REED CITY – The Reed City planning commission is taking steps to get the city certified by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as a Redevelopment Ready Community (RRC), part of a strategic economic development master plan.

The RRC program is a voluntary, no-cost certification program designed to promote effective redevelopment strategies in planning for new investment in the community.

The RRC certification is a formal recognition that a community has a vision for the future and the fundamental practices in place to get there.

In a report to the planning commission at its meeting Aug. 3, planning commission member and economic redevelopment committee chairperson Nate Bailey told the commission that an RRC representative has gone over the zoning codes for the city and made recommendations as to what would need to be done to meet the RRC criteria.

Recommendations from the RRC include, creating a strategic plan for public participation in the economic redevelopment plan to ensure that all stakeholders have an opportunity to participate; addressing in the zoning ordinances environmental preservation and green infrastructure; establishing flexible parking standards; establishing standards for non-motorized transportation; establishing standards for additional housing types that allow for mixed use housing in core concentrated area; and historic preservation standards.

“As we have been going through the aspects that are required to meet the redevelopment ready criteria, we are making recommendations to the planning commission to update the zoning codes,” Bailey said.

“The RRC has indicated we are doing the very minimum when it comes to public participation,” he said. “They are recommending we establish a formalized public participation plan and encourage the public to participate and give their voice.”

Some of the ideas the economic redevelopment committee came up with to solicit ideas and opinions and to get feedback from the community include, posting meeting notices on the website, in social media and in newspapers; using surveys; voting boxes; pop-up shops; and hosting town hall style meetings.

“We want to establish a plan to include the public and get feedback and share the results of the meetings or surveys with the public, and a method for developers to provide input on a proposal early on in the process,” Bailey said.

“If we do the public participation aspects now, and can get those all the way through and adopted by city council, then we can establish our first public participation meeting and get feedback about what the community wants and have a better idea of how to proceed with the other aspects of the plan,” he added.

Bailey said the remaining tasks that need to be tackled could be consolidate in order to get through them more quickly.

The committee will be looking at changes to the zoning codes to allow for more flexible housing options such as senior housing units, accessory dwelling units, row houses and living/working units.

“We are recommending we adopt changes to the zoning codes to allow for mixed use buildings in designated areas, specifically the commercial C1 district, that would allow downtown businesses to have apartments upstairs,” Bailey said. “In looking at our zoning codes, we did not see anything that specifically allows for it, although, there also isn’t anything that prohibits it.

"The city’s strategic master plan mentions the need for low, medium and high-density housing options,” he said. “Providing additional housing diversity will increase the housing stock for the city and give us the opportunity to meet the housing demands of different audiences.”

Bailey said they are also looking at historic preservation standards for the downtown area.

“If a business owner wants to upgrade the façade of the building, should we adopt something in the codes that requires them to meet certain architectural standards?” he asked. “Do we want to have a coherent appearance among the businesses downtown? That is something we are looking at."

It has been recommended that the city also include standards for non-motorized transportation such as bicycles and pedestrian traffic, he added.

“They recommend we include in our zoning codes standards for sidewalk connectivity, required bicycle parking and public realm standards,” Bailey said. “There are currently ongoing efforts to determine where sidewalks are needed, and this would be part of that.”

With respect to environmental standards and green infrastructure, Bailey said, the committee is looking at parking lot landscaping standards, tree planting standards and tree preservation standards.

“Tree preservation standards would address how trees along the boulevard are maintained, and the minimum and maximum distance requirements between trees along the streets,” he said. “In addition, it would include species requirements so that the roots of the trees do not interfere with underground sewer and water lines.”

Planning commission chairperson Dawn Montague said, “Since this is a work in progress, I think it would be a good idea to work on it in the committee and then make recommendations to the planning commission. We can then add in what we think and send it to council.”

The commission agreed the zoning recommendations would be best handled by the committee.

Bailey said they would plan to have a public participation proposal ready for planning commission approval by the next scheduled meeting and would go from there to work on the remaining tasks in preparation for the Redevelopment Ready Certification.

The planning commission will meet virtually at 7 p.m., Sept. 7. For information on how to participate in the meetings visit reedcity.org or call 231- 832-2245.