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| 2 min read | by Sean Dalton |

The only remaining item on a heavily whittled down agenda for this week’s regular Chelsea City Council meeting involved hiring Northville-based McKenna Associates to assist city planners with updating the municipality’s zoning ordinances.

While updating ordinances are typically a fairly routine thing that happens in a piecemeal fashion as issues arise, this effort will be fairly comprehensive and run most of the rest of the year, as Chelsea pushes forward with becoming fully certified as a Michigan Economic Development Corporation Redevelopment Ready Community.

“We determined that McKenna’s approach was most in line with what the community development department needs,” said Community Development Director Julia Upfal. 
McKenna answered the city’s Request for Proposals issued on January 1, beating out competitors Downtown Solutions LLC, Beckett and Raeder, and Wade Trim with a process that Chelsea planning indicated would produce good results for meeting MEDC qualifications for RRC designation, which will lead to state assistance in the form of receiving technical and financial support for projects from the state.

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“The proposal from McKenna details an approach that will incorporate form-based code and recommendations from the MEDC RRC Best Practices into the new ordinance,” Upfal said in a letter included in the agenda. 

The city was understandably eager to approve the McKenna contract, as part of RRC involves the MEDC funding the new zoning ordinance creation to the tune of 75 percent up to $50,000. 

McKenna’s proposal came in with a $36,060 botttom-line and an eight-month estimated completion window over the course of which a public charette and training session for the city’s planning commission and city council will be held.

Despite Upfal’s expression of continued faith in the firm completing their work in the time presented in the proposal, Mayor Melissa Johnson indicated that the city would be flexibly given the circumstances of the current COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think with COVID-19, we’ve realized the timeline may have to adjust a little bit since the RFP was put out there and accepted prior to our current situation,” Johnson said. “I’m just recognizing that there may need to be some flexibility as we move forward.”

No representatives for McKenna were at the meeting due to Governor Whitmer’s actions to discourage gatherings and limit person-to-person contact, and as such Upfal offered to field questions as best as she can without company representatives present. She suggested that the council could table the action until a future meeting, which the council did not take her up on.

City Council-member Cheri Albertson inquired as to whether McKenna was the same firm she recalled from bids submitted in response to an RFP issued by the planning commission in the past, to which Upfal said they were.

Albertson said that McKenna was “very impressive” based on her recollection of their presentation to the commission.

“They had a very good grasp of the city as a whole,” Albertson added. “Some of us were disappointed that they were not chosen (for the past planning commission RFP), but I’m very glad that we have this opportunity to actually hire them (now).”

Johnson added that she was eager to see what the firm can do with the “very good base with (the city’s) master plan” to work with as a foundation for the work they will do.

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