By Holly Osmer
Bath-DeWitt Connection Staff Reporter
DEWITT — 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, and their economy is expected to continue growing, despite Michigan’s overall slowed pace.
According to the “City of DeWitt Master Plan The Big Picture DeWitt 2010 to 2020,” 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.
“The Master Plan is a document that depicts how the city would like the land to be used and developed over the course of time covered,” said DeWitt City Administrator Dan Coss.
“The Planning Commission and City Council worked on the Master Plan for approximately 12 months and then by State Statute it is reviewed every five years,” said Coss. “The time it takes [to finish a Master Plan] really depends on if there are any amendments to the plan, typically 6-12 months.”
Since its creation, there are several aspects of DeWitt that have been either added or improved. According to Coss, there have been some residential as well as commercial developments.
“Two new residential subdivisions are in progress, The Oaks and Wildflower Meadows,” said Coss.
There is also a microbrewery that is currently trying to set up shop in a former church in downtown DeWitt, located at 115 North Bridge St.
“We are working with a developer on locating a microbrew in the downtown; Looking Glass Brewery,” said Coss.
They are in the process of trying to secure some Community Development Block Grant Funds (CDBG) for Job Creation through the Michigan Economic Development Corp (MEDC), according to Coss. With this business he hopes it could be a catalyst for future new businesses in DeWitt.
Another accomplishment of DeWitt is being named Tree City USA for its seventeenth year, contributing to emphasizing DeWit’s natural features. According to DeWitt’s website, it has met the four standards to become a Tree City USA: A tree board or department, a tree care ordinance, a comprehensive community forestry program, and Arbor Day observance.
The Master Plan has acted as a guide for development proposals, rezoning requests, providing a basis for amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and zoning map, as well as understanding 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, it also identifies and recommends 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 biggest benefit [of the Master Plan] is that is gives potential developers an understanding of what type of development the city is looking for and land uses that are permitted in the city,” said Coss.
This 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. Part of this goal was reached with the housing developments that have been in progress.
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.
One way of accomplishing this was to designate areas on the Comprehensive Land Use Plan that may be suited for office development which could include downtown.
Another commercial goal was to maintain an atmosphere which encourages business investment and reinvestment in the downtown, by attracting appropriate businesses and foster local entrepreneurship that serves residents and non-residents needs. The incoming Looking Glass Brewery has the potential to be one accomplishment of this goal.
They also aimed to encourage and facilitate an appropriate mixture of high quality commercial uses that will provide services and goods for citizens. Some example of such goods and services that DeWitt businesses provide are its locally owned bakery cafè, Sweeite-licious, as well as the Family Barbershops.
The Plan’s Natural Features Goals and Objectives, planned to support standards and policies that maintain or improve significant natural features in DeWitt. To do this, The City will implement the tree preservation regulations found in its zoning ordinance.
For Multi-modal Transportation Goals and Objectives, one goal was to create a safe and coordinated transportation system adequate to support existing and future land uses, that balances traffic needs with actions to ensure the City remains an attractive place to live.
One way to do this was working with the Clinton County Road Commission and DeWitt Township in expanding the pedestrian and bike trail system outside the City in order to provide linkages to schools, residential neighborhoods and businesses on Business Route 27, as well as ensure sidewalks are provided on all internal streets and along DeWitt and Herbison Roads.
The plan also proposes that decorative lighting should be extended from the downtown along Bridge Street, DeWitt Road and Main Street to reinforce the entryways into downtown and to improve connections between residential neighborhoods and the downtown.
These goals are just a few out of many that can be found in the Master Plan.
A lot has been done in DeWitt since the start of the Master Plan, but according to Coss, there is still a large amount of vacant land in the city that is yet to be developed. The hope for the plan is to have a fundamental impact on the overall character and quality of the life in DeWitt’s community.
“The Master Plan really is a document that has to be looked at holistically and not just individual parts,” said Coss.
There’s no one goal or objective that can make a city better. It’s the combination of this plan’s detailed ambitions that contribute to DeWitt and its continuously appealing characteristics.