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SG-W:/ county planning reviews

As most of you know, the county Planning Commission (formally the
Washtenaw County Metropolitan Planning Commission, a legal construct
which gives us certain powers) has no authority over local zoning
decisions. We do have some over local master plans and it is our
responsibility to put together a county master plan.

Traditionally we have reviewed local zoning decisions in an advisory
role.  Some of these reviews have been helpful to local governments in
pointing out technical issues and improved practices.  The vast majority
of reviews have concurred with the recommendation of township planning
commissions.  Often the staff and the county PC have added a list of
"recommendations" which sometimes have some weight in future
discussions.  Very rarely the PC has gone against the local planning
commission and against our own staff recommendation.

While these decisions are only advisory, they can have an impact,
especially when a decision goes to court.  County PC decisions have been
used both for and against development decisions in court.

Recently the policy on zoning reviews changed.  We agreed to try to
reduce the number of reviews of "trivial" zoning changes in order to use
our staff more productively.  A policy letter went out to all townships
early this year which outlines the criteria.  Basically, we will not
review unless there are significant impacts, especially
multijurisdictional, major impacts on natural resources, major impacts
on infrastructure, or inconsistency with the County Master Plan. We will
also review on request of local officials or of county commissioners.

Unfortunately the staff has set the bar rather high and some major
projects are not being reviewed.  If you are working on a high-impact
development, it is to your benefit to make sure that the project is
reviewed.  Call the county PC (994-2435) and request a copy of the
criteria for review.  Then try to make sure that your local planning
commission requests a review.  If you are not sure of this, make a good
case in writing for the review and ask your county commissioner to
forward it to the PC.  Names and contact information are at

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