Niles Master Plan to seek initial approval

NILES – At Monday evening’s Niles City Council meeting, council members will vote on whether to approve or reject the City of Niles Master Plan. If approved, it will allow the current, proposed version be viewed by the public, where they can give feedback and their own recommendations before it is adopted.

According to Planning Commission Chair Rodrigo Correa, the number one priority with the city’s master plan is to define what the city should look and feel like 10 years from now.

If approved, the draft of the Niles City Plan will be available to view on the Niles city website, at the Niles District Library and at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA.

While the planning commission’s job is not to approve specific businesses, but rather to ensure the builders and owners are working within codes, Correa said the master plan’s input period is a time when residents can voice what they would like to see more or less of in their community.

“We can go on record elevating the concerns of constituents,” Correa said. “It’s really up to people to speak to their city ward representatives.”

In the case of the Niles Master Plan, if it is approved, there will be a public comment period including public hearings scheduled. Information will be sent out through utility bills,  the Greater Niles Chamber of Commerce, the city website, Mayor Nick Shelton’s Facebook page as well as radio spots and public notices placed in newspapers to reach community members who would like to view the documents and weigh in with the planning commission.

“[We will] send copies to contiguous local governments, Berrien County and the Berrien County Planning Commission, the Southwest Michigan Planning Commission to get their reviews,” Correa said. “We try to create harmony between municipalities.”

Categories within the master plan, according to the Niles City website, include: transportation and street design, public services and facilities, parks and recreation, natural resources, historic and cultural resources, neighborhood and housing, economic development and land use and zoning.

Features in the Niles community, including the “urban forest,” where trees are intentionally placed throughout the neighborhoods and downtown, are an example of just one of the many things noted in the master plan.

Correa said the plan has the power to “augment our people.” Public health is a factor to many decisions within the plan.

The last update to the master plan was made in 2013.

“We want to help make our city more health and more productive,” Correa said.

The Niles City Council meeting will be hosted virtually on Zoom at 6 p.m. on Monday. The link to join is available on the Niles city website.

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