BEAVERTON – On Tuesday, Jan. 28, a Beaverton Town Hall meeting was held at the Beaverton Activity Center to present all projects planned for the future of Beaverton.
In 2018, Governor Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Talent and Economic Development brought a program called Project Rising Tide to Gladwin and Beaverton as well as nine other communities throughout the state. According to the Rising Tide website, the project was created to provide at-risk communities with the tools they need to design and build a successful economic framework by opening up the communities to qualify for state funding.
Beaverton has since formulated a Master Plan which collaborates all of the city’s plans for improvement. They also have regularly updated residents on projects that are included in the plan and what has been done with the latest grant money.
“Both feet and both hands are working consistently to try and make Beaverton a better place,” Scott Govitz, Associate Vice President of Workforce and Economic Development at Mid Michigan Community College said. “I can tell you that we have turned the corner but now we have an opportunity to go full speed.”
Govitz made the introduction at the town hall meeting, speaking to subjects that were covered by the multiple speakers present at the meeting. One subject that Govitz spent a lot of time going over was housing. The increase of housing in the area as well as the quality of living are crucial to the growing community according to Govitz.
The companies in the Beaverton area require a large workforce to maintain operation. The future of these operations rely heavily on the ability to protect the workforce population. As employees leave, Govitz worries how the companies will continue to bring others in without proper living for the area.
“What if we don’t have the workforce for tomorrow?” Govitz asked. “Where will that workforce live?”
According to Govitz, 40 percent of the workforce in Beaverton drives in and out of the city every day. Without the ability to house the people working in the city, Beaverton loses taxpayer dollars and local spending to help fund future projects outside of the limited government grant money.
Vice President and cofounder of a local property development company, Matt Lang announced a new addition to the city of Beaverton, an A&W restaurant that will open up in the old Comerica Bank building. The groundbreaking for the restaurant will be announced within the next couple of weeks, weather permitting, according to Lang. Each A&W store is part of a franchise, but is itself independently owned. Support for the new business will also support the local family who owns it.
Other than new businesses, creating future homes as well as paving roads and fixing any issues within the residential areas is a large part of the Master Plan. Single-family homes are a priority, although also creating non low income living as well as more senior living facilities are also part of the plan. There are currently five single-family homes in Beaverton that are in development.
As for fixing the already established homes, City Manager Heath Kaplan announced that Vista Administrative Assistant, Sharon Campbell went into every qualifying home in Beaverton and took photos of things in the homes that needed to be improved. An archive was created to keep track of serious issues in the homes.
A total of 13 homes were identified as homes that need immediate help. Kaplan stated that the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) offers loan money to qualifying homes in need and that the 13 homes in Beaverton would qualify. This would help the homes with appeal as well as providing fixes or replacements to things such as furnaces, air conditioning units and other necessities.
Making improvements to environmental concerns such as Ross Lake was a point that Kaplan also made sure to address. Richard Anderson was a member of the audience during the meeting and asked about plans to improve the water quality of Ross Lake. Kaplan responded by saying that the state has provided funding to figure out exactly where the contamination in the lake is coming from. In addition to the state funds, a new county-wide tax for the conservation district was established. These funds will help with dredging the lake and opening up water trails around the lake that were enjoyed by outdoor enthusiasts in the past. Kaplan also announced that more future money is going into the Ross Lake park.
Looking forward, Kaplan hopes to accomplish more with the downtown area. Specifically, he focused on parking. Improving the downtown parking will positively impact the local shops with more people able to find places to park and walk around. The Downtown Development Authority (DDA) is working on a multitude of projects to improve the downtown area such as; safer walkways, farmers markets, tree planting, improvements to sidewalks, musical events, and many more.
Restoration for the Beaverton High School track is another priority for the city. Dressing up the track, making it safe, and hosting future track events are all part of the restoration. Bringing more events to the track as well as the area in general will allow out of town people utilize local businesses and boost the city’s economy according to Kaplan.
A future idea Kaplan proposed was to put a farmers market pavilion in place of the current pavilion which will be upwards of quadruple the size of the current pavilion. When the pavilion is not being used by the community, it would ideally be open as the farmers market.
Some of Beaverton’s 2020 construction projects include Glidden Road, Saginaw Street, and Tonkin Street. According to Kaplan, Tonkin Street floods nearly every time it rains. He is aware of the issue being centered around a project in the 1980s which involved the city creating a deep ditch on the south side of the road and installing a 12 inch pipe for water displacement.
“That doesn’t come close to dealing with the amount of water we need to displace,” Kaplan said. “We’re going to have to reverse that engineering decision and put in a much bigger pipe, probably around 60 to 72 inch range to deal with that issue.”
Kaplan announced that Glidden Road will be completed in spring. The road is currently gravel, but will be fully paved once completed. Delays for continuation on the road have been due to the consistent rain over the area since the project began. The road was funded by a $1.5 million EDA grant from the Department of Commerce, an MDOT Category A grant, as well as UDA rural development grants. The project is entirely reliant on the grants and is not drawing any money from the taxpayers.
Money from the EDA grant will also be used in part to remove the iron from the local water. A small amount of rust has been found in the water supply and will be removed by the installation of a new plant. An iron removal plant will be placed next to the water wells near the bend on E. Brown Street.
Education and the community
Superintendent Joe Passalacqua announced a mobile app for parents as well as the community to see some of what the schools in Beaverton are doing. Passalacqua plans on improving the school system’s online presence.
“What we’re looking to do is to promote the awesome things that are happening daily,” Passalacqua said.
Designing new modern platforms such as the mobile app and the website is a way for the school systems to showcase their strengths to the world. Displaying pictures and captions online on a regular basis will create a new platform for parents to become more engaged with their child’s education according to Passalacqua.
Passalacqua discussed the Marshall Plan, which provides the school systems with funding in order to develop programs within the schools to transition students into a future workforce. Projects such as a stem plastics lab, a CAD lab with 3-D printers, and introductory programs for the students are all being funded and will be implemented in the schools starting as early as this fall.
Local businesses are being contacted as an aid to help the schools understand what sorts of things the students will be required to know in order to begin work. Passalacqua believes this will help in securing the workforce of tomorrow. Creating more opportunities for the students and staying open-minded to new ideas is something Passalacqua is dedicated to.
The Master Plan
Michelle Bennett is a trained community planner from the Rising Tide Initiative who was assigned to both Beaverton and Gladwin.
A key part of Gladwin and Beaverton being selected as a rising tide community is because of the poverty level. 31 percent of the population in Gladwin and Beaverton lived in poverty at the time the cities were chosen for the project.
The Master Plan is comprised of coordinated efforts by those in the community, expanding on areas that need to be expanded on while making sure not to shrink areas that need more growth.
The downtown area is being funded by the DDA and is, in part, a different plan altogether. The goals of both the Master Plan and the DDA are set to overlap to avoid any conflicting views for the city. The goal for the downtown area, according to Bennett, is to make it the social environmental hub of the city.
“We look at transportation, parks and recreation, economic development, and everything that makes up a city, we research it, and throw it into this comprehensive plan.” Bennett said.
A community engagement session as well as a survey were both conducted last year in efforts to receive information from the public on what issues need to be addressed by the program. Long term goals are laid out within the plan as well as the actions that need to be taken to achieve them. The goals are formed to be obtainable once the funding for the program ceases.
Bennett explained that schools are not a direct part of the project, but that it was a quick decision to create a relationship with the schools in order to promote the community to outsiders.
“While we can’t control the schools, one of the reasons why people choose to live where they do is because of the schools there.” Bennett said.
Drafting the Master Plan was a 63 day review process. It is available online as a public document on the Beaverton City Hall website for the community to read and review themselves. Regular reviews will be planned for the public to make comments on the projects. The next scheduled review for the plan will be in mid-February and will be open to the public for inquiry.
Bennett presented a Future Land Use Map that displayed the future intentions for the city and its zoning. The map was last updated in 1987 and is being rewritten both to update and to better appropriate the zoning needed to achieve the goals set by city.
All of the information as well as the visuals that Bennett presented on are available to view online at the Rising Tide’s website; www.mirisingtide.org.