Grand Haven Tribune: Affordable housing a priority in Zoning Ordinance review

Affordable housing a priority in Zoning Ordinance review

Alexander Sinn • Mar 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Affordable housing and eco-friendly trends will be addressed as the City of Grand Haven evaluates and updates its Zoning Ordinance. 

The existing ordinance, last updated in 2007, will undergo a full review with help from a grant from the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

The grant of $20,000 will be matched by the Grand Haven Planning Commission to bring the Zoning Ordinance up to date. Civil engineering firm William & Works will be considered for consultation on the project at the March 18 City Council meeting.

The city’s Master Plan, updated in 2016, will serve as a guideline for reworking the ordinance, as will the Affordable Housing Initiative, launched by the city and area partners in fall 2018.

Small changes in the Zoning Ordinance can help incentive developments and create new solutions in existing neighborhoods, according to Community Development Director Jennifer Howland. Grand Haven does not have much room to grow outward, she said — it has to grow from within. 

“If we want more residents to live here, then we need to increase density,” Howland said.

Some neighborhoods in the core downtown area used to allow multi-family units, Howland explained, but no longer do. Those policies could be altered to allow for multi-family buildings that don’t disrupt the character of the neighborhood, she said.

The project will consider parking ratios to ensure the city isn’t requiring more parking per residence than residential developments require. Ordinance guidelines for building materials will also be reviewed to ensure materials are not cost-prohibitive for developers, Howland said. The approval process could also be streamlined to help developers hit the ground running. 

Officials hope the new ordinance reflects the community’s desire for environmentally-friendly options, and encourages eco-friendly behaviors.

“When we give more people access to something other than a car to get around, whether it’s dedicated bike lanes or having each development have bike racks … those are small changes we can make to encourage people to not get in their cars for small trips,” Howland said. “It’s a change you’ve got to make for your own self.”

The city could also pursue more electric vehicle charging stations and community gardens, she added. Howland said community input will be encouraged throughout the process, and a public hearing will be scheduled in the coming months.

“We’ve got some ideas, but I really hope that this project is going to encourage people to participate in the process,” Howland said.

Proposed workshops to address affordable housing may not have been included without the Community Foundation funding, Howland said. If William & Works is brought on this month, she said, work could begin immediately. The Planning Commission will by the end of the year recommend the new Zoning Ordinance, to be adopted by the City Council.

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