2007-02-08 / Front Page

Gourdie-Fraser Recommended To Update Clark Twp. Plans

By Amy Polk

Clark Township Planning Commission will recommend the professional planning firm Gourdie-Fraser of Traverse City to tackle the township's comprehensive plan and zoning ordinance updates. All six commissioners at a special meeting Tuesday, January 30, voted in favor of recommending the firm.

The Clark Township board planned to call a special meeting to officially hire a planning consultant early this month, before the February 15 regular meeting.

The planning commission interviewed three applicants for the position Tuesday, January 23. They met Mark Eidelson of Landplan in Okemos, Bradley Kaye and Brent Gourdie of Gourdie-Fraser, and Don Hamilton of Lapham in West Branch.

Commissioners leaned more toward Landplan, with half ranking the company as their first choice, but the cost of Landplan's proposal was prohibitive, as it was at least $10,000 more than Gourdie-Fraser's highest estimate of $35,520. Gourdie-Fraser said it may complete the project for as little as $23,370 if Clark Township completes a number of suggested inhouse tasks.

Landplan's two-part proposal was $22,150 to write a new zoning ordinance based on the updated comprehensive plan, which Mr. Eidelson said he could complete for $20,700. The entire project would have cost at least $42,850, not including maps for the comprehensive plan or printing the new documents. Maps would be an additional expense, contracted through Landplan to another firm.

Gourdie-Fraser's estimate also did not include printing, but Township Supervisor Linda Hudson said the company's under-budget estimate might allow more money for printing. At Tuesday's meeting, she gave commissioners a list of project collaborators who will be offering assistance or input, a list of the grants received for the project, and a rough budget of $35,250. She noted that Clark Township also does not yet know what restrictions will be placed on a $25,000 grant received from the Department of Environmental Quality's Coastal Zone Management program. The grant is the primary contribution to the project. Clark Township is supposed to receive more financial assistance from the Les Cheneaux Watershed Council through a grant it received from the Department of Environmental Quality.

Commissioners who liked Landplan's proposal said they were most impressed with Mr. Eidelson's interest in the job and his background in small, rural communities. Commissioners who favored Gourdie-Fraser liked what the firm had to offer, with more staff, experience with a wider variety of communities, projects, and different planning approaches.

Mr. Eidelson works alone and said he would not be able to generate maps. Gourdie-Fraser has committed two certified planners to Clark Township's project: Mr. Kaye, a community planner with a degree in urban and regional planning and environmental studies from University of Waterloo in Ontario, and Leslie Sickterman, a community planner with an economics degree from the University of Michigan and master's degree work in urban and regional planning. Mr. Kaye's experience is in creating master and comprehensive plans, zoning ordinances, sign regulations, and in addressing land use and zoning issues. Ms. Sickterman's planning and zoning experience is similar, however she adds her background in economics to projects like school enrollment projections, housing market and economic impact analyses, recreation and pathway plans, and downtown development authorities.

Mrs. Hudson told trustees she also likes Mr. Kaye's particular focus on involving the public, and he brought to the interview examples of different tools he uses to gather public opinion. Planning Commission Chairman Steve Honnila said he thinks Clark Township needs a person who will be a leader in the project, and that he feels Gourdie-Fraser offered leadership and "the things we need" in a planning firm, particularly generation of maps, which Gourdie-Fraser can complete in-house. Commissioner Dana Leach agreed that the proposal should be "all in one package."

"I think Gourdie-Fraser is probably giving us the best answer for what we're looking for," Mr. Honnila said, before Commissioner Dave Dunning moved to recommend Gourdie-Fraser to the Clark Township board.

The firm has worked on 100,000 development and land use projects, most in the Grand Traverse region. The firm also offers other municipal consulting services such as recreation plans, development designs, grant-writing assistance, and site plan reviews. Mr. Kaye told commissioners the firm can review site plans for projects such as the two condominium proposals commissioners recently approved as special land uses.

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