Parks and urban land could solve stormwater challenges

Chris Nordstrom, PLA, ASLA

For the 14th consecutive month, the monthly global temperature record has been broken. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), June’s combined average temperature was 1.62 degrees above the 20th century average. Only two spots on the globe had lower than average temperatures; no land areas experienced record cold readings for the month. It has been 40 years since the planet averaged below normal temperatures.

Whether you feel climate change is man-made or just a natural cycle, there is little debate that it’s happening. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and the Great Lakes Integrated Sciences Assessments Program (GLISA) report that average temperatures in Michigan have increased, with the increases most noticeable during the winter seasons. This summer’s drought aside, precipitation has also increased across most of lower Michigan, primarily during the winter and fall months. Michigan experienced an increase in annual precipitation of 4.5% during the 1981-2010 period, although there was significant variability across the state; southeast Michigan saw an increase of 9.5 percent, while the Upper Peninsula fell 2.8 percent. The average number of extreme weather events, where precipitation exceeded one inch in a 24 hour period, increased by over 13 percent.

These increases in precipitation pose serious problems for developed areas around the world. Extreme weather events can overwhelm stormwater systems, causing flooding, sewage overflows, and erosion-related damage. Cities with crumbling infrastructures are facing escalating costs and dwindling budgets as they attempt to find cost-effective solutions to addressing these challenges.

Might parks and open spaces compliment if not outright replace existing stormwater treatment systems and facilities? The Trust for Public Land (TPL) recently released a report presenting several case studies where park facilities were used as stormwater management facilities. In some cases, the parks spurred hundreds of millions of dollars in investment in the surrounding area. Closer to home, the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources launched a program to study the use of vacant lots in Detroit to create bioretention gardens help retain and clean stormwater.

At a time when park and municipal utility department find themselves fighting for precious funding, these innovative solutions could form the basis of a mutually beneficial partnership.




CWA planners will present to Cleveland APA chapter

Carlisle/Wortman’s John Enos will present a session on Roles and Responsibilities and Open Meetings/Sunshine Laws  at the 28th annual APA Cleveland Planning and Zoning Workshop November 4. The session will provide participants a wide overview of the many different players in the planning process and the tools necessary to develop working and reliable master plans and zoning ordinances as well providing direction on running a successful meeting.

Metromode interviews CWA’s Dick Carlisle about sprawl

Developers continue to build new subdivisions in the far reaches of metro Detroit, but changing tastes and demographic demand are pulling people, especially the young and old, back into close-in, urban centers said CWA President Dick Carlisle in this Metromode article.

While studies have ranked Detroit the 12th most sprawling metro area in the country, and one of the fastest sprawling, Dick said baby boomers who want smaller homes in walkable community will join with millennials, 16-35, who don’t want to drive and prefer smaller, lower-cost housing, to drive demand in urban places.

“The biggest city in the state still hasn’t yet fully responded to the trend for more walkable urban placemaking,” Dick said. “The pressure is now on, and the timing couldn’t be better.” He said a comprehensive transit system is essential to the trend.

“At some point in time we have to begin to understand that there’s going to be a whole generation of people that either don’t want to or will not be able to own a car,” he said. “Frankly, that’s going to cross generations.”

Ride sharing apps for rural use and the last urban half mile

By Sharlan Douglas

Might ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft solve transit challenges in rural and urban America?

Beginning in November, the state of Nebraska will experiment with a 24-hour ride hailing service that would complement existing public transit in rural areas. Liberty, a company that sprang from a U.S. department of transportation business incubation program, will recruit drivers from schools, police and the Veteran Administration who will keep 80 percent of the estimated dollar per mile fee. The service will add flexibility on occasions when scheduled paratransit routes don’t match the needs of patients, workers or even people who just want to go out for pizza. Here’s the full story.

In my opinion, ride sharing may also solve the problem of the “last half mile” in urban areas. The law of diminishing returns limits the ability to extend subways or fixed-route buses and connecting street buses. Why couldn’t transit agencies license the Uber or Lyft app or develop their own? They could vet drivers and either they or social service agencies might partly underwrite the rides for those in need.

6 CWA communities are among Michigan’s best places to live

By John Enos

The Detroit Free Press recently published an article of the top 25 places in Michigan to live. This article was based on a study by that looked at several factors including, quality of education, nightlife, health and fitness and family amenities. Carlisle/Wortman provides continuing planning assistance to  six of the top 25 places. Just sayin’.

  1. Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County
  2. Scio Township, Washtenaw County
  3. Pittsfield Charter Township, Washtenaw County
  4. Troy, Oakland County
  5. Saline, Washtenaw County
  6. Northville, Wayne County

Suburban living challenge those who want to age in place

By Dick Carlisle

The aging of our population will be, without a doubt, the single most significant factor changing the way we plan communities for the foreseeable future. Older adults would be better served in towns with smaller homes; more compact, walkable living environments; close proximity to commercial, social and cultural amenities, and alternative transportation, yet many can’t or don’t want to leave their suburban homes, as this Miami Herald article reports.