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.

Today at the Winter Institute, we shared lessons about how an updated Zoning Ordinance and development review procedures can help a city achieve these goals.  By implementing best practices for redevelopment to provide clear, easy-to understand, and current zoning standards along with streamlined, well documented site plan policies, city managers can help ensure a smooth and predictable experience for developers as well as city staff, officials, and residents.

Our session slideshow is available below along with a series of articles aimed at helping communities be “development ready.”

Pages from Redevelopment Best Practices - Jan 2015

Read More

Website Design Services (City, Village, Township, & County)

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:

1. Develop main sub-headings for website menu bar in consultation with client (For example: Home, Boards & Commissions, Community Profile, Departments, News, & Maps | Data)

Home Page will include a calendar link that can be updated by municipal staff and can be either 1) a static page with links or 2) a page that is continuously updated with the a feed from the “News” page.

The Boards and Commissions Page will list members and typical meeting schedules. CZ staff will also photograph the governing body members for inclusion on the site, if desired. We have professional photographers on our team that will create beautiful portraits.

The Community Profile will include a brief summary of municipality’s history and demographics.

The Departments Page will include a section for the Clerk, Planning/Building, and other departments. The Clerk’s section will include links to meeting agendas, minutes, ordinances, election information, and more. This can be updated by the staff of the municipality or by CZ staff. The Planning / Building page will include links to forms, Master Plan, and related ordinances.

The News Page allows local officials to provide current information on community events, deadlines, etc. This can be updated by local or CZ staff.

The Maps|Data Page will include available municipal maps including zoning, land use, and more plus links to external sites (e.g., county equalization data base, county GIS, U.S. Census, and more).  We have Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experts on staff that can create new maps or update existing ones.

2. Provide draft to municipality for review. Make one set of revisions, if necessary.

3. Upload and launch new website. Municipality to provide domain information and password or a new domain will be created.

4. Train municipal staff on how to update website and keep calendar current 

5. Submit website to major search engines.

6. Provide free emails for municipal officials and staff using the username@domain convention.

In addition to the above, CZ will maintain the website on a hosting site and provide phone assistance to local officials regarding keeping the site up to date. Additionally, our monthly maintenance agreement includes CZ staff writing a monthly blog post for the News tab on the web site – our staff will interview the one or two local officials or staff by phone once per month to determine latest news and then write a short news update (approximately 400 words) so the website is always is current with the latest information. This can be adjusted to be more or less frequent, depending upon the community’s needs.

Please contact Rod Arroyo at Clearzoning, Inc. for a quote.

Web Site Services for City, Village, Township

Read More

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  reviewsthe plan to evaluate:

- Parking circulation
- Driveway access and spacing
- Need for driveway improvements
- Sight obstructions
- Number of parking spaces
- ADA parking requirements
- Pedestrian circulation
- Truck and emergency vehicle access
- Transit implications.

The community will be provided with a well-written review letter that can assist the applicant, staff, planning commissioners, and others. CZ staff will work to establish a fee schedule so that the cost of this service is passed on or shared with each applicant. This can be a no-cost service to the municipality.

Traffic Crash and Safety Studies

The University of Michigan reports that a crash occurs on Michigan roadways about once every 2 minutes, on average.  Some crashes are largely attributable to single obvious causes, such as drunk driving or “texting” on a cell phone.  However, many crashes are affected by a combination of factors that might include:

  • Unusual roadway design
  • Traffic control feature(s) different than the driver expected
  • Poor visibility due to darkness and/or weather
  • An unforgiving roadside

The likelihood of crashes and/or severe injuries occurring can generally be reduced by improving the roadway, roadside, and/or traffic controls (i.e., pavement markings, signs, signals). Learn more about how communities can direct their limited safety improvement funds by creating a more cost-effective local safety program based on a comprehensive traffic crash study. March 2013 – Traffic Crash Studies

Traffic Impact Studies

The existing or anticipated impacts of new development can be planned for by conducting a traffic impact study. A traffic impact study forecasts changes in trip generation and assigns new trips to the road network. It can also anticipate traffic flow changes from other new developments or road improvements that are planned in the study area. The results of the analysis assist stakeholders with a better understanding of traffic improvements that may be necessary to mitigate the impact of new development.

Contact our staff to learn more about traffic engineering consulting services.

Read More

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.

The formatting of most zoning codes has not changed since the time they were first adopted.  The outline structure is often confusing, and users are forced to jump from section to section just to find basic information.  For example, the lists of permitted and special land uses are often found within the district pages.  The building setback, height, and other bulk and density requirements are often found in a separate schedule of regulations.  This basic information can be accessed at a glance by combining it on a single or two-page spread.

Changes in technology also make it possible to get answers to basic questions much faster.   People do it every day when they search the internet and click on hyperlinks.  This same approach works well for zoning codes.  The two-page district spread below includes words and terms in blue text.  In the actual zoning code, these terms are hyperlinked to another section or another web site.  One click can take a user right to the parking requirements or setback regulations.  This makes the code user-friendly and it is also word searchable.
This 2-page spread has both use and development regulations

For more information on improving zoning ordinances through better formatting, graphics, and other enhancements, contact Clearzoning, Inc. at To view a sample Clearzoning code, visit or

Update:  Clearzoning has just wrapped up new zoning code formats for Fairmont, WV and Novi, MI.  Work has begun on updating zoning code formatting and graphics in Steamboat Springs, CO and Ira, MI.

Read More

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

Read More

Clearzoning, Inc. Welcomes New Staff Members

Clearzoning, Inc. is pleased to announce the addition of two new staff members to the Clearzoning Team.

Margaret (Mardy) Stirling joins the firm as a Senior Planner, with extensive experience at the local government level. Mardy is the former Deputy Director of Planning for the City of Royal Oak (Oakland County, Michigan) and the former Planning Director for Hartland Township in Livingston County, Michigan.  She has a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree from Michigan State University.

Joseph (Joe) Tangari joins Clearzoning as an Associate Planner.  Joe previously worked as a planner for the City of Hazel Park (Oakland County, Michigan) and as a research associate for Wayne State University, where he conducted a baseline assessment of the impact of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s (MEDC) Redevelopment Ready Communities Program. He has a Master of Urban Planning degree from Wayne State University.

We welcome Mardy and Joe to our team!



Read More

US Economic Development Administration Approves City of Wixom Plan

Busy sidewalk in the Village Center area of Wixom.

Busy sidewalk in the Village Center area of Wixom.

The US Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration, recently approved the City of Wixom’s 2014 Economic Development Strategy developed with assistance from a team of planning, branding, and economic development consultants. This team, led by Lathrup Village-based Clearzoning, Inc., presented the final plan to City Council in June 2014. The plan was designed to create a broad framework for attracting and retaining businesses and building upon the existing assets of the City.

At the council meeting, City Manager Tony Nowicki, summarized the economic development project as having three main components: 1) an assessment of the City’s assets and strategies to help fill gaps in the market for industrial, retail, and research and development businesses; 2) a guide to an efficient land development review process within the City; and 3) the development of the City’s unique “brand voice”—an understanding of who the City is, what it has to offer, and how that message is best shared.  Strategies to strengthen the attractiveness of the workforce through education and specialized training are also included. In addition, the project team shared opportunities to facilitate collaborations between existing businesses and potential new businesses.

Howard Kohn, president of The Chesapeake Group, part of the project team, summarized opportunities identified through this process, including the potential for five million or more square feet of “industrial” space in the next ten years. He noted that “Some will be traditional manufacturing and some will be “new” office/industrial manufacturing.” Site Specific Opportunities were discussed. The strategy acknowledges the need for additional training in certain targeted areas (e.g., software testing, IT training, robotics, and health care).

Rod Arroyo, president of Clearzoning, described the electronic Development Manual that the City can use online to help applicants, staff, and officials understand the review process. This helpful guide contains flowcharts, illustrations, and hyperlinks to relevant documents, applications, and code requirements. It improves customer service and streamlines the development review process.

Brent Eastman, formerly of Identity, now with Alchemy Group, worked with the planning team on brand strategy. The resulting concept was developed through interviews and surveys of residents, business owners, staff, and City officials. The team found that while the City has a great deal to offer, it seems to be a well-kept secret. The City should try to raise the awareness of its amenities through consistent messaging that includes the idea that the City is “close to everything, but far from ordinary.”


About the City of Wixom

Recipient of the University of Michigan – Dearborn School of Management’s Metro Detroit 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 Entrepreneurial City Award, Wixom is one of the premier communities in Oakland County. The 9.35-square mile City of approximately 13,500 people is located along the I-96 corridor of Oakland County, Michigan. It is within driving distance of three major internationally known universities, two airports, a variety of recreation opportunities, and a diverse housing stock. Home to over 700 businesses, Wixom’s business friendly management philosophy and organizational culture make it an ideal community to locate and operate a business.  The City’s major employers include Moeller Manufacturing Company, Mac Valves, Inc. and Adept Plastic Inc.  The City employs a balanced approach to land use development with a mix of high-quality residential living and a strong diverse industrial base.  Wixom has one of the lowest tax rates in the state in its population class, one of the lowest combined water and sewer rates in Oakland County and boasts of one of the finest school districts in the state.  For more information about the Economic Development Strategy, please contact Debra Barker, Business Development Liaison, at 248-624-3280 or

Read More