Niles City Council approves two public hearings in July

NILES – Two public hearings were set for July at the Niles City Council meeting Monday evening.

On Monday, July 12, the final Public Hearing for the City of Niles Master Plan is set to begin at 6 p.m. prior to the city council meeting. Later in the month, on Monday, July 26, the Niles City Council will host a public hearing beginning at 6 p.m. to hear public comments on the proposed program year 2021 Community Development Block Grant Annual Action Plan.

Niles City Council meetings will return to an in-person format in July. The meetings will be hosted in-person at the Niles City Fire Department, 1345 E. Main St., Niles. Virtual access will be available, though public comment must be given in-person.

The City of Niles Master Plan draft is available to be viewed on the Niles city website, at the Niles District Library and at the Niles-Buchanan YMCA.

Prior to COVID-19, the Niles City Council and Planning Commission had ideas for potentially scheduling ward-centric input meetings on the plan. However, outreach for input was eventually put in place a different way.

“We did lots of discussion around [COVID-19 restrictions potentially lifting earlier] and decided that we had sat on it and done quite a bit of input as we gathered information to prepare the master plan,” said Niles Community Development Director Sanya Vitale. “There was a robust conversation, and the planning commission decided to move forward with it.”

Vitale said the planning commission reached out via the local news media, social media and posted public hearing information across different formats.

“We sent out notifications by letter, as well as copies to our partner agencies and neighboring jurisdictions and received no comments at all,” Vitale said.

The city council approved the planning commission to seek feedback on March 8.

During the March 8 meeting, Vitale described the master plan as “a long-range, comprehensive guide for the physical growth and development of a community.”

Later in the meeting, the city council approved unanimously a request from the YMCA of Southwest Michigan for $10,000 in funding for the YMCA of Greater Michiana’s Summer My Way program. The funding will come from the city’s Community Development Block allocation.

“The [CDBG] Annual Action Plan identified afterschool and summer programs for youth among the most critical of needs,” said the council report prepared by Vitale. “Local and national research would agree that students experience of myriad of issues while school is not in session, which may be avoidable with the successful implementation of quality, out of school time programs.”

The report included concerns of increased crime, the “summer slide” or loss of academic knowledge and a deficit of social stimulation for children.

The Summer My Way program is hosted in Niles at Northside Elementary School over six weeks through the summer, and includes educational and physical activities for children enrolled in kindergarten through fifth grade.

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