet despite these statistics indicative of an aging population, respondents strongly favored adding more downtown activities and events for kids.

They also cited quality schools as the number three reason for living in Brown City.

According to the survey, the top four reasons for living in Brown City were a safe, secure, friendly, atmosphere, where people look after each other; the small-town feeling; quality schools; and the low cost of living.

The three main reasons people gave for going downtown were attending events and festivals, going to city hall or the library, and dining out in restaurants.

It is interesting to note that shopping at a small retail store, and obtaining personal services such as going to the post office, hair-cutting shop, or bank didn’t make it into the top three reasons for going downtown.

That third response, dining out in restaurants, is also interesting in light of the fact that the people surveyed felt strongly that they didn’t want to see additional restaurants and bars opening up downtown, with the possible exception of fast-food outlets.

More office space was also not something people wanted to see downtown. That idea was disfavored by the majority of respondents.

Though gaining popularity in other communities, the creation of apartments over storefronts is not a concept well-received by the survey respondents. They expressed strong feelings against having more apartments in downtown Brown City.

Respondents did express a strong desire to see more small retail stores and shops, more educational opportunities, more options for wholesome entertainment, and more special events and related activities downtown.

When asked what they like about shopping downtown, over 80% replied it was the convenience. Nearly 50 percent said they liked it because it was safe and clean.

Where do the survey respondents shop outside of Brown City?

Nearly 80 percent said Lapeer, followed by Port Huron, Imlay City and Sandusky.

The top four transportation goals for the city expressed by the people surveyed were maintaining roads and sidewalks, the addition of sidewalks in neighborhoods, reducing speeding on Main Street, and improving downtown design elements by building bump-outs and landscaped spaces, as well as other beautification efforts.

Deem praised the quality of the city’s trailer park, and he described the spacious acreage of Brown City Park as an “under-utilized jewel.”

In an interview with The Brown City Banner, Deem said the town could use more “way-finding help,” meaning better signage, “to let people know there is a beautiful park in town, and how to get there.”

The survey revealed that the top three reasons residents go to the park are for the playground, Little League baseball, and to use the picnic area.

The types of new housing most desired by survey respondents to be added to the city as a whole are independent senior living facilities, assisted senior living facilities, and more single family homes.

A majority of the people surveyed said they would like to see greater marketing and branding efforts leading to an increase in tourism.

Deem told The Banner that the next steps in the Master Plan revision process are to review goals and objectives gleaned from the public input, develop future land use and implementation plans based on those goals and objectives, present a draft of the Master Plan for a state-mandated 63-day review period, hold a public hearing, and finally adopt the newly revised plan.

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