|The Planning Process|
Any proposal that is submitted must undergo an approval process involving the Planning Department, staff from other City departments, the Planning Commission and the City Council. The review process is designed to ensure that any development or construction project adheres to all local, county and state regulations and that, through this process, the project is designed and constructed so that the City receives the best development possible.
Developers regularly contact the Planning Department seeking to develop or redevelop sites within the City of Westland. Before any formal plans are submitted, developers are encouraged to meet informally with the Planning Director to discuss zoning and site design issues. This informal look at the proposals allows the City to inform that developer and/or builder of the appropriate ordinances as well as the steps required for review.
Development Review Committee
After the Planning Director has been contacted, the proposal is reviewed by the administrative Development Review Committee. This committee is comprised of the Mayor, the Planning Director, the Economic Development Director and the Building Director. The Development Review Committee typically meets once a month to review upcoming proposals and other administrative issues. At this review, the Mayor and the Directors discuss the development and determine the appropriateness of the proposal. Since this is an administrative committee, the meetings are not open to the public.
Each development proposal or action requested of the Planning Commission must be initiated through the submittal of formal applications from the Planning Department as well as a fee established by the City Council. Completed applications with original signatures, the required fee and the appropriate number of signed and sealed drawings (eight (8) copies of plans for site plan approval) must be submitted to the Planning Department for processing.
Applications for Planning Commission must be submitted a minimum of 32 days prior to the next available Planning Commission meeting. If the request is to modify or revise the existing site plan that has been approved for a specific development, the application must be completed as stated but the fee is 50% of the original fee.
Once a request has been formally submitted, an in-house site plan review meeting is scheduled approximately one week after the submission. The eight (8) sets of site plans are submitted to the reviewing City Departments, which include the Assessing Department, the Building Department, the Department of Public Service, the Engineering Division, the Fire Department, Police Department and the Planning Department. These departments review the site plan and attend the in-house meeting with their comments and requirements in writing. A representative of the petitioner should be in attendance. This meeting is designed to provide the petitioner with the appropriate requirements and gives all parties the opportunity to discuss not only ordinance and code requirements but the desires of the Administration and the Departments for each specific site or proposal. Eighteen (18) sets of site plans revised to reflect the requirement and comments of the in-house review meeting and a digital copy of all plans and paperwork on disc (in .pdf format) must be submitted to the Planning Department within two weeks in order to meet the deadline for the Planning Commission meeting.
Planning Commission Review
The Planning Department prepares a report entitled Findings and Recommendations. This report provides the Planning Commission with a detailed analysis that includes the characteristics and zoning of the property and the surrounding area, previous case files (for the conformance to Ordinance and Department requirements), as well as any other specific requirements under the Zoning Ordinance. As an example, the Zoning Ordinance has specific criteria for the review of rezonings and special land uses. The report that would be generated compares the proposal and the standards of the Zoning Ordinance. A copy of this report will be furnished to the petitioner prior to the meeting.
At the meeting, the Planning Commission reviews the proposal, takes public comment and formulates a recommendation to the City Council. The Planning Commission may forward the site plan with a recommendation for approval, a recommendation for approval with conditions, a recommendation for denial (with reasons) or may request postponement for additional review or information. The Planning Department prepares a letter for each case and forwards the Planning Commission's recommendation with all information to the City Council for the next available meeting.
Public Hearing and Public Notification
There are certain projects that require the Planning Commission to hold formal public hearings including rezoning requests, requests for vacation and abandonments of streets, alleys, or easements and special land use approval requests. As part of the public hearing process, the Planning Commission (through the Planning Department) is required to publish written notice of the public hearing in the official newspaper of the City. The Planning Commission must also notify all property owners and all occupants within 300 feet of the site of the public hearing. All meetings of the Planning Commission are public meetings and all citizens' comments are welcome and encouraged.
City Council Review
The City Council, as the City's legislative body, is charged with making final determinations regarding all cases that are forwarded from either the Planning Department or the Planning Commission. The City Council reviews the Findings and Recommendations report from the Planning Department as well as the recommendation from the Planning Commission and any public comments heard by the Planning Commission. The City Council may approve a site plan as submitted, may approve a site plan with conditions or deny the site plan. In cases that involve a request other than site plan approval, the City Council must make a determination based upon specific criteria for review set forth by the Zoning Ordinance and in some cases must hold its own public hearing.
Once a site plan is approved, a developer or builder must then submit detailed plans to the Engineering Division for site development. Three (3) full sets of signed and sealed engineering plans are reviewed by one of two consulting engineering firms. These firms perform inspections of site developments to ensure compliance with the approved engineering plans.
During the review process, developers of vacant land would have been notified that a tree survey needs to be furnished to the Planning Department along with an Application for Tree Permit. There are specific guidelines to preserve trees during development in Westland.
The developer or builder must also submit three (3) copies of full signed and sealed building drawings along with the required Building Department Applications. Before a Certificate of Occupancy is issued for a new building, all Departmental requirements associated with the approved site plan, permits and the site in general must be met and approved by all Departments.
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