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Tag Archive | "city of cedar springs"

Cedar Springs chooses new city manager


Michael Womack

Michael Womack

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council met Friday, June 17, to interview candidates for the City Manager position.

They chose Michael Womack, Executive Intern, for the Village of Lake Orion, Michigan, which is located on the east side of the state.

Womack is also currently a Graduate Assistant, in the City Manager’s office in the City of Eastpointe, Michigan; and an Attorney at Womack & Womack P.C., in Shelby Township.

He received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy from Oakland University; his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and his Masters of Public Administration from Central Michigan University.

The vote was 6-1, with Councilmember Dan Clark dissenting.

So how does Womack feel about relocating to the west side of the state?

“I am very excited for the opportunity to come to Cedar Springs and contribute to the community,” he told the Post. “I grew up vacationing on the west side of the state and I spent many summers in the area when I was younger. I look forward to reacquainting myself with the area and the chance to help Cedar Springs grow and improve. I hope to make many new friends and good working relationships in the next several months and hope to provide the skills and energy needed in the city managers chair.”

The Michigan Municipal League has been in charge of the interview process, and they are currently doing a background check on Womack. No start date has yet been set.

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City clerk to retire July 1


Cedar Springs City clerk Linda Christensen’s last day is June 30.

Cedar Springs City clerk Linda Christensen’s last day is June 30.

By Judy Reed

Linda Christensen has been a fixture around Cedar Springs City Hall for just over 22 years. She has worked for five City Managers (not including the current interim manager Barb VanDuren); worked alongside five treasurers/finance officers; three Department of Public Works Directors; several fire chiefs and countless employees, police officers, Mayors and City Councilors. And it will all end next week Friday, July 1—when Christensen finally retires.

“It’s time to go,” she said.

Prior to working for the City of Cedar Springs, Christensen was a freelance writer for the Advance Newspaper, and then the Grand Rapids Press for 10 years. After that she worked as part time Deputy Clerk in Solon Township.

She realized she was going to need some full time employment with her two sons going to off to college, and was hired in March 1994 as both a secretary to Cedar Springs City Manager Frank Walsh, and as deputy clerk. Amber Bailey was then clerk.

“I had covered the City and schools as a reporter, and knew what was going on,” explained Christensen, “so it was a natural progression.”

She was a secretary until Walsh left, and when Bailey left a year later, she became the full time clerk. “I really learned a lot from them. They were both great mentors,” she said.

Of all the things she has accomplished over the years, there are a couple things that she is especially proud of. “I was the city’s first certified municipal clerk,” she said, referring to an ongoing educational program relating to the specific duties of city clerks.

The other thing has to do with the city records. “Record keeping is important to me; I’m a very detailed person,” she explained. “So I worked on a record retention policy for the city. I got all the minutes indexed from the time the city was incorporated in 1957.” Christensen said that includes minutes from all the City Council, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings. And the index is set up on her computer.

“It makes it a lot easier to find things when people want them,” she remarked. “All I have to do is look at the index, then go find it in t he archived minutes book.”

The record retention policy also notes how long to hold on to certain papers, and when they can be shredded. She and the staff have spent countless hours going through boxes and boxes of paper from days gone by. “I don’t think anyone around here ever threw away a piece of paper,” she said with a chuckle. “But now the boxes are labeled with when they can be shredded.”

For Christensen, the best thing about her job is the people she works with. “When my (first) husband died (after 30 years of marriage), work became my salvation. Sometimes I’m sure they didn’t want to see me come in. But they never said anything; they were always supportive. They are like a second family,” she said.

The thing she likes least about her job has to do with elections. “I detest the electronic poll book,” she said. “By the time you get the instructions, it’s out of date. Clerks don’t have a lot of patience the week before an election, and when you are trying to get the computer to work and it’s not, it’s stressful.”

Christensen said she would miss the people the most. “I’ve made some great friends here in the office, and met some great people who come in as well,” she said. “But I’ll also miss the routine. You always plan out your work for the day, but some days you don’t get any of that accomplished. The work is always interesting.”

She said she learned the most from her early bosses, Amber Bailey and Frank Walsh. “Especially Frank. He has stayed a friend,” she said.

Christensen said she’s learned something from all of the City Managers she’s worked for. “You kind of learn to meld your ways with their ways. You pick up the way they do things; even if it’s not the way you would do it. Of course, I’ve never been afraid to speak my mind,” she said with a chuckle.

During some of the tough times, Christensen said she has consulted with her son, Benjamin, who is a City Manager in Greenwich, Connecticut. Benjamin actually worked for Cedar Springs before his mom did—both in the front office and on the DPW crew. “He created the city’s first webpage,” she noted.

Christensen said she plans to relax this summer, and then possibly look for part time work. She said she might also go back to writing, or do some scrapbooking.

She said that the city would temporarily hire someone to take the minutes at the meetings, and handle the upcoming election. A new City Manager will hire the new permanent clerk.

What does Christensen have to say to the residents of Cedar Springs? “I think it’s a great community. There is a lot going on in the future, and I am excited for the possibilities. I hope everyone gets engaged, and is comfortable with what is going on, and knows what is going on,” she said.

Christensen’s last day on the job is June 30.

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$200,000 grant will help restore wetlands


 

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

The 50-acre conservation easement will protect lakes and emergent wetlands in the watershed from development. Nelson Lake, just off Division, and east of Sparta, is one of the lakes in the conservation easement. Photo Credit: Pete DeBoer

Cedar Springs and Sparta to benefit

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality recently announced more than $4.3 million in grants to protect Michigan lakes and streams from pollution, and a group working on projects in Cedar Springs and Sparta received a portion of it.

Trout Unlimited received $239,449 to restore wetlands, and to protect a 50-acre property with a permanent conservation easement in the Rogue River watershed, as part of the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

Specific wetland activities include restoring approximately 5 acres of wetlands in the Cedar Springs and Sparta area. Two wetlands will be restored in Cedar Springs, both on City of Cedar Springs property. One is a half acre by the fire barn, where the new library will built (between the firebarn and Cedar Creek) and two acres at North Park, just east off of Main Street (between Oak Street and Cedar Springs Mobile Estates).

Two wetlands will also be restored in the Sparta area—one acre on the corner of M37 and Main St, and 1.5 acres off of Phelps, on private property.

Once restored, these sites will play a huge role in reducing sediment in Cedar and Nash Creeks and helping to stabilize water temperature by controlling stormwater runoff.  In addition, identification and prioritization of historically lost wetlands will be done and potential wetland restoration areas in the entire watershed will be quantified for future projects.

A second portion of the project is the completion of a conservation easement, permanently protecting approximately 50 acres in the watershed. The 50-acre conservation easement is located just east of Sparta, off of Division, on private property.

This property is directly adjacent to 124 acres of permanently protected land. The area just outside of the property is experiencing development pressure. The conservation easement will eliminate all development in this area, as well as provide buffer zones to the waterways and wetland areas.

These grants will help restore impaired waters and protect high-quality waters by reducing nonpoint sources of sediment, nutrients and other contaminants. Nonpoint source pollution is runoff that picks up both natural and human contaminants as it moves across the ground and eventually deposits it into waterways.

This two year project will begin in October 2016 and will be part of the current Trout Unlimited Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. This project is a multi-year collaborative watershed restoration project. Local foundations, businesses and other donors have contributed funds towards the Rogue River Home Rivers Initiative project. The City of Cedar Springs and the Cedar Springs Community Building Development Team has contributed $22,000 to this project. Additional project partners include the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, SouthPeat Environmental LLC, the Rogue River Watershed Partners, and the Kent County Drain Commissioner Office.

A Trout Unlimited Project Manager and Project Coordinator work to improve existing river conditions through restoration actions, work with local governments to improve municipal planning, and increase capacity to help ensure advocates for long-term protection of the Rogue.

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City Council fires assessor, hires interim City Manager, City clerk resigns


By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs City Council fired their assessor, hired an interim City Manager, and received the resignation of their City Clerk, all during the course of a special meeting on Thursday evening, May 26.

The Council has been in disagreement with City Assessor Jason Rosenzweig, over six parcels of city-owned property that he says the city should be paying tax on. The Board of Review upheld Rosenzweig’s assessment, and the Council will be appealing it to the state. Michigan property tax appeals can be filed after the March Board of Review and on or before June 30 of the tax year involved.

In Thursday night’s meeting, Rosenzweig spoke to the Council. He told them that the Council has no authority to terminate him because under the City’s charter all employees are placed under the City Manager. He quoted sections from the Charter that say the Council cannot request the employment or dismissal of an employee.

“The Mayor broke the law when he visited me yesterday and asked me to resign,” said Rosenzweig.

He added that he is not a contract employee because he has never received a 1099, and holds office hours. He also noted that under his employment agreement, it states that 30 days notice should be given by either party. He said that he could sue the City for missed wages, and the Council for misconduct in office.

“I am following the law,” he told them. “The state tax commission told me to look closer at the properties. Your own attorney gave me an opinion that I am doing my job,” he said.

Rosenzweig then offered to resign, if the Council agreed to pay his salary for the rest of the year, which he said amounted to about $11,000.

City Council members listened, then went forward with the resolution to fire Rosenzweig.  Mayor Jerry Hall said that their City attorney drafted the resolution and felt they had the authority to dismiss him.

The resolution states that the Council believes the actions of Rosenzweig, in placing certain city-owned properties on the tax roll, were not properly analyzed or communicated to Council, and that according to the city’s charter, the assessor serves at the pleasure of the Council. It also said that under due consideration, the City Council had lost confidence and became dissatisfied in his performance as City assessor, and his termination was effective immediately. It directed the City manager to take action to effectuate the resolution.

The Council decided to leave the hiring of a new assessor up to the new City Manager when hired.

The hiring of an interim City Manager was next on the agenda. They introduced Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, who had recently retired from the City of Wyoming as Deputy City Manager, and was previously City Manager in Wayland. “I truly believe in local government, and when the Michigan Municipal League asked if I’d like a shot at being the interim City Manager in Cedar Springs, I said yes,” she told the Council. (See article introducing her on page 3).

Longtime City Clerk Linda Christiansen has been acting City Manager since November. She was visibly upset at the development. “This week is the first time I heard about this,” she told the Council. “I feel very disrespected. I feel like 22 years of my life has gone down the toilet. I will be retiring July 1,” she added, and gave them her letter of resignation.

Christansen had previously said she would stay on until a new City Manager was found.

Members of the Council tried to assure her that they were trying to alleviate the pressure of doing two jobs.

“We were dumbstruck,” said Mayor Jerry Hall. He explained that they had said at last month’s meeting that they wanted to get Christiansen some help. “With the work piling up, and elections coming, we thought maybe it was time to take some pressure off so that she has time to train someone before she leaves,” he explained. “It was not our intent to have her resign. It was to help her, not replace her. If the other manager had taken the job, this wouldn’t be happening. We just thought we needed to get someone in to help her.”

The Council voted 6-1 to hire VanDuren, with Councilmember Perry Hopkins being the lone no vote. He said he had too much respect for Christiansen, and later said that if she couldn’t handle both jobs with the election coming, that should be up to her.

In her resignation letter, Christensen said it had been a privilege to serve as City Clerk. She has worked for five City Managers; along side five treasurers/finance officers; three DPW directors, several fire chiefs; and countless employees, police officers, mayors and city council members. “With all we have shared good times and not so good times; but no  matter what we were going through at the time, we all pulled together working as a team to make Cedar Springs the best it could be under whatever circumstances we were facing,” she wrote.

The Council set another special meeting date of June 6 to review candidates who have applied for the City Manager job. They will review the candidates in closed session and choose the top ones they wish to interview in a public meeting.

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Meet Barbara VanDuren: new interim City Manager


Barbara VanDuren

Barbara VanDuren

By Judy Reed

The new interim City Manager for Cedar Springs is someone who likes to spotlight the good things going on in a community. And she hopes to bring some positive things to Cedar Springs.

Barbara VanDuren, of Wyoming, was hired last Thursday evening and started work this week at Cedar Springs City Hall.

She retired in 2015 as deputy city manager for the City of Wyoming, a community of 72,000 people, with a budget of $105 million and 350 employees. She was responsible for economic development, downtown development, and working with local governments and citizen groups for the betterment of West Michigan. She held that position for 15 years. During four years of that time, she also taught undergraduate public administration courses in local politics and administration, and public personnel policy.

Prior to that, she was City Manager for the City of Wayland from 1996 to 2000, and assistant city manager before that for three years.

Cedar Springs is her first interim assignment. “When I retired 18 months ago, I thought I might like to try it,” she remarked. “A couple of communities called, but I was busy at the time and couldn’t do it.”

It’s not the first time she’s seen Cedar Springs. She and her husband, John Crofoot, live in Wyoming, but are avid bike riders, and sometimes ride the White Pine Trail to Rockford and Cedar Springs. “The White Pine Trail is a beautiful trail,” she said. They belong to a trail riding group, and do some recreational biking on the weekends. This fall they plan to take a bike tour through Vermont. “It was one of those things on my bucket list for when I retired,” she explained.

The couple has two grown children, Eric and Kevin. Both are married and live in the Grand Rapids and Grandville areas. They also have a 5-year-old grandson, Elliot.

Other than bike riding, VanDuren does promotional work for the City of Wyoming, by producing 1-1/2 minute commercials about good things going on in the city. The commercials are called “Wyoming Moments.”

“I have always seen positive things happening that don’t get publicized,” she explained. “But I think that local government and schools have a heart for their city, and it feels good to be on the other side and tell those stories.” She works with WKTV on those commercials and they are also put on the city’s website.

So what is VanDuren’s mission here in Cedar Springs? “Well, I’ve only been here a week, but I would like to work on improving communication between council and staff, and getting council and staff prepared for a new city manager. And help, if I can, to bring in a new manager that’s just right for Cedar Springs. I would like to keep things moving in a forward direction,” she said.

VanDuren said that her door is always open if a resident wants to talk. She will usually be in the office Monday through Thursday, 8:30 p.m. to 3 p.m.

The City Council will meet Monday, June 6, in closed session, to review candidates for the permanent position.

The former City Manager, Thad Taylor, left for a position in Manistee in November. City Clerk, Linda Christiansen was acting City Manager from that time until VanDuren was hired.

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Cedar Springs to hold City Manager interviews 


N-City-logo-webThis is a reminder to citizens of Cedar Springs that the Cedar Springs City Council will be holding interviews on Monday, May 9, to select a candidate to replace former City Manager Thad Taylor. These interviews are open to the public and will be held at Cedar Springs City Hall.

They will interview five candidates starting at 9 a.m., with their last interview scheduled for 3:30 p.m. After the last interview, they will break for dinner, then come back and narrow it down to their top candidate that evening.

The following individuals were chosen from a pool of 45 candidates:

9:00 a.m. Steven Buter, Budget & Management Analyst for the City of Greensboro, NC

10:30 a.m.  Andrew Potter, Downtown Development Authority Executive Director/Main Street Manager, Holly MI

12:30 p.m.  Kurt Perron, Veterans Service Community Coordinator, Altatum Institute, Ann Arbor, MI, self-employed contract investigator for MSM Security Services LLC, San Antonio, TX and former Village Manager of Baraga, MI

2:00 p.m.  Michael Burns, Assistant City Manager, Fenton, MI

3:30 p.m.  Richard Marsh, Jr., former City Manager, Inkster, MI

The Michigan Municipal League has been conducting the City Manager search. Clerk Linda Christensen has been doing double duty as both the City Clerk and City Manager since Taylor left last November for a job in Manistee.

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City misses taking 2015 water sample


By Judy Reed

The City of Cedar Springs posted a public notice on their website earlier this month noting that in September 2015, they missed taking an extra water sample after total coliform bacteria was found in a routine water test.

According to DPW Supervisor Tom Stressman, they sample all three wells once a month, as well as four points in the water distribution system once a month. In August 2015, a routine sample tested positive for total coliform, which, according to the EPA, is a group of related bacteria that is not harmful (with few exceptions) to humans. Instead, the EPA considers total coliforms a useful indicator of other pathogens in the drinking water, such as bacteria, parasites and viruses. Total coliforms are used to determine the adequacy of water treatment and the integrity of the distribution system.

If a sample tests positive for total coliform, the water supply is required to collect no less than five routine samples during the next month, which would have been September. Instead, the DPW only collected four.

Stressman said that they had never before had a positive test for total coliform, so he called the Department of Environmental Quality about it. “They told me to take another sample, and it came back fine. But they didn’t tell me I had to take an extra one (the next month), instead of the normal four. But that’s on me; I take the blame for that. As director of the water department I should have known that,” he said.

They did, however, take five samples the following month, in October 2015.

“The City is making efforts to ensure that all sampling is conducted properly in the future,” it said in the public notice.

The Post also asked Stressman about the possibility of lead in the city water supply, with the problem in Flint being in the news. He said there would not be any chance of lead in our water supply. “We didn’t have any construction here when they used lead (in the pipes),” he explained.

They do, however, test for lead, along with other things. “We are on a three-year rotation for sampling for lead. With our history of no lead pipes in Cedar Springs, we were able to get on that three-year rotation,” said Stressman.

He also noted that he posted the water quality report early this year on the website for consumer confidence purposes. Residents can access it at http://www.cityofcedarsprings.org/2016/02/04/2012-water-quality-report/ or pick one up at City Hall.

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North Country Trail to run through area


Kurt Mabie (right), Chair of the Community Building Development Team, signs the document for the National Country Trail to come through our area. Christopher Loudenslager from the National Park Service is on the left.

Kurt Mabie (right), Chair of the Community Building Development Team, signs the document for the National Country Trail to come through our area. Christopher Loudenslager from the National Park Service is on the left.

By Judy Reed

It’s no longer a question of “if” the North Country Trail will run through Cedar Springs—it’s only a question of exactly where.

Representatives of the Community Building Development Team, the City of Cedar Springs, Solon Township, National Park Service, North Country Trail Association and Michigan DNR met last Thursday for the signing of the document solidifying the North Country Trail route through Cedar Springs.

All of these representatives had to sign the documents for the intention of the White Pine Trail to come through the Cedar Springs area. From left to right: Christopher Loudenslager, National Park Service Trail Planner; Bob Ellick, Supervisor of Solon Township; Jerry Hall, Mayor of the City of Cedar Springs; Scott Slavin, of the Michigan DNR; and Kurt Mabie, Chairman of the CBDT.

All of these representatives had to sign the documents for the intention of the White Pine Trail to come through the Cedar Springs area. From left to right: Christopher Loudenslager, National Park Service Trail Planner; Bob Ellick, Supervisor of Solon Township; Jerry Hall, Mayor of the City of Cedar Springs; Scott Slavin, of the Michigan DNR; and Kurt Mabie, Chairman of the CBDT.

“Cedar Springs is now home to a State Trail (White Pine Trail) and a Federal Trail (North Country Trail) crossing each other in our town, and we have a National Park that runs through town and through Solon Township out to the Rogue River State Game Area! It feels so good to have achieved this milestone!” said CBDT secretary Carolee Cole.

The North Country Trail is one of 11 National Scenic Trails, and stretches 4,600 miles, across seven states, from the New York/Vermont state line, to North Dakota. It is the longest of the 11 trails.

An optimal location review was done to connect the National Country Trail from the Russell Road and White Pine Trail intersection, to existing trail off Red Pine Drive in the Rogue River State Game area. The review noted that points of interest along the trail route include Long Lake County Park, Howard Christensen Nature Center, Duke Creek, Cedar Creek, Solon Township Hall and the park they are planning, and the City of Cedar Springs, with the planned boardwalk along Cedar Creek and other attractions. Several alternative routes were mapped.

The new part of the trail will be approximately seven miles long. But the exact route is not yet established since easements have to be obtained before the trail is officially certified.

However, certain sections of the trail may not be certified. “At this time the trail will not be able to be certified on the White Pine Trail, as the trail can only be certified in locations that are free of motorized vehicles,” explained Cole. “The Michigan DNR is in the process of approving the possibility for a parallel walking trail that could then allow the trail to be certified. It’s not unusual to have parts of the trail all along the route remain uncertified because a section must share with a motorized trail.”

So what’s next? “Well, a lot more work!” said Cole. “We have to secure easements (talk to people), then build the trail (clear a narrow, hiking only trail to certain specifications) and then maintain it (be willing to go out after a wind or ice storm and clear debris). So we need more people to get on board. A lot more people to get on board!”

If you would like to contribute to this piece of history in Cedar Springs, please contact Amy Anderson at a2andy@yahoo.com and let her know you would like to help with the creation of the North Country Trail.

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Boil water advisories lifted


 

The City of Cedar Springs had its share of water problems last week with at least one leak and two water main breaks that forced the city to issue two separate boil water advisories. Each one occurred in areas of construction.

The first problem occurred early Wednesday morning, October 14 at Park and Ash Street. According to Al Kensil, with the Cedar Springs DPW, a fracture in a pipe caused a leak. Residents still had water, so there was no need for a boil water advisory. The construction crew had to turn off the water, however, about 7:30 a.m. to fix the leak.

The second problem occurred later on the same day at Red Flannel Acres. There was a water main break during construction, and residents had no water. A boil water advisory was issued about 1:45 p.m.

On Thursday evening, October 15, the crew was working at Park and Ann Street, when another water main break occurred, leaving residents at the east end of Ash Street and Meadowcreek apartments without water. The construction crew worked to fix the break, and Kensil explained that they decided to just continue the job and finish the rest of the work they needed to do, rather than returning at 4 a.m. They worked quite late into the evening to get the job done. One resident reported they were still working at 11:30 p.m.

Early Friday morning, DPW Director Tom Stressman called the Post and left a message that another boil water advisory had been issued for the prior night’s water main break.

The boil water advisory was lifted Saturday afternoon for Red Flannel Acres, and Sunday afternoon for Meadowcreek apartments and the residents at the east end of Ash Street.

Dean’s Excavating has been replacing the antiquated sewer lines, storm sewers and water mains. They have been working on the project around the city since late July.

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City to hold public hearing on planned unit development


 

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.

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