The value of continuing services agreements
The City of Huntington Woods and Wales Township recently chose Carlisle/Wortman Associates to provide continuing planning services. The firm serves in that capacity with 52 communities, some as long as 34 years.“Communities benefit in many ways from these ongoing relationships,” said CWA Partner Doug Lewan. “They don’t have to manage one project RFP after another. They can get routine, small tasks, like plan reviews and ordinance updates, done quickly. They can access the knowledge and experience of our specialists, including recreation planners, landscape architects, environmental analysts, LEED-AP-certified planners and economic development consultants.”The catalyst for the City of Huntington Woods to hire Carlisle/Wortman was the retirement of their part-time staff planner. “Rather than bring on an employee, we decided to bring on a firm on a consulting contractual basis,” said City Manager Amy Sullivan. The city is almost completely residential, needing few commercial site plan reviews, although she said they may ask CWA to identify possible uses for a vacant party store property owned by the city. Sullivan speculated that the city may call on Carlisle’s expertise in community engagement and may revisit the possibility of a tree protection ordinance.Carlisle/Wortman has been the planner of record in the City of Saline since 1990, with Lewan as the partner in charge.“Doug’s very good at working with the staff within our general operations and processes,” said Gary Roubal, the city’s superintendent/engineer. “He’s flexible and blends our input and specific needs with his knowledge of the planning enabling act and codes.”Lewan drafted a form based code for Saline’s downtown, updated the master plan with input from public visioning sessions and a planning fair and handled the rezoning that converted a school building for a technology business, with minimal neighbor objections. Most recently he helped the city develop a downtown streetscape plan.The skill of Lewan and the rest of the CWA team can be seen in Saline subdivisions built in the last 10 years. For starters, they wrote a code that helped the city achieve its goal of maintaining 30 to 40 percent open areas in residential developments. Today, for example, residents of the “Huntington Woods” subdivision only know that their homes are on pleasantly curving streets, with sidewalks, while backing up to a woods. They don’t know about the fragile lands, county drain, wetlands and utility challenges the planners and developers overcame to deliver a neighborhood of desirable homes that are consistent with the city’s vision.Independence Township has been Dick Carlisle’s continuing services client since 1981. These days Brian Oppmann spends three to four days a week in the township office, while “We bring in the big gun (Carlisle) for the touchier subjects,” said township Supervisor Pat Kittle. “Understanding and knowing the history will prevent you from making the same mistakes over and over again,” Kittle said.Years ago, a developer proposed but never completed a high-density residential development at the corner of Dixie Highway and I 75. The project was complicated by the fact that the land lay in two townships – Independence and Springfield. Carlisle eventually negotiated a 425 intergovernmental agreement between the two governments that attracted a lower-density development. “The lower density made it more appealing to neighbors who objected to 100 houses and found 30 a more attractive option,” Kittle said.