Residents focus on backyard chickens, economic development in master plan talks
City of Ypsilanti resident Jen Whaley is in the process of buying a home and moving her family to Ypsilanti Township.
But there’s one issue - her family includes backyard chickens.
As of now, township residents aren’t allowed to have chickens or other livestock on parcels less than 5 acres.
At a public input session for the revision of Ypsilanti Township’s master plan Whaley attended on May 20, she said she was seeking a change to those rules.
Whaley said people in the city love her chickens and, contrary to the argument against them, they don’t attract rodents or make a lot of noise.
“It’s just like any other animal - if you take care of them, then you’re going to be fine,” she said.
Twice in the past 18 months, township ordinance officials have had to respond to complaints over poultry in dense residential areas. The issue drew a large number of supporters to a Board of Trustees meeting.
Township Planner Joe Lawson says he is carefully reviewing the ordinance and researching the issue.
New guidelines built into the master plan would give Lawson a way to develop a land use ordinance that would allow for chickens on smaller plots.
“Am I in favor of allowing them on less than 5 acres? Absolutely. Am I in favor of allowing them on a 50 by 100 (foot) lot? I need to do more research on it before I am comfortable with that,” he said.
Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com
West Willow resident Linda Mealing also attended the public input session. She liked the ideas planning officials presented for spurring commercial growth along Washtenaw Avenue, East Michigan Avenue, Whittaker Road and Ecorse Road.
The township has lost 30 percent of its taxable commercial value over the past six years.
Along Washtenaw Avenue, the principles of the Reimagine Washtenaw project are being wrapped into the township’s master plan.
The project is attempting to transition the corridor from auto-orientated development to development that encourages people to walk or ride their bicycles. Planners are envisioning dense, mixed-use development on smaller lots.
Some of those ideas are being built into re-zoning along the township’s other three main commercial corridors.
“These are gateway corridors to the community and you want them to be attractive and viable,” Lawson said. “If you enter the township via one of those corridors and it’s run down, people don’t want to stop or avoid the area all together.”
Mealing said she appreciated that planners were considering more than just motorists in their plans.
“I like the idea they have for the corridors and I like that they are considering different types of transportation, she said. “It’s friendly and inviting.”
Greg Crist had similar thoughts to Mealing.
“Those areas definitely need to change and need some new growth, so it’s good that they are seriously thinking about how to do it and also thinking about how to make it more accessible to people who might be taking the bus or riding their bike or walking,” he said.
But Lawson said the area’s infrastructure is the biggest challenge to making it more accommodating to pedestrians. The public right-of-ways are so narrow that it’s difficult to install bike lanes and sidewalks in some areas.
"When those corridors were built 50 to 60 years ago, they weren’t taking into consideration multi-modal transportation,” Lawson said.
The township is particularly focused on generating dense development along the Whittaker Road - Huron Street corridor. Lawson said the township isn’t trying to build a downtown, but the hope is to attract similar development.
He said there are relatively few restaurants or entertainment venues in the area to serve more than 30,000 residents on the township’s southside, so planners are hopeful to attract more such businesses.
Part of the master plan revision discussion has also included development of a commercial area or restaurant on Ford Lake. Right now, most of the lake is designated for residential use or developed, but one parcel that won’t allow for dense residential due to its proximity to Willow Run Airport could be rezoned commercial to allow for a lakeside restaurant.
Lawson also said marinas are a possibility, but Ford Lake is generally surrounded by bluffs, and parts of it are too shallow.
The township will next draft a revised master plan which the planning commission can recommend the township Board of Trustees approve. The Board of Trustees will then have a final vote on whether to approve it.
Lawson said the planning department is working on posting its plans on the township’s website. There will be an interactive feature that will allow residents to discuss what they like and don’t like in the township, and updates will be posted the township’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at firstname.lastname@example.org.