Survey respondents want a rural atmosphere in Hinckley

by Chris Studor

With results of the community survey in, trustees are expected to adopt a memorandum of understanding which would add the survey results to the township’s comprehensive plan. It will then be up to the township zoning commission to make any amendments to the township zoning code fueled by results of the survey.

The survey results largely showed that residents favor maintaining the rural atmosphere of the township through limiting development and that residents favor adding design standards for all types of building.

During the past several months, a 14-member Citizens Steering Committee has worked to gather public opinion on the township’s comprehensive plan regarding such topics as conservation districts, senior housing, bringing water and sewers into the township and the types of future housing residents favor.

Trustees hired OHM Planners to do an audit of the existing comprehensive plan and work with the steering committee in gathering public opinion on areas of concerns and what questions should be on the community survey. Although the comprehensive plan was not due for the 10-year update for a few years, over the past 18 months, residents have been vocal about the need to update the plan sooner due to increased growth. OHM assisted in an audit of the comprehensive plan, outlining specific areas in need of an update.

At the final meeting of the steering committee June 14, Trustee Monique Ascherl said that trustees will need to examine each topic very carefully before they are presented to the zoning commission “because even though we now have the survey results, I have found that people interpreted some of the questions in different ways. It takes time for the zoning commission to work on any changes to the zoning code and it may require the zoning commission to have some additional meetings (the zoning commission now meets only once a month) to tackle all the issues before them.”

The township mailed out 3,319 township surveys in mid-May and 1,240 (approximately 37%) responded. OHM Senior Planner Arthur Schmidt said in his years as a planner conducting surveys in other municipalities, the percentage of return was high.

The most controversial question on the survey was whether residents would support additional conservation residential development in the township. The response was 73.1% against and 26.9% in favor. Conservation districts are housing developments that require a 100-acre minimum, sewer and water, and must have 50 percent of the acreage undeveloped with smaller lot sizes (smaller than the traditional 2 acre minimum) permitted on the remaining 50 acres. At the end of the day, there must be an average of 2 acres per home.

With regard to future development, residents said they felt would be appropriate for Hinckley, 96.4% said they favored single family homes; 20.8% supported conservation development; 20% wanted senior housing developments; and 4.6% approved of multi-family development (housing, apartments, condos, town homes) in the B-1 and B2 permitted on a conditional basis.

Pertaining to the current minimum acre lot size in the R-1 zoning districts, 69.3% said they wished the minimum lot size to remain 2 acres; 28.4% said they wanted an increase in lot size; and 2.3% said they wanted a decrease in the lot size. In the R-2 zoning district, the current minimum lot size is .75 acres and 65% of respondents prefer to see an increase; 34% want it to stay the same; and 1.1% wanted a decrease.

Of the survey respondents, 77.2 % said they would not support additional senior housing to be developed in the B-1 and B-2 districts and 22.8 % indicated they would support it. Additionally, 78% said they would not support skilled/care assisted living facilities to be developed in the B-1 and B-2 districts, with the remaining 22% in favor. When asked if they would be in favor of senior housing if specific design standards were created to guide the development, 68.5% rejected the idea.

When asked whether they support development the Historic Town Center of Hinckley, near the intersection of Ridge Road and state Route 303, 53.2% were in favor, with 46.8% against. Marcus Fischer, zoning commission chair, said the zoning commission is working on whether to make the Historic Town Center a separate zoning classification calling for specific building guidelines that addresses materials that can be used and building styles.

Bringing water and sewer into the township has been a hot topic at township meetings for more than a year. When asked if they would favor expansion of public water to the Town Center, 57.3% supported the idea while 42.7% rejected it. When asked if they would favor expansion of sewers in the Town Center, 51.8% said yes and 48.2% said no.

Residents also were asked if they would like to see Hinckley Township identify areas to preserve and conserve land through a “green space levy.” The response was 66.4% in favor and 33.6% against.

When asked to provide three words they felt described what rural meant to them, residents’ answers included scenic, neighborly, peaceful, uncongested, spacious, serene, wildlife, quiet, family, rustic, private, farming, bucolic and natural. ∞