Impact of comprehensive plan audit, community survey in limbo

by Chris Studor

This past summer, township residents were sent a community survey that noted how vital their opinions were in planning for the future of Hinckley Township.

Just weeks later, trustees are now divided on two issues regarding the entire matter.

The first issue is whether the community survey should be added, at a minimum, as an appendix to the 2015 Comprehensive Plan. The second is whether the suggestions made in the OHM memorandum contains items that aren’t already noted in the 2015 comprehensive plan.

Trustee Melissa Augustine said the agreement with OHM directs them to form a memorandum “which should be added to the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.” She said the results of the community survey “should at least be added as an appendix”.

“If we don’t do this, what was the whole purpose of the community survey and directing OHM to form a memorandum outlining what areas of the 2015 comprehensive plan needed updating?” Augustine asked. “The Citizens Steering Committee volunteered countless hours of their time in gathering public opinion for the survey questions and discussing areas for possible updating. I am very proud of their work and I think they did a wonderful job and I am very grateful to them.”

During the July 26 trustee meeting, Trustee Jack Swedyk said he was not in favor of adding the OHM memorandum to the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.

“[OHM] produced nothing in [its] audit that really changes what is already in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan but is saying township officials should get busy on what is already recommended in that plan,” said Swedyk. “As far as the community survey, I don’t think it should be added as a memorandum or appendix to the 2015 Comprehensive Plan, but rather stand alone as a separate document.”

Trustee Monique Ascherl agreed.

“I gave this a lot of thought and I think OHM failed to do what we hired them to do,” she said. “If we add the new community survey results, they will conflict in some areas with results from the community survey done in conjunction with the 2015 Comprehensive Plan. I feel that could cause confusion when a developer comes before the township and might give developers room to argue a case which trustees really aren’t in favor of and may not be in the best interest of the township.”

Trustees are expected to discuss in the coming weeks where the survey results belong and whether the OHM memorandum identifies areas which need updating that are significantly different from recommendations made during the 2105 comprehensive plan review.

Traditionally, a community survey is conducted every 10 years in conjunction with the 10-year update of the township’s comprehensive plan. The plan serves as a document to indicate how residents want their township to develop in the future. However, in 2021, the grass roots committee Keep Hinckley Rural urged trustees to push the process up a few years by arguing the township is growing rapidly and that development needs to be strictly controlled if the township is going to maintain its rural character.

In response, trustees agreed to conduct the next community survey earlier. Trustees also agreed to have OHM conduct an audit identifying specific areas needing updating in the 2015 Comprehensive Plan.

The survey results were intended to help OHM in conducting the audit and assist OHM in comprising a memorandum outlining specific areas of the plan that needed to be updated prior to the next comprehensive plan review slated for 2025. ∞