Category Archives: Zoning

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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Township adds solar energy zoning

By Laura Kreps

solar-zoning-webAugusta Township in Washtenaw County recently adopted a comprehensive large solar energy ordinance to accommodate the Sugar Creek Solar Farm.  The proposed solar farm is located on approximately 644 acres of land that has recently been rezoned to light industrial for large solar energy facility development.  The township board adopted text and map amendments and the planning commission approved a special land use permit. The township expects the applicant to file an application for site plan review later this year.

Solar energy representatives have contacted other CWA clients in southeast Michigan to explore possible sites. Contact us for more information on formulating a solar energy ordinance.

Regulations for LED Signs

LED Display ImageAs new technologies emerge, so do the challenges for planners and zoning officials in keeping up to date with land use regulations.  Today’s zoning officials are faced with new emerging technologies for Light Emitting Diode (LED) signs.

LED signage comes in all shapes and sizes, from billboards to wall signs.  Gas stations are advertising the price of gasoline, cigarettes, and milk using LED signage.  Churches, schools, and libraries promote non-commercial messages which inform the public of religious and civic events.  Local retailers are even using low-cost LED window signs which can be programmed to flash and scroll the price of the day’s bargains.

The new technology allows signmakers the flexibility to quickly change messages as well as change the brightness and script for attention-grabbing techniques.  Animated figures can dance, run, and wave to promote a product or service.  New technology also allows commercial LED signs to flash, blink, and scroll, thereby soliciting attention of motorists or pedestrians.  While the new technology can offer attention-grabbing signage, appropriate zoning controls must be considered to minimize automobile driver distraction and preserve community aesthetics.

In order to regulate these signs, zoning officials and planners should examine their current sign regulations to be sure that they have appropriate controls on LED signs.  LED sign regulations should control the frequency or interval of message change (dwell time).  LED sign regulations should also establish controls on animation, scrolling, blinking, or flashing.

The brightness of signs should also be regulated.  Measuring brightness can be complicated because of variable degrees of brightness on sunny days or dark evenings.  However, new brightness level standards have been established by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America.  They have established specific brightness levels based on ambient footcandle light measured for the area of the sign and the distance of the sign.  Carlisle/Wortman Associates has specific expertise in applying these new standards established by the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America to local ordinances.  These brightness regulations in conjunction with other LED sign controls will establish appropriate regulations for LED signs within your community.  Contact the professionals at Carlisle/Wortman Associates to assist your community with up-to-date LED sign regulations.

How to keep your meetings efficient, effective and legal

gavelOf course you need an advance agenda for your planning commission and zoning board and thorough minutes. You know what circumstances require a public hearing. This article by the Michigan State University Extension office dives into more details.

Do your ordinance or rules of procedure specify what constitutes a conflict of interest? It might mean a member has a financial interest in the applicant’s outcome, that the applicant is a relative or that the member owns land close to that of the applicant. But how close is too close?

No member should have ex-parte contact with an applicant outside the meeting. Commissioners or board members may be allowed to drive visit the site, either alone, or all together, in compliance with the open meetings act. Again, your rules should specify what is allowed.

The article also includes a link to this page, with basics on parliamentary procedure.



Carlisle/Wortman planners train elected and appointed officials for MML

In May, John Enos and David Scurto presented a Michigan Municipal League planning and zoning workshop to more than 20 elected and appointed officials in the City of Allen Park. The curriculum covered master plans, zoning ordinances, conduct of the zoning board of appeals, proper procedure and risk management.

Carlisle/Wortman Associates teaches many planning-related topics for MML’s education branch. John and Dave will present a workshop to the City of Benton Harbor at the end of June on site plan review. If interested in having a class brought to your community please call the MML at 734-669-6311.

Your sign ordinance may be unconstitutional

By Matt Lonnerstater

sign_montageDoes your local sign ordinance contain regulations for “real estate signs,” “garage sale signs” or “political signs”? Well, then, it’s time to amend your sign ordinance!  In the 2015 Supreme Court case, Reed v. Town of Gilbert, the court rendered a far-reaching decision that will require significant modifications to many local sign ordinances. While the details of the case are complex, the overarching premise of the decision is fairly simple: A sign regulation that makes any distinction based on sign content is unconstitutional.

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