Boyne on its way to ‘Redevelopment Ready’ status

LEADERSHIP WEB

Benjamin Gohs

News Editor

The Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) Community Assessment Report is in—and Boyne City fared fairly well.

According to the report—released on March 14—Boyne City was one of just 36 communities throughout the State of Michigan to apply for this Michigan Economic Development Corporation program, and one of only eight to have been selected.

“We applaud the city’s efforts in working to achieve RRC certification,” the MEDC stated in its report. “The foundation of the evaluation is the RRC best practices. Developed by experts in the public and private sector, the best practices are the standard to achieve certification and designed to create a predictable experience for investors, businesses and residents working within a community.”
They added, “Communities must demonstrate that all best practice evaluation criteria have been met to receive RRC certification.”

According to the MEDC, the Redevelopment Ready Communities program supports community revitalization, attraction and retention of businesses, entrepreneurs and talent, while promoting communities to be development ready and competitive by engaging stakeholders and planning for the future in order to make them more attractive to investments that create places where people want to live.

Boyne City was measured in six categories, some of which included sub-categories. Communities must meet all six best practice categories to receive certification, which—once achieved—lasts for three years.

Each category was graded into one of three levels:

• Currently meeting best practices

• Meeting some of best practice with additional action required

• Best practice component absent or outdated

• The first category rated was that of “planning.”

Community planning—specifically how the redevelopment vision is embedded into Boyne City’s master plan, capital improvements plan, downtown development plan and corridor plan

“Boyne City has a long history with master planning and each new plan builds upon the previous one,” it was stated in the report…. “While the existing master plan reflects the community’s desired direction for the future and designates priority redevelopment areas, it lacks strategies, time-lines and tools to accomplish the stated goals and actions for redevelopment.”

The city is currently working to update its 2007 master plan, with plans to finish it this year.

According to the report, Boyne City does not have an adopted capital improvements plan (CIP), which can be a useful tool to assist with the implementation of the master plan visions and goals.

In the report it states that state law requires cities to adopt a CIP for public structures or improvements, in general order of their priority that, in the planning commission’s judgment, will be needed or desirable and can be undertaken within the ensuing six-year period.

“Developing a CIP brings departments together that are rarely thought of as players in the redevelopment process. Planning for future investment is not only a best practice for redevelopment readiness, but a CIP encourages project coordination internally and externally, and assists with implementing the community vision established during the master planning process,” the report stated. “A comprehensive CIP also makes community more competitive in securing available funding by showing funders the city is properly planning for the future needs of the community.”

• The next category the city was rated in was that of public participation.

“Boyne City demonstrates exceptional execution of public participation, using both traditional and innovative techniques to engage stakeholders,” it was stated in the report.

The report highlighted the city’s goal-setting sessions, charrettes, social media and its public participation plan as laudable.

• Zoning regulations were another category in which the city was graded.

“Boyne City’s zoning ordinance goals and objectives are connected with the master plan’s goals and objectives,” it was stated in the report… “The city allows for flexibility in their zoning code through the conditional rezoning process. While the city has not considered a traditional form-based code, they do have clearly defined and documented design standards in the central business district’s zoning requirements. The city’s zoning ordinance is accessible online and free of charge and contains graphics to help portray definitions and requirements… While the city’s zoning regulations meet the criteria for this best practice, the city should put the graphics within the zoning ordinance online so they are easily accessible to the general public.”

• The city was also graded on its site plan review policy, for which it received a mixed finding.

“Boyne City’s site plan review process is clearly articulated in the zoning ordinance. It outlines the responsibilities for the applicant, planning director, planning commission and other committees as applicable,” the report stated. “Tracking development projects through the review process is the job of the planning director. The city should implement a method to track development projects that allows for increased transparency, keeps staff well informed, provides clarification as to the status of a project and can assist in measuring the results of the approval process.”
It was further stated, “While staff is very helpful at guiding applicants through the development process, the city is in need of a ‘Guide to Development.’ Creating a guide to development that contains specific instructions, flowcharts, application

forms, submittal deadlines and requirements for each development process allows instant access to information after normal business hours.”

• Site plan review process was then graded.

According to the report, the purpose of the site plan review procedures is to ensure plans for specific types of development comply with the zoning ordinance. Site plan review procedures and review time-lines should be communicated in a clear and concise manner to prospective developers and business owners.

“Boyne City’s planning director is the qualified intake professional that receives and processes applications and site plans. In our business interviews, all interviewees indicated that the city provides exemplary customer service,” it was stated in the report. “While the city follows the development plan requirements spelled out within the zoning ordinance, there is no documented internal review procedure.”
The report added, “The city should work to create an internal review procedure to help define the roles of each official that is part of the process. This can also help guide staff in the absence of key officials.”

• How Boyne City handles training for elected officials, board members and staff was graded next.

“Boyne City has a dedicated source of funding for all departments, boards, and commissions and encourages all members to attend them regularly,” it was stated in the report. “The city has started to track the trainings attended by city officials. This will help to identify any additional training needs.”

• Recruitment and orientation were also assessed.

“Boyne City actively recruits members of the community to serve on their boards and commissions,” the report stated. “They have the application on their website and routinely post notices in the newspaper; however, they do not set any expectations for the open positions.”
It was further stated, “The city should consider drafting expectations for each board and committee so applicants understand the position they are applying for.”

• How Boyne City identifies, visions and markets its priority redevelopment sites was also graded.

“Boyne City was provided the opportunity to work with Peter Allen and a team of University of Michigan students by the MEDC. The RRSites project completed an in-depth analysis of three prime redevelopment areas within the city. The report focused on the SoBo Lakefront, Ray Street Infill and Riverfront Boutique Hotel. These areas are all located within the Central Business District and redevelopment of these sites is vital to assisting in the revitalization of downtown,” it was stated in the report. “While initial research has been done through the RRSites project, the city should take the study and build upon it to identify what kinds of support they may be willing to offer a potential project.”
It was further stated, “The city also needs to package property information for interested developers who may want to pursue a project on one of their top priority redevelopment sites. This information will assist developers with upfront due diligence and help identify possible obstacles before the formal development process starts.”

• Boyne’s economic strategies were then assessed.

“Creating an economic development strategy for Boyne City that connects the master plan and future capital improvements plan, while coordinating with the municipal budget, will help the city focus resources where they matter most,” the report stated. “This strategy will assist in identifying potential economic opportunities within the city and region.”

The report mentioned the Boyne City Main Street Program’s “Cultural Economic Development Strategy” draft, citing that the city should identify a time-line, benchmarks and primary economic development tools.

• The final measure focused on Boyne’s marketing and promotion.

“While Boyne City is working with the chamber of commerce and the main street program to market the city, they are lacking a formal marketing strategy,” the report indicated. “Drafting a formal marketing strategy will help the city focus their efforts on how they strategically manage their resources to promote Boyne City.”

The city’s website was identified as “user-friendly” and frequently updated, but lacking information like a guide to development, capital improvements plan and property information packages.

Ultimately, the report’s findings merely recommends actions to meet each best practice; the city must choose how it achieves the redevelopment ready communities goals.

“Boyne City is well on their way to becoming redevelopment ready,” the report stated. “The city has a culture of good planning that spans well over a decade.”

The report added, “While the spirit of redevelopment exists, the city does need to document internal processes, adopt a capital improvements plan and create a property information package for prime redevelopment opportunities. Completing these steps will assist Boyne City’s competitiveness and ultimately the accomplishment of receiving RRC certification.”