Shiawassee County Development Executive Summary and Poster


June 14, 2023 - Author: Jack Greenstein, Michael Jones, Shruti Nahar, CJ Sivak

The Shiawassee Economic Development Partnership (SEDP) is interested in helping communities in Shiawassee County attract new development. They worked with the Shiawassee County Practicum team to create a development processes handbook that serves as a resource for interested developers and communities. This project utilized interviews with local government officials and comparative analysis of development processes to identify areas for streamlining, as well as noteworthy practices that can be leveraged by other communities.

Shiawassee County’s existing economic strengths are in Manufacturing, Education and Health Services, Trade Transportation and Utilities, Goods-Producing Leisure, and Hospitality. The proximity to Interstate 69, as well as larger communities like Lansing and Flint, make the county desirable not only to these commercial sectors, but also to those who work in other larger communities.

Shiawassee County contains 28 unique governmental entities and 17 distinct planning bodies, all with different attitudes and processes regarding new development. This project aims to identify areas for review and streamlining within the existing development processes in Shiawassee County, taking into account demographics and economic strengths.

Across these entities and bodies, the current situation is similar with regards to how they are running their respective jurisdictions. In interviews with planning professionals within 11 of these bodies, we found that:

• The majority provide their zoning ordinances, permitting procedures, site plan review application, and other documents online

• 60% contract employees through a private firm, while the remaining 40% hire employees directly through the local government

• The majority modify their zoning ordinances on an as-needed basis

• Many reported that undeveloped, city-owned, or affordable land was a strength in attracting new development

• A weakness reported by most jurisdictions was limited resources (i.e., manpower, time, money)

Four common development processes were reviewed to identify existing problems, existing strengths, and areas where streamlining between jurisdictions is possible. These were site plan review, rezoning, special use permitting, and variances. Key areas for review or streamlining are:

• Consistency of information across the zoning ordinance, application form, and jurisdictional website

• What information is provided regarding a development process in the application form

• Specification of submission modality (i.e., physical, virtual, or both)

• Timeframe for review and response by the designated body, as well as the submission deadline

From these analyses, we recommend:

• Provide form-fillable PDFs or a Word document that can be filled out by the applicant using a computer

• Making online forms and documents easily found on the jurisdiction’s website and that links to these documents are functional

• Include all information required to submit a complete application is included on the application form

• Shorten timeframes for responses on applications

• Make timeframes consistent across jurisdictions

• Implement methods of contact (i.e., phone, email, text) to notify applicants of upcoming meetings they need to attend

• Ensure that information is consistent across the zoning ordinance, jurisdiction website, and application form

• Implement a regular schedule of updates to ordinances

• Increasing the number of communities that are involved in being Redevelopment Ready Certified


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