The special meeting of the Dorr Township Planning Commission Tuesday turned out to be a contest between “what we’d like to see” and “what we fear will actually happen.”
The battle was the result of a serious question from Williams and Works Planner Nathan Mehmed about what the Dorr Township will look like by the year 2040.
About 20 people, most of them township officials, showed up at the visioning meeting, a part of the master planning process the township is undergoing. It follows a survey that attracted a lot of comments and visions from members of the community last year.
Perhaps the most striking example of the wishes vs. reality debate came near the end of the session when Township Trustees Chandler Stanton and John Tuinstra said they envisioned a safe, farm-friendly, low-density housing community 20 years hence. Planning Commissioner Brian Boot said he would like to see that as well, but predicted that Dorr Township will become a multiple industrial subdivision with plenty of residential development, particularly along 142nd Avenue, plagued by traffic congestion and urban sprawl.
Boot also insisted that Dorr is challenged by not having its own school district for the community to rally around for athletics and extra-curricular activities. Dorr’s loyalty is divided between the Hopkins and Wayland Union districts, which hurts solidarity and shared community feeling.
Yet another serious challenge is that the township is very close to Grand Rapids and Byron Center, and Kent County is making big plans to turn a site set aside for landfill into a state of the art recycling sustainable business park in Dorr.
So traffic, unmanaged growth leading to urban sprawl and becoming a bedroom community dominated concerns and challenges. Add to that worries about properties not well maintained and creating blight.
The community’s assets were listed as two nice parks, Dick’s Grocery and its sausages, small town charm and vestiges of good farm land, though it seems to disappearing in the local landscape.
Those who had ideas about what Dorr Township needs to do in the near future suggested an assisted living facility, an entertainment attraction, a fine dining restaurant and low density, family-friendly housing.
A big chunk of the fears about urban sprawl is the continuing encroachment of residential developments on farming parcels, which are finding it difficult to thrive in an increasingly suburban setting.
Mehmed said a master plan is a statement of policy, a guide for future land use, a blueprint for improving the way of life for any community. He said he and his comrades will take comments and findings to the firm for further review.