The Planning Commissioner’s Guide to Zoning Ordinance Amendments

Planning Commissioner's Guide to Zoning Amendment - educational resource

Michigan Planner article

The Winter 2015 issue of Michigan Planner features the article “The Planning Commissioner’s Guide to Zoning Ordinance Amendments,” written by Clearzoning’s Rod Arroyo and Joe Tangari. The article provides insight into best practices that municipal governments can use improve the process of keep a local zoning code up-to-date and relevant in terms of reflecting local character and trends.

One of the tools mentioned is the use of a zoning ordinance health assessment. This practice involves conducting a review of a community’s existing zoning code to 1) compare its effectiveness in implementing master plan goals, 2) identify compliance with recent changes in state or federal legislation, 3) review the code in light of recent zoning board of appeals cases, 4) identify changes to reflect the evolution of planning and zoning best practices, and much more.

Click on the graphic in the upper right to download a pdf copy of the full article.

To learn more about the Clearzoning format – which transforms local zoning codes into user-friendly, digital documents – visit our Clearzoning service page.


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Placemaking as Economic Development Tool

Clearzoning, Inc. recently assisted the City of Clawson, Michigan, with a Downtown Master Plan that included several placemaking strategies. The illustration above offers a concept for the transformation of a parking lot and adjacent buildings in an underutilized block adjacent to the main downtown intersection. The resulting plaza could be a welcoming place to gather informally or for community events.

How did we do it? We envisioned these improvements:

  • Renovate the buildings flanking the paved parking area
  • Transform the parking area with landscaping, street furniture, and pedestrian-oriented lighting.
  • Add landscape screening and low masonry wall to help fill in the “dead space” between the existing buildings (seen in the top photo).
  • Create a pedestrian connection that encourages shopping throughout downtown.

What is Placemaking?

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Redevelopment Best Practices – 2015 MLGMA Session


Clearzoning's Jill Bahm shares redevelopment ready practices with Michigan city managers.

Clearzoning’s Jill Bahm shares redevelopment ready practices with Michigan city managers.

Clearzoning is pleased to have been invited to speak at the 2015 Winter Summit for the Michigan Local Government Management Association (MLGMA). This is a great organization dedicated to the professional development of local government administrators. To paraphrase Pete Auger, the president of MLGMA (and the City of Novi, Michigan’s manager), city managers are often the key “behind the scenes” individuals who keep local government moving.

At Clearzoning, we want to help Pete and other city managers keep local government moving – in a forward direction. Today’s city managers can use planning, zoning, and technology tools to encourage quality economic development, manage limited financial and human resources, ensure fair and transparent decision making, and provide excellent customer service.

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Website Design Services

Clearzoning, Inc. is now offering affordable website development services for local governments.

For years, Clearzoning, Inc. has been creating new websites and web pages for planning projects. During this time, our staff has observed that many small cities, townships, and villages may have a web presence, but many of their websites are not visually appealing and are not kept up-to-date. Clearzoning now uses its expertise in design and information services to take local government websites to a new level at an affordable price. The following describes our basic website development service:

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Expert Traffic Engineering Services Based in Michigan

Traffic Engineering Consulting

The staff of Clearzoning, Inc. provides expert traffic engineering services ranging from traffic-focused site plan review and traffic impact studies to traffic crash analysis and road safety improvements.

Development Review
When a new site or development plan is submitted to a community, Clearzoning reviews the plan to evaluate:

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New Zoning Format Can Help Cities and Other Municipalities Enhance Customer Service and Promote Economic Development

New Zoning Format Can Help Cities and Other Municipalities Enhance Customer Service and Promote Economic Development
Zoning codes have come under fire over the last 25 years for many reasons ranging from the resulting development patterns they create (mandating sprawl) to the confusing language (legalese) used in these documents.   This can lead to a host of negative impacts for a municipality.  Some impact day-to-day operations and others last for generations to come.

Zoning codes can be enhanced by better graphics, formatting, and hyperlinking.  Municipalities are looking for better zoning formats, online zoning codes, fillable zoning forms, and interactive zoning maps.

Zoning Ordinance Graphics

The use of graphics is one of the first places to start.  Regulations that are depicted graphically are generally easier to understand and more effective.  This is particularly true for business owners and citizens that are not familiar with common zoning and development terms.  It can also assist staff and Planning Commission members developing a better understanding of what the zoning text is intended to accomplish.

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Food Trucks – New Planning Presentations in October

Clearzoning President Rod Arroyo will be speaking twice in October on the topic of planning challenges and opportunities related to mobile food vending.  On October 3, he will address the North Carolina Planning Conference in Raleigh.  The following Thursday, October 9, Rod will be speaking at the Grand Hotel as part of the Michigan Chapter of APA’s annual conference.

For more information, Rod Arroyo and Jill Bahm authored a Zoning Practice issue on this topic for the American Planning Association (September 2013 – Vol. 30, No.9).  A summary of the presentation is provided via the links below:

Food Truck Handout from Clearzoning

Powerpoint Presentation – Food Trucks –  Clearzoning

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