Category Archives: Uncategorized

Spring training: Staff conduct seminars for MML and Ohio APA

Carlisle/Wortman Associates’ planners routinely train officials around Michigan, both for the Michigan Municipal League (MML) and for specific communities. In February, John Enos taught roles and responsibilities to planning commissioners in Ida Township and he, Chris Atkins and Dave Scurto did MML weekenders on role and responsibilities and economic development.

In March, Laura Kreps was in front of MML members from the Grass Lake area with site plan reviews. Roles and responsibilities will be the topic in April for Ben Carlisle in New Buffalo and in May for John with the Ohio chapters of the American Planning Association.

“Carlisle Wortman has been assisting with League trainings for several years now,” said Kelly Warren, director of affiliate engagement for the Michigan Municipal League. “They are always a pleasure to work with and they thoroughly understand the challenges and needs of our elected and appointed officials….They are always well-prepared and tailor each course for the individual community and officials.”


Bicycle facilities


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.”

Two sources of green infrastructure information plus a work in process

By Sally Elmiger and Laura Kreps

bioswale_webUsing green infrastructure or low impact development (LID) solutions for stormwater in developed areas has long been considered too difficult and expensive to implement.  However, the EPA has put together a guidebook describing 12 case studies that show local governments, developers, and other stakeholders what is possible and how to overcome barriers to incorporating green infrastructure into developed areas.  “City Green: Innovative Green Infrastructure Solutions for Downtowns and Infill Locations” (2016) provides examples that encourage communities to adopt policies allowing these innovative stormwater solutions, and outlines how developers and designers have used green infrastructure approaches in cities across the country.  Download the guidebook here.

SEMCOG and MDEQ have published  “Low Impact Development Manual for Michigan: A Design Guide for Implementors and Reviewers.”  Click here to read this book, which educates both policy makers and technicians about green infrastructure by providing everything from general descriptions and fact sheets to full technical details that can be used to design stormwater systems for Michigan’s varied environmental conditions.

The City of Detroit water department in concert with the Land Bank Authority and the University of Michigan recently initiated this pilot program repurposing four vacant lots into rain gardens.

Land conservancy group grows to serve urban areas

By Dick Carlisle

Dick Carlisle-Osprey Awards-webLast month I had the distinct pleasure to be the keynote speaker at the Saginaw Basin Land Conservancy (SBLC) annual Ospreys recognition banquet, attended by more than 200 supporters. Zak Branigan, a former CWA planner, is the executive director of the SBLC and is doing a terrific job in raising the organization’s profile and launching a number of new urban initiatives in Bay City and Saginaw. My talk focused on the importance of bringing conservation close to home. Recognizing SBLC’s work, I emphasized that many young folks who live in disadvantaged surroundings don’t have the same opportunities as others to enjoy nature. Proving such opportunities is not only a matter of social equity, it is also a smart way to recruit a new generation of people dedicated to conservation. We’re proud of the work that Zak and his staff are doing.

Good graphics improve planning processes

Planners talk about creating a sense of place. Local governments want development that is consistent with the community character. Developers want successful projects and shorter timelines. Our master plans and zoning ordinances call for high quality development, context-sensitive design, compatible building types and land uses and unifying streetscape elements.

But what does that look like?

Graphics programs and 3D modeling software can help decision makers make informed decisions, build support for ideas and plans and increase the likelihood that developers will bring suitable proposals to the table.

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Housing Options for Older Adults

(We originally published this article here in May of 2012. It’s as relevant today as it was then.)

In recent years, the field of housing has reversed a long-standing assumption that older adults need to move along a housing continuum, from one setting to another, as they require greater assistance.  The traditional continuum incorporated a range of options including age-restricted housing, congregate housing, continuing care, assisted living, and nursing homes.  While a range of housing types to meet the needs of older adults is necessary, trends in the housing field support the notion that older adults do not necessarily need to move when they require assistance.  Instead, a greater emphasis is being placed on residents remaining in their residential settings as well as bringing services to them.  This trend is popularly known as “aging in place.”

According to a recent AARP survey, Americans overwhelmingly want to stay in their own homes and communities as they age, even if they need assistance caring for themselves.

However, in some cases neither staying within one’s own home nor entering an adult living center is either feasible or desirable.  An alternative is to provide accessory dwelling units (ADU) in conjunction with a primary residence to accommodate an aging relative.

Such ADU housing typically takes one of three forms:

  • Accommodating the individual within the primary residence without major internal or external modification.
  • Accommodating the individual by expanding the primary residence with an accessory dwelling unit.  A common use term for this alternative is “mother-in-law apartment.”  However, I have often wondered if this is a message that fathers-in-law are not welcome!
  • Locating a separate detached housing unit on the primary residence property to accommodate the individual.  The common term for this alternative is ECHO housing (Elder Cottage Housing Opportunity).  Such units can either be permanent or      temporary.

In general, ADUs are most commonly understood to be a separate additional living unit, including separate kitchen, sleeping, and bathroom facilities, attached or detached from the primary residential unit, on a single-family lot.  ADUs are usually subordinate in size, location, and appearance to the primary unit.

Attached units, contained within a single-family home, known variously as “mother-in-law apartments,” “accessory apartments,” or “second units,” are the most common types of accessory dwelling units.  Accessory apartments usually involve the renovation of a garage, basement, attached shed, or similar space in a single-family home.

Less common are detached “accessory cottages” or “echo homes,” which are structurally independent from the primary residence.  These units are often constructed or installed to provide housing for elderly parents being cared for by their adult children.  Accessory cottages are permanent structures, while echo homes are temporary and moveable.

Regulatory Issues and Options

Depending upon the alternative form chosen, ADUs can be controversial when introduced into a neighborhood setting.  The primary issue raised is what happens to the ADU when no longer used by a family member.  The common concern expressed from other homeowners is that when an ADU is no longer occupied by the family member, it becomes a rental unit that can be occupied by an unrelated individual; thus in a single-family neighborhood you end up with two dwellings on a single lot.

Many of the potentially objectionable effects of ADUs can be avoided by regulating size, compatibility with the existing residence, number of occupants, and overall design.  In general, requiring the ADU to be attached to the principal residence is the most common form of regulation.  Allowing detached units is not very common, and is generally more expensive.  It is also more difficult to make a detached unit compatible with what is otherwise a single-family neighborhood.

Regarding the issue of occupancy when the aging family member is gone, there are no easy answers.  Many regulations are written to allow residents to install an ADU for the limited purpose of providing in-home care to aging parents while maintaining separate living areas.

ADU proponents argue that restrictions based on the age or familial status of tenants may discourage some homeowners from installing an ADU because of the risk of losing their investment in the event that their tenant moves away or dies.

Restrictions on the age of tenants and their relationship to homeowners may also be difficult to enforce.  When relatives die or move away, homeowners will be left with an empty and unusable apartment and may be tempted to fill the vacancy in violation of the ordinance.  It may be difficult for a community to keep tabs on the status of ADU tenants.

For more information on housing options for older adults, contact Dick Carlisle at or 734-662-2200.