Zoning: an opportune time for action


You might have an opinion about these neighborhood issues: trees, street parking, urban farming, backyard granny flats, transportation options, corridor improvements, or gently densifying your neighborhood with more diverse housing options (i.e., duplexes, boarding houses, co-ops, quads).  

This is the moment to let your thoughts be known.  Over the next several months, the 2012 Lansing Comprehensive Plan (called Design Lansing) is being revisited to determine how conditions and preferences have changed in the last 10 years. The city’s principal planner, Andy Fedewa, and his team will be overseeing a six-month information-gathering process, providing multiple methods for joining the conversation. Fedewa notes that the process will likely wind down in late fall, so now is the time to opine.

Back in 2010, when Design Lansing was taking shape, clear themes emerged from hundreds of surveys and dozens of neighborhood gatherings. These themes came to be known as PET: Preserve Neighborhoods, Enhance Industrial Areas and Transform Commercial Areas.

Lansing residents indicated that they enjoyed and wanted to preserve their neighborhoods. People justifiably felt that Lansing’s diverse residential sectors, with their abundant parks and green spaces, were a significant asset.  So, for the last decade, neighborhood preservation has been and hopefully will continue to be a priority.  

Fast forward 13 years to a worsening housing shortage, a steady rise in home purchase and rental costs, and dramatically changing demographics — the mismatch between exclusive single-family zoning in 83% of Lansing’s residential districts despite single families comprising only 40% of households.

In addition, some neighborhoods have become urban agricultural hubs (e.g., Urbandale on the east side, Hill Center on the south side) where dozens of urban farmers grow food on empty and often non-contiguous lots to sell at farmers markets or to grocery stores. Many offer Community Supported Agriculture projects, where people buy a subscription for a weekly box of their uber-local produce. Several also sell to Allen Neighborhood Center’s Veggie Box program, a robust multi-farm CSA serving over 700 subscribers annually.

Other things have changed in our neighborhoods as well. We now have street parking, “complete streets” (providing a bit more room, respect, and safety for bicyclists), incubator programs of all sorts, and a growing appreciation for the benefits of increased density, such as more frequent public transit, eateries, coffee shops and various sorts of stores.  

As noted, Fedewa and his team from the city are offering multiple ways to weigh in on which elements of Design Lansing are still pertinent and what changes are needed to keep Lansing’s principle planning guide responsive to current needs.  

Keep in mind that the zoning changes that would allow for increased housing options that have been the focus of my recent columns on have to be grounded in the city’s Comprehensive Plan.  So please check out Fedewa’s article on this page, learn about the various methods for weighing in, and join the conversation. 


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