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By Lisa Carolin

The annual Chelsea City Council’s visioning session on Feb. 7 at the Village Conference Center at the Comfort Inn was an evening of enthusiasm with the plans to back it up.

The annual event’s agenda included everything from council rules and committee responsibilities to economic development, transportation, and regional opportunities.

City Manager John Hanifan had a long list of projects to highlight under the heading of economic development. Among them were the Palmer event property, the dog park, which he said has attracted more than 30 users in a relatively short time, the Letts Creek Linear Park, and the Weber Field improvements.

Projects from the past 12-18 months that were mentioned included Gestamp, Golling Chrysler, the Garfield Substation Project, and the Rockwell Building.

The Parks and Recreation plan update included some of the projects scheduled to be completed in 2018-19, such as Pierce Park, and relocation and removal of the Veterans Park Ship. Both Mayor Melissa Johnson and City Council Member Peter Feeney spoke about the Border to Border Trail, which will have two upcoming components in Chelsea – the Iron Belle Trail connecting Werkner Road to Green Lake, which begins in March, and the Freer Road/Dexter-Chelsea Road connection.

Johnson talked about future programs such as business incubator and mentorship and said the city will be able to offer a team of people can call on when one is establishing a new business. She also talked about making the city’s website more user friendly.

Council Member Jane Pacheco asked about ChelseaMich and its relationship with the city. Hanifan said the website is active and the Chelsea Area Chamber of Commerce is seeking sponsorships and looking at it as a marketing platform for the community. The City Council discontinued funding to ChelseaMich, but there was discussion about investing in a staff community development person.

On the subject of transportation, Hanifan reported working on a traffic enhancement and safety programs. Johnson said that they have increased the dollars behind enforcement. She said that with 52 percent of Chelsea’s workers commuting out of the city and a lot of workers coming into Chelsea, it’s essential that there be more routes across Chelsea, given that there are just three ways to cross the city.

As far as proposed projects go, Johnson talked about traffic calming studies for Wilkinson Street, McKinley Street, Middle Street and Freer Road. She said that she’d like to make sure the city has a plan and budget for traffic safety and education.

There are two new committees the city has formed, one for Housing Research, and one for Sustainability Research. Johnson encouraged City Council members who act as liaisons between the various committees and the Council to report back at City Council meetings. Feeney talked about housing in the Chelsea community and the lack of affordable housing, including housing for young families.

When it comes to city goals and objectives, Hanifan suggested maintaining a comparative tax rate position in relation to other Southeast Michigan communities by adjusting the general fund, and taking a more active role in the Federal Screw Works Property redevelopment, “one of the last broken teeth on Main Street.”

He also suggested continuing the city’s conversion to LED street lights, and pursuing joint meetings with Sylvan and Lima townships to establish regional solutions for utilities, and specifically with Sylvan Township – to develop a regional partnership for a non-motorized path connecting the Westchester Farms community.

The topic of regional opportunities was also discussed – specifically how to include members from various commissions. Hanifan addressed discussions the City Council has had with Lima Township regarding the Wolf property, which consists of 44 acres at Old U.S 12 and Freer Road.

In conclusion, Hanifan told council members, “We want to be taking a more active role in our fate. That’s one of the strengths we have as a government is taking an active role instead of just accepting regional pressures.”

Pacheco said, “We have this tremendous opportunity to be a leader in what the next chapter looks like in Western Washtenaw County. We need to have the public engaged in that.”

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