As a graduate student at the University of Michigan Ford School of Public Policy, my education have centered on health care policy and policies within health care systems. This fall, I had the opportunity to take a collaborative planning course through Taubman College. This experience further shaped my understanding of the planning process and the complex interactions of our physical and social environment. Over the course of the semester, our discussions included interest-based negotiations, consensus building approaches, stakeholder analysis, and facilitation and mediation. In addition, we discussed their intersection with issues of race, gender, values, and cultural diversity that bring life to the urban planning process.
Born in raised just outside of Ann Arbor, I grew up and am a proud supporter of Northfield Township. Over the past 10 years, I have seen my parents get involved in our local government and contributing to township politics. Northfield Township is a rural community that promotes farming, open space and embraces the natural elements of the environment including Whitmore Lake. Through the years, there has been interest in development to grow and improve our community. However, the newest wave of development would violate several measures of our 2012 Master Plan. If the township decides to move forward with this development, it will not only go against the wishes of the community, it will open the township up to future development and lawsuits. My experience at Taubman College gave me the resources to get involved and actively participate in the future of my community.
The current location for the proposal is on 460 acres zoned for medium density residential use, however, the development hopes to amend the Master Plan to allow for quarter acre lots, more than 1,000 homes. While this offer might appear beneficial to the community, I believe the current zoning accurately identifies the best use for this land, preserving the rich farmland and natural environment. As a student at Taubman College, I learned to appreciate the processes and measures of the planning process and the complex relationships between developers, elected officials, community groups and variety of other stakeholders. Through my experience, I gained the knowledge and tools necessary to understand and appreciate the Master Plan, the sewer study, traffic analysis, fiscal impact and environmental studies. These resources prepared me for discussions at the Planning Commission and Board of Trustee meetings that discussed the proposed development. While we were criticized for opposing growth in the community, we were able to separate our position from our interests and explain that we are not anti-development, we are against changing the Master Plan that reflects the community’s wishes. In fact we are in favor of development that meets the specifications of our Master Plan. At this point, no decision has been made about the development or drafting a new master plan, but the skills and knowledge I gained from participating in Taubman College will motivate me as I continue to stay involved and collaboratively shape the future of my community.
The University of Michigan values a multifaceted education experience and encourages students to take classes from a variety of departments. My experience in the School of Urban Planning broadened my knowledge of the planning field and gave me the knowledge and desire to get involved in my own community This experience was an invaluable contribution to my graduate experience and will inspire future involvement in my community.