Land Use Planning
- Ensuring safe and efficient transportation corridors
- Preserving farmland, open space, and scenic vistas and byways
- Enhancing the vibrancy, livability, and aesthetic character of urban communities
- Mitigating the impacts of development on water quality and quantity, and ensuring that new development is not negatively impacted by elevated water levels
The Land Use Planning Projects are categorized into Current Projects and Completed Projects.
Current Planning Projects
Completed Planning Projects
Current Planning Projects
The Spoonville Trail is a 3.5 mile north-south non-motorized pathway that will connect the Grand Rapids region to the shore of Lake Michigan, in a pathway network referred to as the “Grand Connection.” This is comprised of three trails: the North Bank Trail, the Grand River Greenway Trail, and the Spoonville Trail. The Spoonville Trail is key because it utilizes a non-motorized pathway constructed as part of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s M-231 Grand River Bridge crossing.
Construction of Phase I of the Spoonville Trail was completed in September 2016. This 1.8 mile pathway spans from North Cedar Drive to Leonard Road, incorporating the Sgt. Henry E. Plant Pathway located on M-231 over the Grand River. Construction of Phase II of the Spoonville Trail is anticipated to begin May 2018 and be completed by November 2018. This is the remaining 1.7 miles of non-motorized pathway that will complete the regional trail loop from Leonard Road to Nunica.
Ottawa County’s Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) Program is a voluntary program that preserves farmland by purchasing or receiving donations of the development rights from an actively farmed property. Landowners are compensated for lost development potential yet still own the land and retain all the other rights associated with it.
Over the last decade, Ottawa County residents and businesses have experienced issues related to groundwater, including reports of diminishing capacity and the presence of elevated levels of sodium chloride in some water wells.
In light of these issues, Michigan State University (MSU) was hired to conduct a comprehensive groundwater study for Ottawa County. This study confirmed the anecdotal reports: water levels in the deep bedrock aquifer system have been gradually declining over the last 20 years and, in certain areas of the County, sodium chloride levels in the bedrock aquifer are rising above recommended standards for drinking water and agricultural irrigation.
As MSU is wrapping up the comprehensive groundwater study, Ottawa County is in the process of developing a Comprehensive Groundwater Management Plan to help guide communities, residents, and businesses in sustaining our groundwater. The Plan will contain educational outreach materials, water conservation strategies, land use planning techniques, well-water monitoring procedures, and water and wastewater infrastructure expansion recommendations.
In the interim, an educational brochure and a written synopsis that cover “the basics” are provided below. A website is currently in the works that will include videos, educational information, and conservation strategies.
The Planning and Performance Improvement Department is developing a Countywide Build-Out Analysis utilizing a Geographic Information System (GIS). A build-out analysis is used to calculate the maximum number of structures that could be constructed on the vacant and partially built acres of a community given the current zoning ordinance, master plan and environmental constraints. From these calculations future population projections are computed. Next, the impact of future development and population growth is extrapolated for several factors. These factors include infrastructure capacity, demand and cost for public services, new tax revenue, and traffic volumes.
As a result of an innovative public-private partnership, more than 95% of the County's population has access to high-speed, fully-mobile broadband Internet. The deployment of the broadband network was the result of a unique business model between Ottawa County and iPCS Wireless Inc, (Sprint® affiliate company) that did not require the expenditure of public funds.
In exchange for enhancing and expanding high-speed wireless broadband service to the County’s rural areas, County and local officials, whenever possible, assisted with expediting permitting, zoning approvals, and site assessments that were needed to upgrade and expand the existing wireless network. County and local officials also assisted in identifying the locations of public structures in underserved areas of the County that could be utilized to install the broadband equipment and assisted in marketing the availability of the network in those underserved, rural areas.
Since the 2009 partnership, the Planning and Performance Improvement Department has continued its efforts to facilitate the expansion of broadband to the remaining underserved areas in the County. In May, 2011, the Department obtained approval to construct a new wireless tower in Robinson Township near Johnson Street and 120th Avenue (a previously underserved area). The tower is also strategically located near MDOT’s new M-231 Bypass. Two national wireless carriers (i.e. AT&T and Verizon) have agreed to co-locate their broadband equipment on the tower.
The Urban Smart Growth Demonstration Project is designed to demonstrate that an urban community can enhance its vibrancy, livability, and aesthetic character through the implementation of innovative planning techniques and community programs. By applying these techniques and programs in such a manner that they promote urban excitement and attractiveness, the results can be a "win-win" solution for developers, builders, architects, residents, visitors, and the community. Cities have an opportunity to attract and retain not only new residents to the community, but also those residents who are considering a move to the more rural areas of a county.
The Project involves the development of multiple highly-visual, graphic-based documents that will improve the ability of local leaders to plan for future growth and development. These documents include architectural design standards, a downtown-area master plan, a city-wide master plan, and a city-wide form-based zoning code. After an extensive selection process, the Ottawa County Planning Commission selected the City of Hudsonville to participate in the project.
Since establishing a partnership with Hudsonville, several innovative, award-winning planning tools have been developed for the City:
- Architectural Design Elements Portfolio (ADEP)
- Downtown Master Plan
- Downtown Zoning Ordinance
- Citywide Master Plan
The Michigan Department of Transportation and the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department worked collaboratively to construct the M-231 highway bypass. The M-231 bypass project is a multi-phase project designed to reduce traffic congestion and travel times, and improve emergency services in Ottawa County.
The first phase of the M-231 Bypass (M-104 south to M-45), connecting Crockery and Robinson Townships, includes the new M-231 Grand River Bridge. This is only the fourth bridge crossing in Ottawa County. Construction was completed October 2015. The bridge also includes a separated non-motorized pathway for cyclists and pedestrians to utilize as an alternative transportation route. The M-231 Grand River Bridge pathway has been named the Sgt. Henry E. Plant Memorial Bridge. The second phase of the M-231 Bypass project will connect M-45 south to highway 31 and M-121. The Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department is working collaboratively with the Michigan Department of Transportation to secure funding and finalize future plans and timelines.
The Planning and Performance Improvement Department coordinates the On-Staff Planner and Zoning Administrators ListServ. This e-mail inquiry service was established for local officials to obtain input from their peers of planning and zoning-related questions and concerns.
In December 1990, the Michigan Legislature passed and the Governor signed into law the State Survey and Remonumentation Act (P.A. 345 of 1990) which provided for the remonumentation of the original U.S. public land survey corners that serve as the basis for all public and private property locations in Michigan.
The Ottawa County Board of Commissioners subsequently adopted a “County Monumentation and Remonumentation Plan” pursuant to Act 345, of the Public Acts of 1990. The purpose of the program is to: A) Provide for the location, monumentation and/or remonumentation of corners on an expedited timetable; B) Create a system for the research of the history of all corners and horizontal and vertical control markers; C) Create and maintain a repository for all records pertaining to Public Land Surveys; D) Provide for a “perpetual maintenance program” for all corners and horizontal and vertical control markers; and, E) Provide for the location of, and a database for, horizontal and vertical control markers.
The Michigan Department of Consumer and Industry Services maintains a statewide Remonumentation Database that provides access to digital images, with print capability, of the Land Corner Recordation Certificates (LCRCs) filed with the State of Michigan by Michigan counties under the State Survey and Remonumentation Grant Program.
Completed Planning Projects
Farmland/Aesthetic Preservation Programs
This guidebook provides information planning practices that can be used to protect and preserve rural character, agricultural lands, and open space. A few regulatory and non-zoning planning practices discussed in the guidebook include, Overlay Zoning, Open Cluster Developments, Performance Based Zoning, Private Road Ordinances, Tree Preservation Ordinances, and Access Management.
This brochure, which includes a manure odor “scratch-n’-sniff”, provides useful information to help dispel misconceptions about country living while also providing background about the importance of farming operations, standard work practices, and Right-to-Farm laws. Because many potential country dwellers expect to escape the noise, traffic, and hassles associated with living in more populated communities, they are typically unprepared for farms that function at all hours of the day and night, operate slow moving machinery on country roads, and produce dust, noise, and manure odors. As a result, farmers are facing an increasing number of complaints, and in some cases lawsuits, from newly transplanted homeowners. A distribution partnership with realtors, financial lending institutions, mortgage lenders, and title companies will ensure that the brochure reaches the hands of potential new home-buyers before they actually move into an agricultural area. A Press Release, as well as the brochure, lists the following local distribution partners.
In 2007, the Planning and Performance Improvement Department worked with Spring Lake Village to develop innovative planning techniques that could help to regulate building height in the community. At that time, development in the Village resulted in building height and structural mass that many community leaders and residents felt detracted from the character of the community and which impacted views of the Grand River and Spring Lake.
To assist in the process of determining the types of buildings the Village would like to see in the community, the Planning and Performance Improvement Department crafted wooden building blocks that reflected an assortment of building types, height, and bulk. Utilizing the blocks in conjunction with aerial GIS maps local leaders were able to visually see how various building types and height could affect the character of the community and the impacts that certain buildings could have on views of the Grand River or Spring Lake.
The Tree Legacy Committee was reestablished in 2010 in light of concerns from citizens regarding tree trimming along scenic roads in the County such as Lakeshore Drive and Stanton Street. In March 2011, the Planning and Performance Improvement Department distributed a Proposed Tree Planting Policy to the Ottawa County Road Commission on behalf of the Committee.
The development of the Proposed Tree Planting Policy involved multiple field surveys to collect real-world measurements of tree distances from the centerline along Lakeshore Drive and Stanton Street (i.e. Legacy Roads) and separation distances between the roadway and separated pathways. These field data were utilized as the basis for the proposed minimum setback requirements. The proposed setbacks specify that trees may be planted along a designated “Legacy Road”a minimum of 23 feet from the road centerline in areas where there is an existing tree-line or where it can be demonstrated that a historic tree-line had existed, and a minimum of 28 feet from the road centerline in areas where there is not an existing or historic tree-line.
The Road Commission responded to the Proposed Policy by stating that it cannot add a new Legacy Road designation to their existing classification system due to limitations imposed by current legislation. As a result, the Planning and Performance Improvement Department along with representatives of the Tree Legacy Committee is working with local legislators to draft new/modified legislation that would allow Road Commissions to create special road designations, as well as to reduce posted speed limits along designated Legacy Roads.
The Ottawa County Countywide Corridor Plan was created in an effort to provide a framework from which to comprehensively plan for future traffic demand in the County and to preserve the aesthetic character of the County's overall roadway system. In order to accomplish the goals set forth in the Plan, it was decided that studies would be completed on each corridor to assess the need for future expansions, aesthetic preservation, and improved access management. The North-South Corridor Study and M-104 Corridor/Access Management Study have been completed.
Similar to the North-South Corridor study, this project involved extensive collaboration among local units of government to implement short and long-term recommendations for access management, aesthetic enhancements, right-of-way preservation, and corridor management to ensure safe and efficient traffic flow.
In 1991, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) purchased 24.5 miles of inactive railroad from the Central Michigan Railroad for recreational trail purposes. This includes a section of corridor east of 8th Avenue that runs adjacent to the Triick Family Farm. This particular railroad bed is a small section of an overall DNR plan to connect the Musketawa Trail in Ottawa County to the White Pine Trail in Kent County.
Because of the increasing demands placed upon the local transportation system and the complexity of transportation planning in the region, the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department receives numerous inquires regarding the administration and operation of Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in Ottawa County. In response to these inquiries, this report provides information regarding the following aspects of MPOs: creation and governance; statutory requirements; projects and services; and funding sources. In addition, the report explores the feasibility and practicality of utilizing different organizational models to deliver transportation planning services in the future.
This study outlines a plan for creating a countywide, interconnected non-motorized pathway system in Ottawa County. The pathway system, designed for bicyclists, walkers, joggers, and rollerbladers of any age and caliber, will help to enhance the quality of life for residents of Ottawa County and visitors to the county.
The North Bank Trail is a proposed 18-mile non-motorized pathway which is to be constructed along the former Grand Trunk Railroad corridor through the communities of Coopersville, Crockery Township, Polkton Township, and Spring Lake Township. The trail, as proposed, will provide connections to the existing Musketawa Trail and the trail systems located in the Tri-Cities. The Planning and Performance Improvement Department played a key role in preparing and submitting a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Trust Fund grant application for trail funding.
This study was conducted to create short and long-term recommendations for access management, aesthetic enhancements, right-of-way preservation, and corridor management to ensure safe and efficient traffic flow. The study area includes a geographic area from Jamestown to Coopersville. This project is one of the best examples of multi-jurisdictional collaboration in which the Planning Commission has ever been involved.
This study was conducted to determine where public transportation services are needed, the extent of demand that exists for services, the types of trips (medical appointments, governmental programs, employment, errands, etc.), for whom (handicap, elderly, youth) the services are needed, and when (times, days, seasons) the services are needed. The study also analyzes and determines all of the transit and alternative-transportation options that could be utilized to meet the County's transportation services needs. This includes the study of bicycle paths, light-rail, car-pooling, reorganization of existing public transit systems, creation of a new public transit system, and a combination of methods.
Right-of-Way Task Force
In May 2004, the Ottawa County Planning Commission appointed a Road Salt Commission to identify strategies that could be used to modify the Ottawa County Road Commission’s winter road maintenance practices. The objective of this effort was to prevent further environmental impacts related to the application of road salt. A road salt management plan was developed wherein the primary goal will be to reduce road salt use by 25 percent on a countywide basis over the next five years and by 75 percent in designated environmentally sensitive areas over the next three years.
This report analyzes multiple solutions designed to help reduce traffic congestion along US 31 between the City of Holland and the City of Grand Haven. The discussion of problems surrounding US 31 have been occurring since the early 1990s and the County recognizes that since this is such a controversial issue, complete consensus cannot be attained. Ottawa County understands that it is in the best interest of the County as a whole to resolve present and future problems on US 31. Therefore, the Ottawa County Planning and Performance Improvement Department and the Planning Commission have prepared the US 31 Staff Position Paper that represents a long-term solution beneficial to the County as a whole.
This Study was conducted to assess existing transportation services, determine the need for expanded regional commuter transportation services between major urban centers in Ottawa, Muskegon, and Kent Counties, and determine the feasibility of developing, implementing and operating a regional transportation network.
Based on the findings of the Study, the consultant recommended that the regional transit system not be implemented at this time. There were several factors that contributed to the final recommendation including, but not limited to, the following: Travel time on average would double for most commuters; Operational expenses would require local funds to sustain the system and there was little interest/ability for local units to contribute at this time; The most popular route (Holland to Grand Rapids) would generate an average of 9 riders per hour and all proposed routes combined would average approximately 5 riders per hour.
- Existing Conditions Report
- Needs Assessment Report
- Service Options Report
- Service Feasibility Report
- Final Report
This inventory provides an assessment of existing and proposed towers in the County that are registered with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). This information will assist local officials during planning efforts to identify future tower needs. Registered towers include those which are taller than 200 feet, those that may interfere with the flight path of a nearby airport, and towers which are voluntarily registered with the FCC. Also provided in the inventory is an assessment of other identified towers in the County that do not require registration with the FCC. The inventory includes a map that identifies the location of each tower, tower height, and whether the tower has been constructed or was pending construction, as of November 2007. A supplemental attachment is also included that identifies the ownership of each tower included in the inventory.
If any towers, registered or unregistered, are not included in this inventory, please feel free to email the tower ownership, height, and location to email@example.com
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), and several other local and state agencies have been working to update the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) for Ottawa County. The updated FIRMs will include a revised 100-year floodplain based on recent studies and field observations. This work is being done as part of FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) Map Modernization Initiative.
Due to the numerous agencies and organizations involved in this lengthy and detailed process, the Planning and Performance Improvement Department has been working closely with the project consultants in an effort to provide routine updates to local units of government regarding the status of the project and other critical deadlines.
On August 31, 2008, Robinson Township's $6.2 million Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) Grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) expired. The Planning and Performance Improvement Department assisted Robinson Township in applying for the PDM Grant in 2004, which was awarded in September 2005 for the purpose of acquiring flood-prone properties along the Grand River in the Limberlost Lane and Van Lopik Avenue neighborhoods.
Following the award of the grant, Robinson Township entered into an agreement with the Planning and Performance Improvement Department to provide assistance in administering the grant. The Planning and Performance Improvement Department assisted Robinson Township in the process of selecting demolition contractors, managing the on-site activities, and applying for reimbursements for project-related expenses.
This initiative was designed to seek opportunities to enhance regional economic development by studying the demand, affordability, and accessibility of high-speed broadband internet, especially for low and moderate income residents. Included in the plan were a Needs Assessment for local businesses and residents, and an Internet Service Provider Study. Ottawa County has not relied exclusively upon the findings of the Plan in developing its response to the need for expanded broadband internet access.
This report is a comprehensive study of the natural hazards that have confronted Ottawa County, as well as those that have the potential to occur in the future. The Hazard Identification and Assessment section describes in detail the natural hazards that have the potential to occur in Ottawa County. This section is divided by hazard, and contains the following information for each hazard: 1) a hazard description; 2) historically significant hazard related events in Ottawa County; 3) state, federal or other organizational programs and initiatives that exist to mitigate the hazard threat; and 4) a summary of potential impacts from the hazard. Records of the National Weather Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Michigan Department of State Police Emergency Management Division, newspapers, and numerous other federal, state, and local agencies and private organizations were used as sources for the data presented.
Upon completion of the Hazards Analysis Report, a Hazard Mitigation Plan
was developed in conjunction with the Ottawa County Emergency Services Department
and with the support of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The purpose
of the plan is to implement proactive steps that are designed to reduce
property damage, save lives, and accelerate economic recovery in the unfortunate
situation that Ottawa County is faced with a natural disaster. The original
Plan was completed in 2002 and has since been updated by the Emergency Services
A current version of the County's Hazard Mitigation Plan can be found here:
Hazard Mitigation Plan
The Ottawa County Wind Energy Symposium was held on Thursday evening, June 5th, at the Grand Haven Community Center. The Symposium was a joint effort of the Planning Commission and Michigan State University Extension, and was undertaken to provide practical information to local officials and interested residents on the use, cost, practicality, types and siting of large and small wind energy facilities. The level of interest in this event was extremely high and it is estimated that between 375 and 400 individuals attended. Nine vendors also participated, two of which had actual wind turbines on display.
Featured speakers included Stephen Hamstra, Executive Vice President of GMB Architects/Engineers, who described how wind is converted to electricity, the basic components of wind turbines, and what regions in the County are best for using wind power according to local wind maps. Michael Ford, Renewable Energy Business Unit Manager for Cascade Engineering, discussed several different types of wind turbines and touched on what types are most appropriate for specific applications. He also discussed some of the differences between residential, and business applications, in terms of cost, amount of electricity generated, and maintenance requirements.
Dr. Stephen Harsh, professor of agriculture economics from MSU, spoke on what to consider when leasing land to a utility company to site one or more wind turbines, and the impacts of these larger facilities on farming operations. This was of particular interest to those representing the agricultural community. David Koster, Operations Director of the Holland Board of Public Works, presented the public utility perspective and described existing and proposed laws dealing with wind energy. He also discussed net-metering and the issues that must be considered before excess electricity can be sold back to the utility company. The last speaker of the evening was Michael Klepinger, author of the MSUE publication, "Michigan Land Use Guidelines for Siting Wind Energy Facilities". He discussed what issues should be considered by local governments when incorporating wind turbines in their regulatory framework.
A downloadable version of each presentation is provided below.
This guidebook was created to provide local units of government in Ottawa County with recommendations, best management practices, sample ordinances, and other recommendations to assist in the development of regulations for floodplains.
This Model Ordinance provides a framework that local units can draw from in order to implement zoning standards for wind energy that are appropriate for varying turbine sizes in their communities. The Ordinance is one of the first in the nation to establish size appropriate regulations for small, medium and large turbines.
Under the Ordinance, small structure-mounted and small tower-mounted turbines are permitted by right in all zoning districts. Additionally, medium and large or utility wind turbines are allowed by special use permit only in non-residential areas. The Ordinance also provides regulations intended to protect neighboring landowners from any negative impacts of wind turbines, such as noise, tower failure, and shadow flicker which may be caused by the blade rotation of larger turbines.
The Ordinance was developed by the Ottawa County Planning Commission in conjunction with the Michigan State University Extension Office.
This study was developed to show the potential benefits and costs of utilizing Constructed Wetlands to treat intensive livestock odors, and to reduce nutrients in livestock wastes to agronomic levels. The study determined that intensive livestock solid waste was too voluminous to be treatable in this type of system.
This study was developed to show the potential benefits and costs of utilizing Constructed Wetlands to treat septic system waste on residential sites. A demonstration project has been operational for over two years at a site in Crockery Township. The Ottawa County Environmental Health Department has been collecting data to determine the system’s effectiveness. This new system could potentially replace failing septic systems in Ottawa County and provide an alternative when other traditional treatment options are not available.
It is the County’s intention to prove that these systems can provide waste treatment (not just passive storage) for multiple residences in rural residential subdivisions; thereby allowing cluster developments, which will increase open space and the preservation of rural characteristics. Implementing these types of treatment systems would reduce the need for costly sanitary sewer extensions in rural areas.
This Project was a collaborative partnership between Ottawa County, Blendon Township, and several private sector partners, which included Scholten and Fant Attorneys at Law, Landscape Design Services, Inc., Bosgraaf Development, Eastbrook Companies, Rob Robbins (land developer and attorney at law), MarkTech Inc., and the Land Conservancy of West Michigan. The purpose of the project was to demonstrate that townships in the midst of rapid development could preserve rural character through the implementation of innovative, market-oriented, planning techniques. Ottawa County contributed 80% and Blendon Township 20% of the total cost to update the township master plan and zoning ordinance as part of the project.