The City of Howell is embarking on a new year-long partnership focused on crime prevention, community engagement and planning.
Council met recently and heard a presentation on the “Designing Great Neighborhoods” program, before approving a memorandum of understanding for the project outlining roles and responsibilities. The program helps identify areas that residents enjoy but also potential areas where improvement is needed to increase safety through environmental design. It’s a partnership between the City, the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction (MSU SPDC), the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the MSU Extension Office in Washtenaw County. There is no required financial commitment from the City and minimal staff time required. The pilot program is being implemented in three communities – Howell, the City of Albion and the City of Adrian.
The project aims to engage residents in creating and preserving great places in Howell and address safety through changes to streetscapes, yards, sidewalks/alleys, roadways and landscaping among others. The project will incorporate “photovoice”, which encourages residents to take photographs of their favorite areas as well as characteristics of areas that might be a deterrent to safety and wellbeing. The photos will serve as a visual tool for things residents have attachment to or might want to improve in neighborhoods. The project came about as the Howell Police Department had previous conversations with the MSU SPDC regarding crime prevention through environmental design principles. The Department is behind the program, as crime prevention through environmental design fits with the community policing philosophy and provides an avenue for residents to bring things forward.
Policy recommendations will ultimately be made at the completion of the program and the timing is said to be good as the City will soon be embarking on the five-year update to the master plan. Community Development Director Tim Schmitt tells WHMI they’ll be meeting with city staff and partner representatives to establish parameters as part of the initial phase. Schmitt says they’ll be gathering public input on what people think about their community, how they perceive their community and safety and then gather photos. He says it’s related to perceptions of safety and another way to get some public input ahead of the update to the 2020 Comprehensive Plan. Schmitt says hopefully they get some good public input so they can then reevaluate goals and objectives as part of the plan comprehensive plan update and look at the city going forward for five years. Schmitt says they’ll hold an initial public kick-off in November where they’ll invite people to come in and learn about it before sending them out for a few months to gather whatever pictures they want to share of what they think about their community.
More information about the Designing Great Neighborhoods program is available in the attached Howell City Council meeting packet. (JM)