Awards presentation will be held at fall MAP meeting
Posted on 08/08/2023
Donna TinbergNorthville resident and volunteer commissioner Donna Tinberg is a recipient of the Michigan Association of Planning (MAP) Helen S. Willis Outstanding Commissioner Award. The annual award honors an individual who advanced or promoted the cause of planning in the public arena. An awards presentation will be held Oct. 4 in Traverse City as part of the association’s annual meeting.

Tinberg was nominated for the award by City Planner Sally Elmiger, of Carlisle Wortman Associates, with letters of support from city administration and elected officials.

Tinberg was appointed to the Northville Planning Commission in 2017 and became the Planning Commission liaison to the Board of Zoning Appeals in 2018. She has served as chair of the Planning Commission since 2021. By the numbers, Donna has attended more than 110 Planning Commission meetings, reviewed and acted on 40 development proposals, 30 ordinance amendments, and two master plan updates. As a BZA liaison, she has reviewed and acted on 47 cases and attended 33 meetings.

In the nomination, Elmiger noted that Tingberg “adheres to and advocates for the following principles: resident input, predictability in the planning process, and adherence to state and municipal law. She has been a champion of missing middle housing and walkability.”

Council Member Andew Krenz, a former Planning Commissioner, noted, "She is a dedicated servant to her neighbors and community that is motivated by dispassionate application of Ordinance and precedent in the spirit of providing substantial justice, even when the right decision can be unpopular, no matter the scale of what’s in front of her."

Of her role on the Planning Commission, Tinberg noted in an email, “The Downs definitely has been a challenging process for all parties – the PC, the developer and residents. My goal has been to keep the process transparent, courteous, and civil, so that we don't damage the important human relationships that really are at the core of what makes Northville a special place. We've truly tried to negotiate the most compatible project we can within the parameters of the state Planning Enabling Act and our own local Zoning Ordinance.”

She also cited the process used for the Master Plan updates, noting, “It was the first time we'd established a smaller ad hoc committee to bring ideas to the entire PC for action. That ad hoc group (in addition to Tinberg) consisted of Commissioners Thom Barry, Andrew Krenz, and Jeff Gaines. “The ad hoc group was really committed to providing meaningful opportunities for public engagement, a goal that was certainly put to the test when the pandemic hit in 2020! Despite those restrictions, we used creative methods, like virtual workshop opportunities, to garner public input on a future vision for the Cady Street, South Center, and Racetrack districts of the Master Plan. We've continued to use the concept of ad hoc work groups as we try to become more proactive with reviewing/revising certain sections of our ordinances.”

One of the most difficult decisions Tinberg said she faced as a member of the PC and BZA was a new project at 711 North Center Street. “Community input reflected strong and significant concerns, and, quite frankly, I personally agreed that the project was wrong for the specific area. The problem was, it met the requirements of our Zoning Ordinance.

“Balancing the rights of a property owner, the preferences of the neighbors, and the requirements of the ordinance can be a struggle,” she noted. “Ultimately I voted my conscience on the final site plan for that project and was in the minority, so now it's my job to move forward in support of the vote of the full PC.

“This is why we're trying to be more proactive in reviewing our ordinance language to be sure it accomplishes what it needs to for the community and provides us with the foundation to make good decisions in the future.”

Of her fellow Planning Commissioners, she said in the email, “Our members come from diverse backgrounds and are involved with a variety of volunteer opportunities that take a phenomenal amount of time, and they bring that depth of experience to the table at every meeting. We've worked hard to become more proactive, setting our own direction so the public can be assured that we are driving the dialogue and action rather than merely responding passively to information from applicants or our planning consultant. I think we've grown into a commission that can debate in a civil manner, pushing each other on issues and viewpoints, but always demonstrating personal respect.”

Mayor Brian Turnbull, noted, “Donna has consistently led in a professional and engaging manner, and her leadership role in the Northville Downs project along with various other transformational activities has made an impact on this community, which will last for decades. Without question, the next generation of Northville’s leaders will be thanking Donna Tinberg for her contributions.”