Washington Twp. Discusses Master Plan Changes

By EMMITT LEWIS

The Washington Township Planning Commission discussed making changes to the Master Plan at their latest meeting on Tuesday, July 12.

Patrick Meagher, who’s in charge of community planning and management, mentioned that there have been public hearings concerning the subject, and the addendum changes were made based on feedback. He added that they are near to putting the document to use.

“We’ve had our public hearing on the master plan. We’ve made some modifications based on input, and based on some of our past dealings with a couple of issues over the past year. And, I think we’re pretty close to a point where we can look for adoption of this document,” Meagher said.

Even though the adoption of the document is near, Meagher wanted to hold off on voting until Chairperson Peter Thomas was present to do so.

“I’m going to ask we table this until next month’s meeting. What I would hate to do is take action tonight and then find out that Mr. Thomas might have something that he would have liked to see changed,” said Meagher.

Meagher went on to say that this could be a good thing, as it allows them another month to think some more about it. In the meantime, Meagher started taking questions about concerns regarding the plan.

Commission member John Heuss had a question concerning zoning plans and land usage that was listed in the addendum.

“I’m interested in Patrick explaining a little bit of the thinking here,” said Heuss.

Heuss wondered if planned unit developments, or PUDS, would still be utilized in the development or would there be more standard development. Meagher replied that he wanted to give developers a blueprint of roughly what the commission wants when developing the land. That specific section of the plan allows leeway for the market to dictate what to put on the land, instead of just commercial land.

“It used to be that anytime I had a rezoning, the developer wanted… ‘I gotta have commercial here, I’m going to get rich.’ Now all of a sudden, we have the opposite approach which is, ‘well you’re not going to make me put commercial on the corner. Who am I going to sell it to? No one’s buying commercial,’” Meagher said.

Meagher noted that online shopping sites such as Amazon and Ebay are killing retail centers, and the land could be better off as an office space or medical center. Putting in a zoning plan also fulfills a state requirement.

Another subject that was brought up was the relationship between the city and developers. One part of the plan contains a reiteration of the PUDS. Meagher said that he wanted to make sure the partnership between the township and developers is an equally beneficial relationship.

“Right now, you’re looking at it as, are we just getting taken advantage of? Or are we actually getting the benefit from them from doing this design? And if we are getting a benefit, are they equal?” he said.

Vice-chairperson Barb Wolfe didn’t think that the benefits are equal all the way around. “I think the developers are trying to misuse us,” she said. “I think that we should try and stick to the township’s criteria.”

Meagher added that they were probably not clear on their part, and hopes the clarifications in the plan will clear up any misunderstandings. Board Representative Abby Jacobson mentioned that she’s happy the plan includes diversifying the land use in the community.

“There are some uses that could be compatible, that may not in our minds appear to be compatible. But would have less impact than some other types of uses that we talk about,” Jacobson said.

Meagher suggested to Wolfe the decisions regarding the master plan be postponed until next month’s meeting. That would give them more time to think about the plan, the chairperson would be back, and there will be an open public hearing regarding the plan.

“Let’s keep the public hearing open just in case. As we introduce new ideas, people might want to come in and share their thoughts on it, or concerns, or support,” Meagher said.

A motion was put forth by Wolfe to hold off on taking any action on the master plan, and hold a public hearing during the next meeting. The motion was passed and the next meeting will be held on Tuesday, August 9. For more information on the master plan, visit the Planning and Zoning Department page at washingtontownship.org.