Posts Tagged ‘Berrien County’

MICHIGAN MODERN-DAY REGIONALISM

April 5, 2014

GOVERNORS’ REGIONAL PROSPERITY INITIATIVE TO REPURPOSE 40-YEAR OLD MICHIGAN REGIONALISM

Big changes in store for Southwest Michigan

Will Benton Harbor – St. Josephs’ future be a suburb of Kalamazoo or can Benton Harbor-St. Joseph rise to true metropolitan status?

Governing logo“Cities are going to be the engines of the future” announced Bill Rustem, Governor Snyder’s Director of Strategy, at the Governing magazine sponsored Michigan Leadership Form held in Lansing on April 2, 2014.

He announced’ “If Michigan is going to compete (globally) it needs cities that are competitive”

Under the Governors’ Regional Prosperity Initiative, “the state isn’t going to tell people what the state wants but defer to local decision makers and let them, as a region, tell the state what role in the State of Michigan they want to play in the future”, added Rustem

Region 10 mapThis challenges civic and governmental leaders in southwest Michigan to determine what the 10-county region wants to be and who it wants to identify with – Kalamazoo, South Bend or maybe Chicago & Northern Indiana.

Regionalism reinvention is upon us.

Underway are changes that will reorient nearly 40-years of regional planning history of Berrien, Cass and Van Buren counties which in the early 1970’s, abet under duress of the loss of federal and state funding, and came together as Planning & Development Region 4, one of 14 regional planning agencies geographically defined by gubernatorial executive order.

Failure to reach consensus on a state and global identity for the newly designated 10-county region, means that communities without a regional and city identity could become a “suburban location of nowhere”, according to Rustem.

To me, this is history repeating itself.

Back in the 1970’s, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph greater Twin-Cities area was considered rural, even though it was home base for seven national firms; Whirlpool and & Clark Equipment, being best known.

Local leaders at that time realized being rural meant being overlooked by industrial development scouts, regional shopping mall developers and many other businesses including the emerging fast-food franchise industry.

The effort to make Benton Harbor-St. Joseph a Metropolitan city was successful in 1980 after locally sponsored lobbying for federal census rule changes redefining population requirements for metropolitan central cites – ironically labeled “the Benton Harbor rule” by the Chairman of the federal rule making committee.

However 40-years of history have failed to produce a statewide and global metropolitan identity.

Absent from metropolitan growth research and pundit commentary about of central city place making is any mention of the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Twin Cities metropolitan area – it’s just not on these folks radar screens.

So here we have history repeating itself.

Back 40-years ago, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Twin Cities Area was “just another undiscovered rural area”.

Today, the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Twin Cities Area again is an “unrecognized slow/no-growth small metropolitan area”.

The Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Twin Cites Metropolitan Area has failed to grow into a dominate “regionally recognized city center” that businesses and people, especially young talented people identify.

Truth is – change needs to happen for a successful growing population future.

It’s no longer acceptable to look at self-contained inward growth policies but to reach out and connect with others.

This is a “tough job” recognizing the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Twin Cities area is relatively self-contained economic market surrounding by smaller cities better connected to more vibrant larger central city markets, some in Michigan and some in Indiana.

This message is a wakeup call.

It’s time to begin a process of regional planning, to lock in some of the past success in collaboration and cooperation to forge a global regional identity, whether that be a stand-alone Benton Harbor-St. Joseph Twin City identity, a Kalamazoo suburban-based small metro identity, a South Bend suburban-based small metro identity or something different connecting with the Chicago multi-state metropolitan identity.

Bill Rustem is not only a good policy wonk but a strategist who can look through a clear-lens and see both long and short-term strategies that can be implemented to achieve public policy objectives.

His message at the Leadership Forum is quite clear, “the Governor is giving Michigan’s local leaders and the public an opportunity, to work with the public and business community to create Michigan’s Future”. 

The message is pretty clear, its central cities and regions that matter.

Failure to recognize and accept these changes, or resist them, means one, or both, will lose.

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THE MAKING OF AN URBAN METROPOLITAN AREA – BIG PROMISES LEFT UNFULFILLED

February 27, 2014

It’s called the “Benton Harbor Rule”, a hard fought change spearheaded by now Congressman Upton and local leaders to obtain metropolitan status in 1980. 

BACKGROUND

Back in the mid-1970’s, Berrien County Michigan, local governments and the Twin Cities Chamber of Commerce (predecessor to Cornerstone Chamber Services) identified the value of being recognized as “being metropolitan rather than rural”.

They identified the immediate opportunity to access as much as $1.8 million (1970’s dollars) of new federal and state funding that could only be obtained by “being metropolitan” for road improvements, bus transit, health and other social services. They estimated the designation would yield a $12-14 million dollar impact to the local economy.

To access these potential funds, they undertook a multi-year effort to change Federal Office of Management and Budget policy prohibiting Berrien County from ever being considered metropolitan.

Successful lobbing changed the rules for the 1980 Census creating, 9 new Metropolitan Areas like Benton Harbor-St. Joseph lacking a central city of 25,000 population in a concentrated urban area having a population of 50,000 or more, in a county having a population of 100,000 or more.   This change modified the minimum sized “single city” criteria for determination of a “demographic dominate central city” requirement for federal metropolitan designation purposes.

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADVANTAGES IDENTIFIED

In the 1970’s being “metropolitan” meant more than increased state and federal money, according to the supporters.  “Metropolitan” meant growth – increasing population and prosperity.Table pop gwth

Business seeking to locate understood “metropolitan” to be a better place for new investment – both industry needing workers and retailers needing customers for success.

On the contrary, being a rural area meant the area didn’t quite make the grade for certain businesses especially the rapid growth of emerging fast food franchises and location of regional shopping malls.

The recruitment of these new businesses was a major goal of Chamber of Commerce visionaries who sponsored a nonprofit owned industrial park as a place for new industry to locate and create jobs.  Back then there were no regional shopping malls and residents did a lot of their shopping in Kalamazoo, South Bend and Michigan City.  It was believed the “metropolitan” designation would contribute to the redevelopment of Benton Harbor and the growth of communities throughout the county”.

Anyway, it just didn’t make sense that the home of several national firms such as, Auto Specialties, Leco Corporation, Tyler Refrigeration, Clark Equipment and Whirlpool would not reside in a growing metropolitan location.

MEASURING THE IMPACT OF METROPOLITAN DESIGNATION

Today many wonder – was this successful?  Did the change in federal policy truly make a difference?

Three decades later one measurement – population growth – can be used to gauge whether the legacy of this effort achieved results.

The adjoining table contains data for 8 of the 9 new MSA’s designated in 1980 due to the “Benton Harbor Rule”.  The other has been merged into a consolidated MSA, a newer federal designation describing larger population centers, eliminating decade-to-decade data comparison.

This data reveals population of the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph MAS did not grow to the same extent as other comparative MSA’s created in 1980 – being a population loss of 8.4% compared to a 35.2% growth in population over the past three decades.Table Pop Comparison

Where the average total comparative metropolitan growth rate in each decade ranged between 7-17%, the Benton Harbor St. Joseph MSA lost population twice between 1980 and 1990 and again between 2000 and 2010.  The MSA only had marginal 0.7% population growth between 1980 and 1990.

WHAT HAPPENED

Obviously, the legacy of the authors of the Benton Harbor Rule, raises questions – why and what happened to the well intentioned efforts to stimulate growth.

The logical questions based on the data include – Why didn’t the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph MSA achieve similar growth?  Shouldn’t the population have grown in a similar fashion as the other MSA’s – at least at the average rate? What social, political and economic impediments arose to limit population growth?

Many credit the demise of the auto industry, the off-shoring of manufacturing jobs and globalization of business as impediment to population growth.  Others mention Michigan’s unfavorable business climate as a cause. 

There certainly some truth in each statement.  However closer to home, the more appropriate question might be – are there local impediments that hampered population growth?

ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY AND REALITIES OF “PLACE”

The following offers a few thoughts on social and political barriers that might cause the lack of population growth:

Geographic Isolationism

The “Friday Night” social identity of Southwestern Michigan where small town high school sports define the community is a barrier to multi-community collaboration and cooperation.  It limits the ability of local government and customer trade areas to form and strengthen economic clusters of businesses to maintain economic marketability necessary to sustain small local business that once supplied the small town community shopping experience.

Paralysis of Political Geography

In place of economic consideration which should inspire cooperation there is paralysis, the inability to shed “political boundary binders” that maintain the historic political geography that may, in some cases limit the scale of economics necessary for retail business sustainability and the delivery efficient government services.

Cognitive “Place” Realism

Without a doubt, economic markets of Berrien County today are different compared to 1975 when efforts to create a demographic dominate metropolitan central city composed of smaller individual communities was first initiated.  Individual mental mapping of the actual area of influence of the Niles and Benton Harbor – St. Joseph shopping areas shows customers pay little attention in which local government the actual shopping is done.  This mental cognitive mapping discloses three major retail markets, Benton Harbor – St. Joseph, Niles – connected to South Bend and Harbor Country – connected to Michigan City.

This pattern creates a rather isolated St. Joseph – Benton Harbor metropolitan market area surrounded by two (or three) market areas influenced by more dominate regional competitors having a population approximating 70,000 people with a somewhat lackluster future growth trend.

Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Polarization

Modern metropolitan community development theory has identified “social capital” as a key to economic prosperity in a global market.  This is especially important for international businesses who recruit globally for management talent. Academic researchers have documented communities who richly embrace ethnic, cultural, religion and gender differences that increase social interaction among a wide spectrum of people tend to have increased population growth resulting in greater economic prosperity.

Academic research also discloses communities with “less tolerance for differences” lag behind both in community population growth and employment growth by firms serving global markets; leading to the question of adequacy of inclusionary and tolerance tendency of the metropolitan area.

Questionable External Communicated Metropolitan Identity    

A metropolitan area identity, or its “good name”, is formed in people’s minds by repeated exposure – being the accumulated knowledge they acquire from varied sources (news media, marketing publicity, testimonials, etc.) and their personal experiences resulting in a positive, negative or neutral image.  To often this image is one that leaders prefer not to address or address by issuing cheerleader statements or other auditory claims promising a personal experience that cannot be kept.  A positive metropolitan identity and image is a message designed to attract attention and then follow with support services that fulfill the expected experiences.

The decision to visit or invest in a “place” is based on faith and trust because “customers” are purchasing an intangible personal asset.  The logical question for any metropolitan area is – Do we offer a “good name” identity and image?

“METROPOLITAN” AS A DETERMINANT OF FUTURE GROWTH

Post-recession public policy has reinstated the importance of “metropolitan areas” in Michigan’s economic development policy

Academics and political leaders extol the virtue of economic advantages of Michigan’s metropolitan areas. They are assembling new legislation and administrative policy to direct public and private investment to Michigan’s “core community” metropolitan areas.

From a public policy perspective this makes logical sense.  Young people gravitate to metropolitan areas due to job opportunities metropolitan areas generate, the greatest number of new business formations occur in metropolitan areas, metropolitan areas tend to have higher per household incomes for their residents, and metropolitan areas attract higher value real estate investment that enhance the local government tax base.

A recent Brookings Institution analysis confirms this statement, where their research documents that in 47 of the 50 states, metropolitan areas generate the majority of the states’ gross economic output.  They report in 2009, the St. Joseph – Benton Harbor Metropolitan area accounted for $5,620,000,000 (1.5%) of Michigan’s gross economic output (See: Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program – Metropolitan Area and the Next Economy and New Economy State Profiles).

Brookings advocates a “metro-led vision” for the future since they have “distinct assets and market strength to grow quality jobs and provide statewide prosperity”.  They also note that metropolitan areas have:

1.  In 30 states (including Michigan) the most innovative and educated workers,

3.  Generate the majority of internationally exported goods and services, and

4.  Host 89% of the working-aged people with post-secondary degrees.

All in all, Michigan’s strategy to define and focus government economic development attention to metropolitan “core communities” areas having greatest economic development impact is a reasonable and prudent “statewide” public policy. Michigan’s future hinges on performance of its metropolitan urban “core communities” hosting innovative firms, educated workers and critical infrastructure.

THE IMPORTANCE OF “GEOGRAPHIC PLACE IDENTITY”

Michigan’s newly forming metropolitan focused economic development public policy direction again draws attention on the importance of “metropolitan” and its impact on future growth of the Niles – Benton Harbor – St. Joseph Metropolitan Statistical Area. 

Future community growth success is about understanding residents and, in the case of southwestern Michigan, to a lesser extent, seasonal residents and the occasional visitor. Population growth, especially well-educated workers is paramount to participation in the next wave of U.S. economic growth.

They say history repeats itself and again today – the term “metropolitan” once again communicates a sense of vitality and future prosperity.

In the eyes of the world a “metropolitan geographic brand identifier trumps a rural territorial identifier”.

MICHIGAN COUNTY PLANNING – ANALYSIS AND CRITIQUE OF THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT PLANNING AND ZONING REVIEW PROCESS

January 27, 2014

INTRODUCTION

Michigan law is unique. It subjects all local units of government master plans to a county planning review process intended to determine its consistency with surrounding local government plans among all other applicable plans.

For townships, this review process goes further subjecting the zoning ordinance and all amendments to a similar review.

In planning practices this concept is termed “concurrency”, the term given by planners to the concept of each master plan prepared by the respective local government to be “fitted together” and upon agreement to create a county plan.

Likewise, assembly of county plans creates regional plans and assembly of regional plans creates state plans and finally a national master plan.

This “bottom-up” master planning approach is designed to identify multi-jurisdictional infrastructure needs forming, the basis for a capital improvements multi-year budget.

FDR’s  Brain-Truster’s Stuart Chase and  Rexford Tugwell originated the concept in the 1930’s.  It was the basis of much of government’s role in economic planning whereby congress would use these plans to identify, on a national basis, where to invest federal funds for roads, water/sewer and other infrastructures.

While the Brian-Truster’s economic planning concept was ultimately vetoed by congressional action, the concept of multi-year capital improvement programs remains embedded in planning theory and today is a requirement in Michigan’s planning enabling legislation.

While Michigan once fully embraced economic and resource (land use) planning, interest evaporated in the 1950’s & 60’s in favor of economic development strategy and programs.  This ultimately resulted in a 1970’s renewed interest in environmental protection and need for government policies stimulating job creation as a recession remedy, including effort to establish a state land use planning law in 1975 and 1977 (HB 4234 – 1975, 4107 – 1977 and 4189 – 1977 plus SB 692 – 1977).

During this time the State of Florida was probably the leader in reinventing land use planning, promoting the concept of “concurrency” in its 1970’s Growth Management Act.  The state law required each level of local government to prepare a plan and link them together to create a statewide plan that identified location and timing, plus the funding source for each major infrastructure investment.

An elaborate collective conflict resolution process assured that all plans would fit together in a “jig-saw puzzle” fashion to make the final statewide plan.

Michigan’s law today is a “watered-down” byproduct of state land use planning theory employing the concept of a county planning commission review of local government prepared land use plans – in reality a county “concurrency” determination.

Today however, many question the “right “and the “role” of county planning commission judgment authority exercised by county planning commissions, in this review and concurrency role.

BACKGROUND OF THE SURVEY

To assess the value of this duty, the St. Joseph County Planning Commission and Board of Commissioners recently sponsored a survey to obtain information to make an informed judgment.

In August 2012, a request was made to each local government clerk to notify every elected official, planning commissioner, zoning board of appeals member, building inspector, code enforcement official, municipal attorney, manager and advisors to participate in an on-line survey.

There are between 200 and 300 elected and appointed officials, staff and advisors involved in local government planning and zoning decisions in St. Joseph County.

A range is given for the number of participants due to persons serving in duplicate capacities and variables in the number of appointees to planning commissions.

A total of 37 surveys were completed and submitted resulting in a response rate, between 12 and 19 %, comprising township, village and city responders.

PARTICIPANTS

Responders to the survey represented equally townships and cities/villages. Over half were elected officials, one-third appointed planning commissioners with the remainder being staff, consultants or legal advisors.

Twelve of the 16 township and 6 of the 7 cities/village participated.

MASTER PLAN REVIEW

FUTURE ACTIONS

While 18% of the responders did not know whether their Master Plan would require County Planning Commission review in the next several years, 30% indicated a 2013 review, 10% a 2014 and another 19%, a 2015 review will be required.

PAST REVIEW ACTIONS

Only 30% of the responders indicated knowledge of whether their current plan received County Planning Commission review, with 70% indicating no knowledge of whether the review found their current Master Plan to be consistent with the County Master Plan and those of surrounding local governments.

Only 20% of the responders indicated the County Planning Commission review being “somewhat helpful” to the local Planning Commission adoption of the current Master Plan.

FUTURE REVIEW ACTIONS

Eighty percent of the responders indicate that they don’t know whether the County Planning Commission review of their future Master Plan updates will be of value.

TOWNSHIP ZONING ORDINANCE REVIEW

PAST REVIEW ACTION

Sixty five percent of responders stated their township submitted all zoning actions for County Planning Commission review, with 36% indicating the need for one or two reviews in the past year.   Thirty percent indicated no need for any County Planning Commission review in the past year.

VALUE OF PAST REVIEWS

Over half of the responders indicate the County Planning Commission past reviews were very helpful, 6% little help and 41% indicating they did know if the review held any value.

VALUE OF FUTURE REVIEWS

While 41% of responders indicate they don’t know the value of future County Planning Commission reviews and another 12% indicating little or no help, 47% indicate the review to be very helpful.

MAJOR FINDINGS AND SURVEY CONCLUSIONS

1.  The role and legal duty of the County Planning Commission review function is unknown and possibly ignored by a majority of participants involved in township, city and village land use decision making.

2.  The value of the County Planning Commission review process, is questionable with a majority of those involved in local government land use decision making indicating little, or undetermined, value of  past and future  County Planning Commission review to decision-making by their local government.

3.  While required by law, the 5-year Master Plan update requirement is not recognized by a majority of responders with a vast majority unable to verify whether the County Planning Commission found their current Master Plan to be consistent with the county and other applicable plans.

COMMENTARY

There are many questions related to the value and necessity of the local government review function required of the County Planning Commission.  The most common question asked is whether it is important and needed.

Along with the unfunded state law mandate that the County Planning Commission review all Master Plans, but review only township, but not city or village, new zoning ordinances and amendments, many question county involvement in  local government control of land use decision-making.

For elected and appointed officials, many resent the notion of the County “telling them what to do” due to the strong bias towards this “local control”.

For some applicants processing unsuccessful approvals and for disgruntled affected property owners unhappy about a decision, the County Planning Commission is often viewed as a “super planning commission authority” with power to reverse or, at minimum, change” the local government decision.

This too – is viewed as an intrusion into local government local land use control.

In the present time of government austerity, providing services that have no, or limited, value invites inspection and possible action, to eliminate unneeded county services or to strengthen and economically justify the value of the County Planning Commission review function.

The Michigan County Planning Commission local government review function is obviously dysfunctional, as currently employed.

This analysis cites the need for corrective measures or elimination of an unneeded county government expense, a cost savings which can currently partially be accomplished by a resolution of the county board to eliminate review of township zoning matters.

It also identifies the need for possible planning legislation changes providing similar authority for elimination of the Master Plan review function.

FULL DISCLOSURE STATEMENT

In the spirit of full disclosure, I have served a 4-year term as a county planning director and 7-years as a regional planning director and nearly 30-years as a planning consultant to Michigan townships, cities and villages.

In this role he has first-hand experience in both conducting the County Planning Commission review function and processing township, city and village reviews before County Planning Commissions.

No recommendation is made on a course of action to be taken leaving this to the discretion of Michigan legislature.