Council to review city’s recreation plan for potential state grants

By SHERRI KOLADE

Times-Herald Newspapers

HEIGHTS — By next week, the city could be a step closer to having a consultant develop a Recreation Master Plan.

Currently, the city does not have a Recreation plan, an eligibility requirement to apply and receive state and federal grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Recreation Director Kenneth Grybel said the next City Council meeting on Feb. 12 may decide whether the councilors will let the Recreation Department solicit a Recreation plan consultant.

“Once a planner has been approved by City Council, they proceed with the process of establishing a new recreation plan for the department,” Grybel said. “I have no idea who it will be.”

The Recreation Master Plan is intended to guide decisions affecting the future development and improvement of the city’s parks, recreation facilities and programs. The previous master plan was adopted in 2006 and expired in 2011.

The master plan creates a foundation for future park and recreation improvements, investments and policies that support a “healthy, desirable quality of life” for residents, according to a description of the last master plan.

Grybel said he has worked with several consultants since he started working for the city in 1986.

The city’s annual estimated recreation expenditure is $15,000. Grybel said $5,000 has been budgeted from the city’s Parks and Recreation, Tax Increment Finance Authority and Community Development programs.

If City Council approves the planner to make recommendations for the Recreation Plan, Grybel said a sub committee will be formed from people in the community working with the consultant. The Dearborn Heights Planning Commission will be brought in at the end of the process.

“They evaluate (the plan) to make sure there are not conflicts in the city’s overall plan,” Grybel

said.  “Once we completed (the Recreation Plan), it goes to the Recreation Commission.”

Councilwoman Lisa Hicks-Clayton said approving a recreation plan takes some time.

“If we start process now we are looking at August (or) September to be completed,” Hicks-Clayton said. “It is a timely process because there are so many steps.”

Hicks-Clayton said being able to qualify for grants is “first and foremost” to make the city marketable as a community.

“We want to attract new residents,” she said. “Let’s fill up the vacant homes and shop in Dearborn Heights and build up our business community … it all comes together.”

Once the Recreation Commission gives its input, the plan goes to the Planning Commission for approval or revision, he said.

If the Planning Commission approves the Recreation Plan it goes to the city council for approval, Grybel said.

After the Planning Commission has its say, a public hearing is held to officially present the plan and the recommended funding amount if it were to become available, he said.

“Then the public suggests what they would like to see,” Grybel said. “If there seems to be support, then it goes to City Coucil and maybe the (councilors) will add some things based on community feedback or their own concerns.”

Grybel said after a final agreement, the plan is approved and will be sent to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments and then to the state’s Department of Natural Resources.

“Once MDNR approves it, it becomes an official document we can use,” Grybel said.

The city Planning Commission recently reviewed the city’s five-year plan, adopted May 8, 2007, and it does not need to be revised, according to a statement from Hicks-Clayton.

      (Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)