Giffels Webster Acquires Clearzoning to Broaden Its Community-Building Solutions

June 2, 2016 – Giffels Webster, a Detroit-headquartered consulting firm specializing in infrastructure and land development solutions for public, private and institutional clients, has acquired Clearzoning, a planning and zoning consultant located in Lathrup Village, Michigan. The acquisition broadens Giffels Webster’s full suite of community-building solutions through additional expertise and proprietary processes. “The talent of Clearzoning significantly strengthens our community-planning abilities and deepens the service portfolio we offer to our clients,” said Scott Clein, PE, LEED, AP, president and partner at Giffels Webster. “Clearzoning’s service and culture mesh with Giffels Webster’s philosophy of improving quality of life in the communities we serve. We are thrilled to have them join our family.” This month, Clearzoning will begin transitioning its team to all three of Giffels Webster’s offices. At that time, Clearzoning President and Co-founder Rodney Arroyo, AICP, will become a partner at Giffels Webster, overseeing all of the firm’s community planning. Arroyo’s founding partner, Clearzoning CEO David Birchler, AICP, will retire later in the year, following the successful harmonization of the two firms. “David and I founded a planning and transportation firm 27 years ago that grew into a nationally known pioneer in the development of electronic, online municipal codes. We believe joining Giffels Webster is the next step to elevating the reach and impact of our proprietary service,” said Arroyo. “We will continue to provide community-planning consulting to more than 30 municipalities. I anticipate a seamless transition that will allow us to continue our well-known client service.” Giffels Webster will continue offering Clearzoning’s namesake product that converts zoning ordinances into illustrated, digital documents, and its NEXTSTEPS for downtownTM planning...

Grand Blanc Creating Opportunities for Economic Development

Grand Blanc Township was ahead of its time when it prepared the Technology Village Area Study in 2008. Eight years ago, the township recognized that encouraging economic development in the township meant creating a place for technology-driven businesses and the people who work there. The area defined as Technology Village consists of approximately 4,103 acres, and is located in the south-central portion of the township. It includes the Genesys Health Park, industrial property, and undeveloped sites with unique natural features. The 2008 study provided an outline for a vibrant center that would incorporate knowledge-based employment with housing, recreation, culture, diversity and entertainment. Timing can be everything. Following the completion of the first part of the study, the 2008 Recession hit and most development in the region and state ceased or slowed to a minimum for several years. However, recent local development and the planned extension of Dort Highway south to Baldwin Road are impacting growth. The township recognizes now is the time to be proactive by refining the Technology Village concept and ensuring zoning standards reflect that vision. To understand and demonstrate the development potential for this area to the larger development community, a market study is underway. Following the market study, a conceptual development plan will be created for a 200-acre area bounded by I-75, Baldwin Road, and Saginaw Street. With an clearer understanding of what the market is and how the area could develop, the Zoning Ordinance will then be amended to provide building and site standards that will help achieve the conceptual development plan. The project will be led by the community planning firm, Clearzoning, Inc.,...

City of Brighton to Update Zoning Ordinance

A zoning ordinance is the most important tool a community has to direct growth and redevelopment. Outdated, unclear, and confusing zoning ordinances are hard to use and often do not result in the kind of growth and redevelopment the community envisions. That is why the city of Brighton is moving forward with a project to not only update zoning standards, but also to reformat the ordinance is a way that is more user-friendly. Assisting the city with this project is the community planning firm, Giffels Webster, who prepared a zoning ordinance “health check up” for the city last year. The Brighton Zoning Code has not been comprehensively addressed since 1981. Over the next 16 months, the city and the Giffels Webster team will update development standards based on master plan recommendations, a recent parking study, the East Grand River Study, and other necessary updates to keep the city’s standards up to date with state and federal legislation. Brighton City Manager Nate Geinzer is looking forward to getting this project started. In his presentation to City Council, he noted the Giffels Webster team’s responsiveness to the City, their level of expertise and unique qualifications, as well as their familiarity with changes in laws/court decisions impacting planning/zoning and best practices. He is particularly looking forward to the new user-friendly final product. The public is encouraged to participate in this workshop and to follow progress on the zoning project; opportunities for input and meeting dates will be shared on the city’s website:...

Clawson Begins Implementing Downtown Master Plan

With a recently adopted Downtown Master Plan in place, the city of Clawson is wasting no time getting started with implementation. Since zoning is one of the city’s most effective tools for implementing the recommendations of the Master Plan, the city is moving forward with a zoning amendment project, which will include changing the way development is regulated downtown. Assisting the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) and Planning Commission is the community planning firm, Clearzoning, Inc., who helped the city with the Downtown Master Plan. A key recommendation of the Downtown Master Plan is to encourage redevelopment while retaining the buildings and businesses that give the city its unique identity. The Clearzoning team will start the zoning project by asking residents and business owners to identify specific buildings downtown that people find reflect the city’s character. The team will examine those “precedent” buildings to determine how new development can be compatible and make a positive contribution to the fabric of downtown development. The Downtown Plan envisions three zoning districts that align with the land use envisioned for the three downtown areas: the downtown core (right at the heart of downtown), the core fringe (away from the heart, but within an easy walk), and the core residential (areas adjacent to downtown that are primarily residential and support downtown). The new zoning ordinance will include standards for physical design elements and building form along with permitted uses. Standards will also be included that improve screening requirements to buffer parking areas, rooftop equipment, and trash containers from view. In addition, the city will explore how to permit innovative uses such as shared kitchens,...

Macomb County Business Awards Announced

Congratulations to Steve Cassin and Blake Farms in Armada Township Source: Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development. A crowd of approximately 400 gathered at Fern Hill Golf Club today, February 9, 2016, to learn the results of the Macomb County Business Awards. Macomb County Executive Mark A. Hackel joined Macomb County Department of Planning and Economic Development Director John Paul Rea to recognize the award winners in multiple categories. Beacon of Economic Development, a recognition reserved only for special circumstances, was presented to Stephen N. Cassin, recently retired director of the department. Cassin was credited for developing the county’s first-ever economic development strategy and a string of successful projects including the formation of the Macomb-Oakland University Business Incubator, branding of Michigan’s defense assets and a ballpark for a developing semi-professional, independent baseball league currently under construction in Utica. Clearzoning, Inc. is proud to have Steve Cassin on our consulting team. Additionally, congratulations to Blake Farms in Armada Township, winner of the Diversification Leader award.  Blake Farms has undergone many changes over the years due to the forward thinking of the Blake family. They have expanded to three locations and have land leases on other orchards to use their fruit for their products. Blake’s has grown a seasonal business into a year-round operation, diversifying products to provide stability during years of difficult weather conditions. They meet the changing demand of their customers through offering new products, such as hard cider. Blake Farms has added a winery, outdoor events, and offers many family and nighttime attractions including a haunted hayride. Clearzoning, Inc. worked with its client, Armada Township, to craft an overlay zoning...
Ira Township Adopts New Interactive Zoning Ordinance

Ira Township Adopts New Interactive Zoning Ordinance

Ira Township is the first municipality in St. Clair County to have a Clearzoning Ordinance   Ira Township, Michigan – The Ira Township Board has adopted a new zoning ordinance. The ordinance was prepared with the assistance of Clearzoning, Inc., the Township’s planning consultant, over the course of six months. The Clearzoning team completely re-organized the Township’s existing Zoning Ordinance into a new seven-article structure, with simplified language and illustrations that make spatial and locational standards easy to understand. In addition to amended provisions and a re-organized structure, the Clearzoning format is designed to be accessible on the web and fully interactive. The electronic document is formatted with linked menus on all pages, as well as linked definitions and references to other sections of the ordinance that enable users to quickly and easily navigate the document without having to go through the ordinance page by page. The document is fully searchable, making it easy to find provisions relevant to the project at hand. The Township sees many advantages to the electronic format, including the ease with which the Ordinance can be updated, as well as the ability for the Township to simply post the document on its website, instead of using a separate code-hosting service. Township Clerk, Crystal Sovey, looks forward to sharing the new ordinance with the public, “The new zoning ordinance is very user friendly and easy to navigate.” The Ordinance can be shared via download from the Township’s website as well as sent through email, meaning the Township has a cost-effective alternative to providing paper copies of the Ordinance to the public. However, in addition to...