By Judy Reed
A plan is in the works in Cedar Springs that might give the city a friendlier image when working with developers and business owners.
Business owners and residents in the downtown Cedar Springs area should have received a letter in the mail from the City of Cedar Springs about a public hearing on June 15 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, regarding the creation of a Planned Unit Development Overlay District (PUD) for downtown Cedar Springs. The PUD District will cover Main Street from 17 Mile to Maple Street, and one block east and west of Main Street.
Included in the letter was an explanation about the PUD and design guidelines.
According to City Manager Thad Taylor, the bottom line is that it would give the Planning Commission more flexibility in design standards when working with developers and business owners.
He said that in many cases, if a developer’s design doesn’t meet the specifications allowed under the ordinances, and the Planning Commission denies their request, they have to go before the zoning board of appeals. With the PUD, applicants needing dimensional variances for design issues like setbacks, façade materials, signs, etc., will not have to make the application to the ZBA. They would be able to submit waivers to the Planning Commission as part of the site plan review under the design elements of the project.
“If we are looking to be creative and work with the developers, to get what they want and what we want in the downtown business district, we need to be able to be flexible,” explained Taylor. “It’s the city’s approach that we want to work positively with developers.”
He gave one example as that of the Cedar Springs Brewing Company. “They had something that looked like flags, which our ordinance doesn’t allow. But their design looked fabulous, and the Planning Commission really struggled with that. In the end, they decided that they weren’t really flags.”
The PUD will provide additional guidance to prospective developers, businesses and property owners regarding the Planning Commission’s vision for the future. They will have a preliminary PUD plan, and a set of Downtown Design Guidelines. The goal is to maintain the traditional appearance of the downtown, with buildings setback at the sidewalk, and parking to the rear and on-street. The guidelines will not be strict rules, but a framework that the Planning Commission can use to make decisions.
To read more about the PUD and get a copy of the guidelines, go to http://www.cityofcedarsprings.org/2015/05/28/june-15-planning-commission-meeting/ and click on the links within the announcement.