Category Archives: Municipal Management

Planners and public safety officials unite to fight Phragmites

By R. Donald Wortman, AICP, PLA, PCP

This article was originally published in the Michigan Association of Planning’s magazine. This is the type of timely information you receive when you become a member of MAP.


Kevin Walters, MI DEQ

Over the years, Michigan has been beset with the management of invasive species. We have witnessed the intrusion of unwanted guests such as purple loosestrife, zebra mussels and emerald ash borer. Now a new invasive is intruding on our natural resources and ecosystems with far reaching impacts that goes beyond the natural environment but also impacts local municipalities and community planning. This culprit is Phragmites (Phragmites australis).

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A public health crisis resulted in a pioneering GIS project

By Charlotte Wilson

Water (blue) & sewer (red) lines in Sylvan Township. Click to enlarge.

Water (blue) & sewer (red) lines in Sylvan Township. (Draft. Subject to change) Click to enlarge.

After an outbreak of hepatitis caused by a sudden sewage pipe burst in 1984, Kenton County, KY came to the unpleasant realization that their infrastructure had not been mapped. Over 30 years the county blazed a trail and is now a respected model of best practices in geographic information systems (GIS).

Many of today’s communities face Kenton County’s dilemma. When the Flint water crises hit, other Michigan cities woke to the potential problem and couldn’t find out if their own pipes contained lead. While you may never have a crisis like Kenton County, mapping your infrastructure provides important support for planning, public health, safety, maintenance, and replacement. It can give you visual tools to explain your community’s infrastructure needs and gain public support for your repair and replacement plans.

The attached maps display the sanitary sewer and water maps from our client Sylvan Township. As an addition to their master plan, the township now has an additional resource to aid in planning future developments. (These maps are drafts and are subject to change in the final master plan.)

(Contact Charlotte for information about Carlisle/Wortman Associates’ GIS services.)

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

dick-sprawl-courtesy-doug-coombe-webDevelopers 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 a 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.”