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Planners Wrestle With Housing Needs in Bay County

Consultants Release Build-Out Analysis

November 4, 2002       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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Will Bay County need 5,227 additional housing units by the year 2020?

Or will we have a surplus of 329 housing units?

That's the conundrum perplexing land use planners in the wake of release of a build-out assessment commissioned by county government. The assessment was performed by the consulting firm of Beckett & Raeder, Inc., of Ann Arbor.

Goal of the study was to facilitate reasonable urban growth while conserving the county's natural resources. The firm recommended a county level land use plan and growth management strategy that could be developed voluntarily by communities. Formation of a committee of public and private representatives of each community to develop the strategy also was recommended.

"In general, the cities in Bay County have been developed to capacity and will either meet or fall short of projected housing needs, but most townships have already designated an abundance of acreage for residential development, making an excess supply of housing unitsin the county a likely possibility for the future," the firm states in a recent issue of Michigan Planner magazine. This suggests that a reorientation of land uses on a county-wide basis may be necessary.

The most optimistic population projection is a state/ratio method by the State Department of Management and Budget which shows a 12 percent rise from the present 111,723 to 124,826 by 2020. Several other methods predict declines up to 5.3 percent in the county's population during the same period, which would leave the population at 105,800 in 2020.

State land use planning laws were passed in the 1920s, the report states, commenting: "Each community plans for its own interests, competing with neighboring areas. The result is sprawl -- vacant downtown areas and generic suburbs that erode natural resources, open space and agricultural land. According to the build-out assessment, and to no fault of county municipalities, this appears to be the direction in which Bay County is heading."

However, an Alternative Growth Strategy recommended preserves Bay County's natural resources and maximizes the benefits of already installed and publicly funded infrastructure. Four major development zones are outlined:

1 - Greater Bay CityArea (Bay City, Essexville, Hampton Township, the southern portion of Bangor Township and the southeast quadrant of Monitor Township);

2 - The Williams Township/US-10 Corridor;

3 - The northern portion of Kawkawlin Township, between I-75/US-23 and M-13, and

4 - The City of Pinconning and Pinconning Township.

The Alternative Growth Strategy would provide more than enough housing units to meet anticipated needs and prime agricultural land in the townships would be protected from urban development. The rural character and quality of life would be enhanced. And, the need to extend more water and sanitary sewer services would be curtailed, thus maximizing the current investment in public utility systems.

For more information, please contact Laura Ogar at Bay County, 989-895-4196 or John Iaconangeli at Beckett & Raeder, 734-663-2622.

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at

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