BERRIEN SPRINGS — Berrien Springs Village Trustee Jesse Hibler shared what he learned about planning and zoning at a recent Michigan Municipal League conference with fellow council members Monday night.
Hibler attended classes and training at the conference and made the presentation to the council as the last step in earning his master citizen planner credentials. The classes crammed a six week course into two and a half days.
The council approved a new land use master plan last fall and he said the information he gleaned from the classes has helped him better understand the plan’s importance. “When I joined the council, I was thrown into the master plan adoption,” he said. “This was helpful.”
The new plan adopted last November was the village’s first in 10 years. The Michigan Planning Enabling Act requires municipalities to review land use plans every five years. Berrien Springs Village Council members had been working on the plan for the previous year or so.
The new plan contains basic elements such as a community description, demographics, planning policy, future land uses and plan implementation, as well as specifics developed over the last year or two regarding place-based zoning and the M-139 Corridor Plan.
Among other things, Hibler spoke about the need for the village to establish a planning commission that would be solely dedicated to handling zoning and planning requests. Village President Milt Richter said after the meeting that he’s working to get a planning commission established.
Hibler also pointed to other things he learned, including how to encourage public participation, how to properly enforce ordinances and the importance of planning in economic development. He suggested the village look into applying for regional prosperity initiative funding.
He noted that the new economy emphasizes the importance of attracting educated people and offering cultural amenities more than attracting businesses and industries. “Instead of people following jobs, the new economy puts people first and then the creation of jobs,” he said.
In action at Monday’s meeting, council members again voted to opt out of the 2011 state law that gives public employers the choice of choosing to cap or split insurance costs with employees, or opt out. The village has opted out of the law every year and pays for all of employees’ health insurance costs.
Board members also changed how the village’s Christmas Festival account is handled. The village’s auditors have asked that the account be handled the same as other village accounts, with the village clerk and president signing checks and the council approving expenditures. Previously, the clerk and a committee member signed checks.