By Holly Osmer
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — In 2005, The City of DeWitt was recognized by CNN and Money Magazine’s as the 75th place on their “Best Places to Live 2005” of 100 finalists. It was just one of four Michigan cities recognized. This was just one of many positive aspects recognized by DeWitt’s Master Plan.
The City of DeWitt Planning Commission officially approved the “City of DeWitt Master Plan, The Big Picture: DeWitt 2010 to 2020,” on September 23, 2010. This documents includes all maps, descriptive narrative and future land use recommendations therein for DeWitt. It was signed by Chair of the Planning Commission Robert Smith, certifying the document was adopted by the Planning Commission.
According to the Master Plan’s introduction, “This Master Plan is intended to continue the City’s efforts to protect and preserve qualities on which residents place great value while allowing the City to grow and prosper in a responsible manner.”
This plan nearly went through a three-year process beginning with its development from January to November of 2008, to being adopted in September of 2010.
The hope for the plan was to have a fundamental impact on the character and quality of the life in DeWitt’s community, according to the plan. The city of DeWitt, with its local businesses, pleasant parks, and quality schools, has seen a large increase in the amount of residential growth in the past 10 to 15 years.
Their economy was expected to continue growing, despite Michigan’s overall slowed pace. According to the document, “This growth pressure is expected to continue to impact DeWitt, the DeWitt School District and other public services during the life of this Master Plan and beyond.”
So, who is in charge and will utilize this Master Plan to better DeWitt? The City Council, the Planning Commission and the Zoning Board of Appeals will primarily use this plan, according to section 1-4 of the plan.
What specifically will be the purpose in which these community leaders use the Master Plan? It will act as a guide for development proposals, rezoning requests, provide a basis for amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and zoning map, as well as understand expectations for the future land use pattern and desired use types in the community to guide new development and redevelopment, according to section 1-4 of the Master Plan.
According to the same section, this plan will also identify and recommend physical improvements to important resources such as roadways, parks, and public facilities, as well as provide specific design standards related to buildings, landscaping, or other site improvements for development and redevelopment throughout DeWitt.
The 65-page plan was comprehensively broken down into five chapters. According to its second chapter, ‘Vision, Goals and Objectives,’ The City of DeWitt Planning Commission conducted a visioning exercise at the start of the preparation of this Master Plan.
This vision statement is based on the assets and challenges that were identified by the various groups. Some of these assets include exceptional quality of life, high quality infrastructure, schools, presence of downtown, and character and history.
Based on these assets, there were goals presented in Chapter Two for Dewitt’s Master Plan. These goals were broken down into six categories: residential, commercial, community services, natural features, multi-modal transportation, and intergovernmental cooperation.
Under Residential Goals and Objectives, one goal was to, “provide a solid residential base that will accommodate expansion of existing neighborhoods, protect residential areas from incompatible land uses, offer a variety of housing opportunities for all ages and income levels, and support the needs of DeWitt residents.”
In order to accomplish this, one objective was to encourage higher density residential developments that could include attached single family and more innovative housing options, in the downtown and other areas of concentrated development.
Under Commercial Goals and Objectives, one goal was to, “emphasize the Downtown as the primary focus of commerce and services for the residents of the City by encouraging land use mixes and conversions for retail, office and residential uses that also complement the heritage of DeWitt.”
An objective to accomplish this was to develop an established list of improvement projects and project locations that are targeted priorities for the City.
For Multi-modal Transportation Goals and Objectives, one goal was to provide alternatives to the automobile through multi-modal transportation options which connect neighborhoods, schools, the library, businesses and other activity areas; and creates the potential for commuter transportation.
In order to accomplish this one pal was to continue to provide delineated bicycle lanes along major roads.
This Master Plan contains many more goals, objectives, and detailed plans to improve the City of DeWitt. With four years left in its plan and some of these objectives in process, DeWitt seems to be well-on track with its overall goal to continue to improve its character and quality of life for local residents.