White Lake Township is going the route of other municipalities within and outside the state of Michigan in transforming its zoning ordinance into a digital, interactive format. The endeavor is well worth the anticipated cost, since it will result in an online, searchable zoning ordinance that will be far more convenient and user-friendly than a traditional zoning ordinance book available only at the Township Hall.
White Lake is joining several communities that have embraced the “clearzoning” concept. Clearzoning is a subsidiary of Birchler Arroyo Associates, Inc., a planning and transporting consulting firm. The purpose of clearzoning is to transform municipal codes into visually appealing digital documents that better communicate ordinance regulations.
White Lake Township Planner Sean O’Neil said the finished product will be a much more user-friendly version of the township’s zoning ordinance. The online, digital ordinance will primarily benefit township residents and developers looking to do business in the township. Although the new ordinance format will likely be helpful to township staff and officials, too, O’Neil said the real motivation behind the project is to make the ordinance easy for residents and businesses to use.
The revamped, digital ordinance will include graphics and charts to make it more user-friendly for the average person, according to O’Neil. For example, he said the online ordinance will include an interactive map where the user can select a specific township parcel and immediately access all the information about the parcel’s zoning district and its regulations. O’Neil noted that users will be able to look up information from their computer at home instead of coming into the Township Hall.
The cost to implement the program is $32,700. The project is expected to be started within the next six months.
We suspect some people may scoff at the project when considering the nearly $33,000 price tag, but we think that will be money well spent. Anything the community can do to make best use of available technology to serve the public is worthwhile, especially at that relatively modest cost.
The clearzoning project will certainly make it easier for the public — including developers — to maneuver through and use the zoning ordinance. It will make the township that much more attractive to developers, who won’t have to send representatives to the Township Hall to pour over page after page of the ordinance book to find the information needed to do business in the community.
We’re glad White Lake is riding the first wave of what we believe will be the future of municipal zoning documentation practices, and we look forward to seeing the final product.