City Planner resigns to take job in Howell

January 23, 2008 by  
Filed under News

(January 25, 2008) Ypsilanti City Planner, Nathan Voght, has resigned to take the job as director of the Howell DDA. Voght had been the City Planner since 2001 representing the City at the Planning Commission, ZBA, as well as is in court hearings.

Voght, along with his wife, started Uptown Coffee in Howell in 2002 and lives in the Howell area. Voght served on the Howell DDA board and recently resigned to apply for the job as the new DDA Director. Vought’s last day in Ypsilanti is February 15th.

Voght had been the chief architect of the massive downzoning plan in the central district of Ypsilanti bordering the downtown and EMU that irked many property owners. The downzoning plan covered some 700 properties and was one of the largest downzoning plans in the United States. Properties owners protested the plan filing a petition with over 400 signatures and offering an alternate plan. That second plan was eventually adopted by the City and changes to the Master Plan and zoning code are still under way.

Recently, Voght, along with Planning Director Karen Hart, oversaw the zoning changes at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum. The Historical Society purchased the building from the City last year. The Society then embarked on a $250,000 project to repair and upgrade the facility including adding handicap access and making needed repairs long ignored by the City.

Almost immediately the Society ran afoul of City zoning ordinances. Despite the museum being in the same location for nearly 40 years, the City had created a non-conforming use but the City was exempt from their own rules. The City then enforced the non-conforming use immediately after they sold the property to the Society.

Voght had originally administratively approved the Society’s plan but was over ruled by his boss Karen Hart who in conjunction with the City Attorney John Barr ruled that the Society’s plans had to go before the ZBA and Planning Commission.

The Zoning Board of Appeals, where Voght represents the City and makes recommendations to the board, ruled that the Society must expand their parking lot from the current 10 to 16 parking spaces.

A second city board, the Historic District Commission, indicated that they would not approve any expansion of the parking lot though no formal vote was taken as the item was only a study item.

Then Voght appeared before the Planning Commission where Planning Commission ruled that the Society must reduce parking from 10 spaces to nine and install an island, curbing, and plant screening bushes and trees.

The Historical Society is still trying to resolve the conflicting orders from the three citizen boards whose members are appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council.

Voght is the third employee at City Hall to resign in the past month. Building Department Manager Charles Boulard resigned and so did Department of Public Works Director Bill Bohlen. Planning Director Karen Hart is the interim manager of the Building Department.

Hart said there were no immediate plans to replace Voght and will have to wait on direction from the City Council before anyone is hired. Hart’s planning department is reduced to two including herself. Richard Murphy, who staffs the Historic District commission is the lone planner in the department.

The planning department does have a new planner coming on board as a result of funding from the County and Michigan State University Extension Service. That planner will be housed at City Hall but will be limited in the number of hours they can work on city projects.


One Comment on "City Planner resigns to take job in Howell"

  1. rodneyn on Thu, 24th Jan 2008 6:46 pm 

    I wish you all the best in your new position, Nathan, and I’m glad that in your new position you will likely be able to avoid the need to amend or enforce zoning regulations. No one deserves the kind of stress brought on by the various downzoning schemes, the Mr. Pizza debate, the downtown church controversy, the historical museum Catch-22, the mini-storage proposal, Water Street, the various Walgreens’ site plan challenges, and so many other difficult experiences during your tenure as City Planner.

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