Authors: Robert Carson, AICP, Zach Vega, AICP
This paper examines an ongoing vexing problem in Northwest Lower Michigan’s township government structure and a proposed solution. For the first time since the 1960’s and 1970’s, much of the 10-county Northwest planning region (Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee, Wexford) is experiencing rampant growth. As a result, there are myriad planning themes that the largely rural area has not had to contend with in decades due to increased demands on factors such as land use, housing, transportation, permitting and conservation. Municipal leaders have had to face land use planning challenges most often experienced in places like Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, established centers of commerce and population. This paper begins by examining the trends in the planning profession that call for greater technical professionalism in the region and the current governmental structures that are making it difficult for this professionalism to exist widely in Northwest Michigan. The authors then summarize an anecdotal survey of three different collaborative planning models at the county level to provide various solutions to this problem, with all three consisting of the same proposed structure: a collaborative planning model.