Detroit City Planning Commission Role

The Role of The Detroit City Planning Commission

Detroit has had a planning commission continuously since 1909. The Civic Plan and Improvement Commission was organized in 1909 and was recognized as the City Plan Commission under the City's first Charter adopted in 1918. The 1918 Charter brought the planning function under the control of a commission - the City Plan Commission, independent of elected officials. A new City Charter replaced it in 1974. According to the 1974 Charter, the task of planning was to be shared by the Executive and Legislative Branches. It was felt that the legislative body should have its own independent source of information and advice on the many matters related to planning and development that come before it. The City Planning Commission became an advisory body to the City Council while the Community and Economic Development Department and Planning Department became support agencies to the Executive Branch.

A new City Charter was approved by the citizens of Detroit in 1996 and became effective in January 1997. While the provisions of the new Charter have not affected the role of the City Planning Commission, the functions of the two administrative departments have been combined into a new Planning and Development Department. That department is responsible for proposing amendments to the Master Plan, coordinating the site plan review process, reviewing and processing development proposals, maintaining and selling City-owned property, and managing and monitoring the City's Community Development Block Grant programs.

The City Planning Commission consists of nine (9) members who are appointed by the City Council to three-year terms. Members serve without pay and must be residents of Detroit. The Commission provides recommendations to the City Council on the physical, social and economic development of the City including the Five-Year Capital Agenda, Master Plan, and other proposals and ordinances for the regulation of development and land use, as required by the City Charter. The City Council may adopt the recommendations or reject them.

In addition, the City Planning Commission is designated by the Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance 390-G) as the Zoning Commission for the City. The first Zoning Ordinance for the City of Detroit was adopted on Christmas Day 1940. As mandated by the Ordinance, the Commission processes and evaluates all proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and is responsible for keeping the ordinance current.

Council has passed ordinances that direct the Commission to: participate as a member of the Loft Review, Hazardous Waste Facility Review and Industrial Review Committees, certify community groups for eligibility to participate in the Nuisance Abatement program, be a member of the Historic Designation Advisory Board, review building designs in the specified zoning districts, and review building designs and site plans in the Planned Development zoning district.

In 1978, the City Council established an eleven - member Citizen Review Committee (CRC) as an advisory body to the City Planning Commission for the primary purpose of reviewing proposals of community groups and agencies for Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF) grants for a broad range of services and neighborhood improvements. The Commission office also assists community-based organizations by providing consultation, training, community education and technical assistance.

A 15-person staff assists the members of the City Planning Commission and the Detroit City Council by performing technical research and analysis and formulating recommendations on the various referrals, initiatives and ongoing commitments relating to planning and development in Detroit. The staff also provides technical assistance to the Citizen Review Committee (CRC) in its review of the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund (NOF).




I.    Carry out mandated responsibilities

A. Respond to all City Council referrals and directives.

B. Communicate needed Master Plan changes to the Planning and Development Department; consistent with the steps indicated in the Michigan Planning and Enabling Act, review and act on amendments to the Detroit Master Plan of Policies proposed by the Planning and Development Department.

C. Assist City Council with annual fiscal review by developing recommendations on the Consolidated Plan (March 2011), including Community Development Block Grant and Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, and the Annual Budget (March - May 2011).

D. Identify and process needed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance text and maps, per the Work Program.

E. Consider ordinances and/or modifications to existing ordinances that regulate development and/or conservation of land; emphasize, as appropriate, a “green,” sustainable, and “healthy communities” focus.

F. Assist in the empowerment of neighborhood organizations through training and technical assistance initiatives, as identified in the Work Program.

G. Advise City Council within one week of routine requests for disposition of property, and on other requests within designated time frame.

H. Participate collaboratively on task forces and committees to help accomplish identified goals and objectives.

I. Per City Council resolution, provide “blight determinations” relative to proposed Brownfield redevelopments.

II.     Encourage agency initiatives

A. Continue to formulate recommendations to City Council that address needs not being met elsewhere, as identified in the Work Program.

B. Continue to be proactive with the Community Development Block Grant program by developing recommendations for expenditure of 2010-2011 funds, including strong emphasis on meeting the needs of senior citizens for home repair funds exploring targeting for senior home repair.

C. Provide information and testimony as appropriate to the Charter Review Commission on matters of development and planning.

D. Expand expertise in sustainable development and acknowledge it as a core part of CPC staff activity. Continue to lend expertise within city government, as well as in the community through participation in planning efforts, on boards, councils, task forces and committees, etc, and through development of policy in a variety of arenas.

III.  Foster agency and program development

A. Schedule joint discussions with appropriate organizations to update the Commission on current activities and promote the sharing of information, e.g., the Buildings and Safety Engineering Department and the Board of Zoning Appeals on newly adopted Zoning Ordinance amendments.

B. Request a joint meeting with the City Council, after identifying issue areas for discussion.

C. Conduct tours and site visits related to matters before the Commission and the City’s social, economic and physical development, including community gardens.

D. Receive quarterly project status reports from staff on matters that have been before the Commission and on requests of Commissioners.

E. Conduct 3 - 6-month review of goals and objectives.

F. Hold an annual retreat, budget permitting, and preferably in conjunction with City Council.

IV.  Facilitate a more informed and empowered electorate on city codes and ordinances

A. Hold community workshop(s) for the public to highlight recently adopted ordinances related to zoning and land use, e.g., Zoning Ordinance amendments and other land use-related ordinances elsewhere in the City Code.

B. Implement methods of providing the public with information at Commission meetings, e.g., incorporating the use of trailers at the end of Commission meetings that can be shown on Channel 10 on such matters as how a particular aspect of system works, where to go, and/or whom to call.

C. Work with the Communications and Creative Services staff and with the City Council’s media crew, the Cable Commission and Comcast Cablevision to disseminate information on recently adopted and pending ordinances and regulations.

Approved: July 15, 2010