Planning in the long term: Downtown Royal Oak

I’m a planning commissioner in the City of Royal Oak.  Carlisle/Wortman Associates developed the City’s Master Plan in 1999.At our April, 2011 meeting we considered a special land use request from a downtown property owner to demolish a vacant building and use it as a parking lot.  (View the site here.)  Our commission chair, Tom Hallock, couldn’t attend the meeting, but sent a letter to be read into the record which said, in part, “Carlisle-Wortman … was very emphatic that smaller downtowns, such as Royal Oak, must avoid dead spaces.  Parking lots were on the top of their list for dead spaces.  They ruin the flow of small downtowns and offer nothing in terms of attraction.  Granting converting this property to a parking lot would be a serious mistake.”The commission denied the request.Communities often don’t benefit from planners’ work for years to come and, then, only if they stay true to the plans.  Here, 12 years later, Carlisle/Wortman’s expertise protected our downtown.Sharlan Douglas(Full disclosure:  Douglas is president of Douglas Communications Group, which handles CWA’s public relations and marketing.)