2018-10-11 / Front Page

City green lights initiatives to attract, enhance business downtown

BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – City leaders have a vision for a vibrant central business district, and they’ve recently taken more steps toward advancing that vision and promoting economic vitality.

On Oct. 2, the Swartz Creek Planning Commission approved recommendations for changing the zoning ordinance to facilitate features such as outdoor dining and pickup windows, and ease some of the parking requirements. The City Council approved the recommendations Monday.

The changes simplify the planning process for new businesses by expanding the allowable property uses and reducing the number of required public hearings and permits, said Justin Sprague, vice president of Fenton-based CIB Planning.

In short, the changes roll out the welcome mat for future business owners hoping to set up shop, merchants interested in relocating downtown, and investors looking for economic opportunities.

They also help the city move toward Redevelopment Ready Communities certification, which will put Swartz Creek in line for state assistance in attracting new business and industry.

Highlights of the ordinance changes include:

Provisions for pickup windows for customers who have placed orders in advance, either online or by phone. The ordinance does not allow for menu boards or speakers for placing orders. Commission Secretary Jentery Farmer responded enthusiastically, commenting that online ordering is “good, because it’s so easy; and bad, because it’s sooo easy.”

Guidelines for sidewalk café dining. Outdoor dining will be allowed as accessories to established restaurants. Seating may be placed on sidewalks where space allows. “We want it to be clean; we want it to be safe; and we don’t want a lot of noise,” said Sprague. He suggested limiting outdoor dining to certain hours, but commissioners expressed concern about the impact that might have on bars. “We’re trying to attract a young, up-and-coming (demographic),” said Commissioner Dennis Novak. “Most patio bars aren’t uproarious, anyway. In most cases, it’s just a few people getting together for a cocktail. It’s a social activity, not a party activity.”

More leeway for shared parking. Business owners will be able to factor-in nearby public parking to meet minimum parking requirements which call for four spaces per 1,000 square feet of gross floor area.

Mixed use. Requirements such as setbacks were eased to accommodate the construction of multi-level, mixed-use buildings with commercial businesses or offices on the ground floor and residential space on all other floors.

“I’m glad to do these things that get government out of the way and make it easier to help people open businesses quickly,” said Novak.

Eric Jamison, co-owner of The Smoothie Shop, said the old ordinance stood in the path of many new businesses.

The changes are “exactly what a business owner likes to see,” said Jamison, who is renovating the former Trecha building on Holland Drive.

He said investors are more likely to consider locating in communities that “look to move forward and make change.”

“I’m glad we’re able to help the businesses,” said Commissioner and Swartz Creek Mayor David Krueger.

“Things are happening in Swartz Creek,” said Commissioner Kathy Ridley.

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