Making a Framework for Growth in the Grand Rapids Metro Area

Of all the ideas and strategies suggested by the Metropolitan Development Blueprint[1], none has been so difficult to accomplish as the creation of a region-wide development plan to guide local land use planning and regional infrastructure like sewer, roads, water, etc. Metropolitan-wide planning in Grand Rapids has been a good news-bad news story. The bad news is that our system of local governments and personal property ownership is highly fragmented and has hampered our ability to collectively produce the most effective and desirable metro-wide community. The good news is that most of our local government leaders and property owners consistently exhibit sound judgment and implicitly understand the need for cooperative action implemented on a metropolitan-wide level.

The Blueprint II process has been designed by GVMC to facilitate the "good news" (our cooperative spirit) and to neutralize the "bad news" (our fragmentation). We have identified a "subregional" method of planning which brings together local governments in 5 distinct areas throughout the region. These 5 areas are grouped in recognition of logical regional relationships, (such as the new South Beltline freeway or the Fruit Ridge agricultural area), and promotes intergovernmental land use planning within these subgroups. New forums are being established in each area which will provide a missing link between local and regional planning.

There are many good reasons to believe that Blueprint II will succeed in its mission. Consider the following:

Players in the Process

There is a long list of entities which affect, or intend to affect, the metro development process. The list includes:

  • Local Decision-Makers
  • County/Regional/State/Federal officials
  • Local Planning Professionals
  • General Citizenry and their Advocates
  • Neighborhood Representatives
  • Business Associations
  • Natural Environment Advocacy Organizations
  • Land Based Business Groups
  • Economic Development Officials
  • Community Foundations
  • Nonprofit Service Organizations
  • Various Experts on Regional Concern

Blueprint II aspires to not only include the efforts of these organizations in this process, but to help link their efforts more effectively in a common cause to manage growth and better plan our places.

Citizen Support

A survey conducted by GVMC for two years has indicated strong citizen support for "regional planning", even if it means local governments will have to pattern local aspirations accordingly. Surprisingly, many local officials are not aware of citizen support for regional planning.

Coordinated Planning

The State of Michigan is considering updating its planning enabling statues to strongly encourage local governments to do what Blueprint II is trying to accomplish. We believe that it can be done in the Grand Rapids metro area without such legislation, but only through the good sense and cooperative spirit of our region's local governments.

Applying New Principles in Planning

Planners have been re-evaluating their profession for years now and asking the question, "how can all this planning lead to such undesirable results?" Increasingly they are finding that many of the basic principles of community planning no longer work. Mechanistic and simplistic solutions were often ascribed to very complex and important relationships. Land use was often viewed as a palette of colors which could be "correctly painted" across the countryside, irrespective of the "real-time" effects on traffic, sewers, schooling, or even more basic human experiences such as walking, playing or simply enjoying the surroundings. GVMC believes there is a new era ahead in planning and that our region will be ready for a new framework for growth.

documents/GVMCFramework.pdf | documents/Frameworkmap.pdf

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[1] Regional vision/strategy project conducted in the early 1990's and adopted by GVMC as the official growth strategy for our region in April, 1994.

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