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Natural Features Protection Initiative Wins MAP Award as Overlay Work Continues

The City of Kalamazoo’s Natural Features Protection (NFP) initiative has been awarded the Environmental Planning Award by the Michigan Association of Planning (MAP/APA Michigan). The Award recognizes “efforts to create more sustainable and greener communities that reduce the impact of development on the natural environment and improve environmental quality.” This award comes as City staff work to further refine natural features protection in the city through a second phase of the NFP initiative.

During the most recent Master Plan update, residents made clear their desire for protection and preservation of natural features. In December 2018, the Kalamazoo City Commission approved a moratorium on building permits for properties with the Natural Features Protection designation in the Imagine Kalamazoo 2025 Master Plan. This moratorium was enacted to provide City staff time to create an NFP ordinance in collaboration with community members.

During the initial phase of the project, many community members noted that they would like to see the NFP overlay extend beyond what was laid out in the Master Plan’s Future Land Development Map. To meet the moratorium deadline, City staff proceeded with the community-approved Master Plan map, with the intent to launch a second phase of the project for more comprehensive mapping. Phase One concluded with the City Commission approval of the Natural Features Protection Overlay District in May 2019.

A broad range of voices helped shape the overlay including residents, property owners, conservation groups, developers, and environmentalists. The resulting ordinance and overlay district work to support the City’s goals in housing and economic development, while protecting the important ecosystem benefits natural features provide to the community. The ordinance does not stop development but requires thoughtful consideration and design to protect existing natural features on a site.

Phase Two of the NFP project launched in January 2020 with a mapping analysis to identify overlooked natural feature areas within the city Geographic Information Systems and spatial analysis were used to review slope areas, tree canopy coverage, wetlands, and waterways. The results of the mapping analysis were reviewed and refined by the NFP review board in July and are now available for community review and comment in a proposed new map. The current NFP Overlay District map includes just over 300 parcels. The new map proposes adding over 500 additional parcels to the NFP Overlay District.

Community members are encouraged to visit www.imaginekalamazoo.com/projects/nfp2 to review the draft map and share their input, or call (269) 226-6524 to leave a message. Maps for in person viewing and paper surveys are also available Monday through Friday from 9am to 3pm outside of the City Clerk’s Office at City Hall (241 W South St).

The deadline to submit input is Friday, September 18. All public feedback will be reviewed and considered for inclusion in the final map recommendation by the Natural Features Protection Review Board at the September 22 board meeting, which will be held virtually and is open to the public.

City of Kalamazoo

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