Master Plan amendments call for improvements north of ‘the point,’ more walkability, affordable housing

GRAND BLANC TWP. — The underutilized northern section of Grand Blanc Township could get a little TLC under the newest amendments to the township’s Master Plan.

With the technology village “buttoned down and ready to go,” township planners can adjust their focus and give a little more attention to “the gateway,” said Leah DuMouchel of Beckett & Raeder. The area encompasses Saginaw Road and Dort Highway from “the point” northward.

The proposed plan also addresses the new Downtown Development Authority area, parks and recreation, non-motorized trails, transportation, and environmental preservation, among other priorities.

Township officials adopted a “very general” Master Plan in 2010, according to Mark Lloyd, the township’s director of Planning and Zoning.

The Master Plan was amended in 2013 with considerable attention given to the technology village.

Planners and consultants have worked on the latest updates for more than a year, Lloyd said. The Planning Commission is expected to discuss the amendments when they meet in September and October, and they will host an open house and workshop, and public hearing, before presenting the amendments to the Board of Trustees for final approval, hopefully by the end of the year.

“We realized early on that the most important component of the planning effort is the feedback we get, the survey data, the community engagement,” Lloyd said.

Nearly 750 residents responded to a survey asking about their priorities for future development.

“That’s pretty good,” Lloyd said. “That’s a big number.”

Planners also spoke with more than 100 students to get a sense of their vision for the community’s future.

In meetings with Grand Blanc High School students, the planners found an “unshakable interest” in preserving the environment, and an emphasis on vibrant, walkable spaces, DuMouchel said.

The surveys provided more windows into the minds of residents.

Two-thirds of survey respondents said they favor more growth and development while preserving natural features, she said.

Three-fourths indicated a desire for more parks and recreational opportunities, and they said they were willing to support that with their tax dollars, DuMouchel said.

“I think this is going to be highly relevant,” she said.

Quality, affordable housing also emerged as a priority.

“Respondents … were satisfied with the quality (of available housing), but they wanted the housing to be more affordable,” DuMouchel said.

She added that planners identified a “distinct need for the missing middle housing format,” which serves a variety of household types.

“This is a nationwide conversation that is going on,” she said.

The students went so far as to suggest more mixed-use development – new housing within walking distance to markets and restaurants. They also recommended the re-use of underutilized existing areas over undeveloped land.

The highest priorities for new development included entertainment, restaurants and locally-owned retail providing neighborhood shopping opportunities in the “traditional” downtown style with multi-story buildings set close to the road.