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[July 03, 2014]
Cass County master plan nearing completion [Edwardsburg Argus, Mich. :: ]
(Edwardsburg Argus (MI) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) July 02--An event nearly four years in the making, Cass County's unprecedented county master plan is nearing the final stages of completion.
The Cass County Planning Commission is expected to approve the final draft the document during its next meeting on July 23. The plan, which was last updated in 2002, includes decade-long land usage projections for six county municipalities: Wayne, Silver Creek, Pokagon and Volinia Townships, as well as the villages of Marcellus and Edwardsburg.
"We're the first one in the state to get one completed at this level of magnitude," said Roseann Marchetti, secretary with the planning commission.
The genesis of the project occurred in 2010, when the county planning commission reached out to 21 municipalities in the county, requesting aid in creating a collaborative update to the county master plan, said Barbara Cook, chair of the planning commission.
"We knew we wouldn't get everybody on board," Cook said. "Ontwa Township had just updated their plan, and Milton had just started theirs. But we really and truly tried to work with as many as municipalities as possible." By working with county, the other communities would be able to share resources instead of using different contractors or in-house staff.
"The idea is that the county would pick up a bulk of the costs for completing it, and each municipality would pay a smaller portion," Marchetti said.
The county contributed $18,000 to the project, with the municipalities paying an additional $3,000 each, Cook said.
By working together, the townships and villages saved an estimated $90,000, Marchetti said. Normally, costs for contractors, studies and other work involved in the creation of a master plan runs between $15,000 and $25,000 per municipality.
"If we [the county] can stretch our dollar to help others, that's good politics all around," Cook said.
Working with the county to complete the master plan was Mark Eidelson of LandPlan, who organized meetings and worked with the county IT department to draft up maps and other resources for the document.
"I think [Eidelson] has driven on every road in each of the communities," Cook said.
"He knows the county like he lives here," Marchetti added.
Also assisting the county was Kurt Schindler with the Michigan State University Extension, who had worked on similar collaborative master plans in the past.
"We were fortunate to have not only [Eidelson] but [Schindler] as well," Marchetti said. "Their knowledge of planning, zoning and ordinances were among the highest in the state." Despite the changes seen within the county government since the project began, Cook said the county board of commissioners supported it throughout its duration.
Cook also expressed her gratitude for the work that the various commissions and contractors have poured into it.
"I'm glad to say we're about done with it, but I'm also proud of the work we've accomplished," Cook said.
The approved draft will posted on the county's website,
and will be distributed to the participating township and village governments.
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