Proposed Zoning Ordinance Changes & Survey

As some of you may know, the City of Grand Rapids is proposing another round of Zoning changes as it has already passed through the Planning Commission. We would like your feedback prior to it going before the Committee of the Whole and encourage you to read through the information and to let your commissioners know your thoughts as well. If you have questions please feel free to contact us or your neighborhood organization (We can connect you with them as well) for information on the proposals. This is a summary.


To learn definitions of the terms used, go to the Definition section near the bottom of this page.

In 2015 formed the Great Housing Strategies - A group of about 200 people (residents, other leaders city wide) participated. From the recommendations made from that created Housing Now which consisted of a commissioner and 30 people who participated broken into groups by subject. From there further recommendations were made. Click on the Housing Now! button to the right to read the Recommendations #3, 6, 8 & 9. 

Potential Impact on the City:

Westside of GR

Leonard St. View Showing in blue the 500 ft. buffer.

Bridge St. View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

O'Brien View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

West Burton St. View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

Full Map from the City of GR:

City Map with 500 ft. buffer.

Eastside of GR

Aberdeen St. View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

East Leonard St. Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

East Fulton View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

East Burton St. View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

28th St. View Showing in blue the 500 ft. Buffer.

NOTE: New maps by neighborhood are being added!

Data maps

Below is an interactive page of data created by the city to show potential impact and other information. You can click on the individual neighborhoods to get additional info on just your neighborhood.

Past Engagement/Open Meetings:

There were 3 public meetings at the beginning of this year that were held. The first at West Grand Neighborhood Organization 1/8/2018, another at DA Blodgett-Saint Johns 1/9/2018 and the last was held at Alger Middle School 1/10/2018. These meetings were open to everyone, and were intended to provide details about proposed zoning ordinance language intended to address affordable housing efforts. The meeting was not a public hearing. a public hearing was scheduled for the January 25, 2018 Planning Commission meeting. Amendment language and other information is still available for review online at (Recommendations #3, 6, 8 &9) The residents at the meetings were shown the proposed buffer zones that had 100 ft. 300 ft. and 500 ft. limits for By Right Development. West Grand Neighborhood Organization was able to live stream the Q & A portion of the meeting on their Facebook to the right: 

On January 25th the Planning Commission met and discussed the proposals (See the meeting here: Watch from the beginning of that video as they had some technical difficulties and it jumps right into the subject. From what we understand, there were close to 49 letters of opposition to some of the recommendations and 3 letters in support. You can see the full Planning Commission agenda packet for the 1/25/2018 meeting (which includes those letters) and the minutes which are Public Record and available on the City's website: City Planning Commission

The outcome of the Planning Commission was that they passed the recommendations and even raised the footage of the "By Right" development from 100 ft. to 500 ft. We are updating information on this page regularly.


In order to know our residents thoughts in the past few years since the Master Plan was created in 2002, we have looked to other documentation created with community engagement and surveys we have done in person, by phone, email and more. We have included links to the Master Plan, the Westside Area Specific Plan, the U to the Zoo Area Specific Plan and another plan that had echoed some of the same concepts was the GR Forward plan.

  • City of GR - Master Plan (2002) - Over 200 meetings were held with residents for this plan, with over 3000 people in our city.
  • Westside Corridor Improvement District (2014) - The Westside Steering Committee was formed as a direct result of the previously completed Area Specific Plan (“ASP”) and the current one under consideration, and included stakeholder members representative of the Stockbridge business district, West Fulton business district, and West Leonard business district as well as resident input. Neighborhood Ventures was approached by the Steering Committee to prepare a proposal to establish a Corridor Improvement District that would comply with policies set forth on the neighborhood economic development tool and compliment the work described in the area specific plans. The outcome was a comprehensive proposal created after multiple stakeholder and neighborhood work sessions focused on revitalizing the commercial corridor to the benefit of the surrounding neighborhood. Note from the plan indicated in the section called "Development Plan:" "(n) Creates an outreach and coordination mechanism at the neighborhood level for City‐ financed projects." and "(o) Creates a public‐private partnership with the City that enhances community neighborhood input to improve the district." Every CID Plan has this same language.
  • Westside Area Specific Plan (ASP) - Final Draft (May 2015) This was done by WGNO/JBAN/SWAN residents & stakeholders started in 2012 but finalized in May of 2015. There were over 14  meetings (not including the Westside Corridor Improvement District plan which was crafted concurrently). Over 180 residents were engaged (not including 100+ who attended a bilingual engagement presentation at Harrison Park to parents and children). (See Pages 7 & 8 for the Summary of the Process)
  • GR Forward - Info/Recommendations/Public Comment (Spring 2014-Fall 2015) WGNO/JBAN/SWAN residents participated. However, 4,400 citizens, businesses, institutions, developers and other stakeholders directly shaped this strategic plan in dozens of public meetings. Many of these meetings were also held at schools with bilingual engagement with Spanish speakers attending.
  • U to the Zoo ASP - Revisions (October 2013) This was done by SWAN/JBAN residents & stakeholders. Over 50 people attended at least one of the meetings but one of the things mentioned in the planning pricipals was "Maintain communication with residents about change in the neighborhood."
  • All Others: 
  • ASP Documents on the City Website: ASP's


    South Division Plan Development Plan (In Progress)

    Belknap Neighborhood Specific Plan (Adopted February 23, 2010)

    500 Lafayette Design Intent - NOBL Review (March 2016)

    MOBL NOBL Design Charrette (August 2006)

    Boston Square Area Specific Plan (Adopted May 25, 2010)

    Grandville Avenue Area Specific Plan (Adopted April 25, 2017)

    Heritage Hill Area Specific Plan (Adopted 1988, updated in 2005)

    Heritage Hill Area Specific Plan (Update 2005)

    State Street Corridor Area Specific Plan (2014)

    U To The Zoo Plan (Adopted October 23, 2012)

    Brlkyaat Development Plan (Adopted July 20, 2007) - Midtown

    Monroe North Area Specific Plan (Adopted February 23, 2010)

    Monroe North  MNRTF Acquisition Application

    North East Beltline Joint Development Plan (Adopted 1998)


    Planning Study

    Wealthy Street Business Alliance (WSBA) Position Paper on Ground Floor Offices (2016)

    WSBA Position Paper Map

    Westside Area Specific Plan (Final Draft Adopted May 12, 2015)



Please take the following survey and let us know your thoughts on each recommendation. We will share it with the city commission. We ask for contact information to keep the integrity of the survey but will not share it beyond that. This is open to ALL residents of the city of Grand Rapids. Remember, Click on the Housing Now! button to the right to read the Recommendations #3, 6, 8 & 9 prior to changes made by the Planning Commission. Below the survey is a list of meetings if you would like to wait and learn more at the meetings.

Name *
Address *
Please enter your address.
Please enter "Zoning Ordinance Survey"
Resident or Business Owner? *
Let us know if you are a resident or own a business in the city of GR or both!
Recommendation #3 *
Recommendation #3
Incentives for small scale development By Right. Now up to 500 ft of a TBA, TOD, TCC or C Zone District. There is also no design standards manual even though the City Planning recommended it.
Recommendation #6 *
Recommendation #6
Density Bonus.
Recommendation #8 *
Recommendation #8
Allow Accessory Dwelling Units (ADU's) By Right.
Recommendation #9 *
Recommendation #9
Non-Condo Zero Lot Line Units By Right.
If you have Additional Comments enter them here! Including if you have specific issues with one or more Recommendation.

Upcoming Community Meetings

Through a collaborative effort, neighborhood organizations in the City of Grand Rapids are working together by planning community meetings to discuss these changes. All residents are welcome to attend these meetings. 

Residents are encouraged if they cannot attend one of the meetings to contact their neighborhood organizations.

We will post dates/places as we get them. Stay tuned as there may be more added later!

See below for past meetings and info given.

Garfield Park Meeting will be held on Monday, March 26, 2018 7:30 PM - 9:00 PM at the Garfield Park Community Gym - 2111 Madison Ave. SE Grand Rapids, MI 49507 See details on Facebook at: Garfield Park Meeting

Community Meetings Past

Community meetings are being held through a collaborative effort by multiple neighborhood organizations in the City of Grand Rapids as an informational session on the proposed recommendations with surveys available to residents matching the one on this page.

The Southeast Meeting was held on February 17th, 2018 1-3 PM @ Seymour Church It included:

  • Translation for Spanish speakers was available if needed.
  • South PowerPoint Presentation
  • Q & A
  • Residents from multiple neighborhoods attended.

The Westside Meeting was held on February 17th, 2018 4-6 PM @ West Grand Neighborhood Organization (415 Leonard St. NW Grand Rapids, MI 49504). It included:

The East Meeting - Monday, February 19, 2018 6 PM - 8 PM @ Trinity United Methodist Church (1100 Lake Drive SE Grand Rapids, MI 49506) It included:

The Northeast Meeting was held on March 12th, 2018 6:30 PM-8:30 PM @ Creston Christian Reformed Church (238 Spencer St. NE Grand Rapids, MI 49505)

  • PowerPoint by the City Planning Department on the proposals.
  • PowerPoint by Steven Wooden about the proposals.
  • Presentation by NOBL about their ASP and how the changes would affect it.
  • Q & A
  • Residents from multiple neighborhoods attended.

Latest News:

The City Commission voted on February 20, 2018 to hold a public hearing for March 27, 2018 at 7 PM, it is important that we spread the word to neighbors to make sure they are aware. The public Hearing will be at City Commission Chambers (9th Floor) - 300 Monroe Ave. NW Grand Rapids, MI 49503 The City of Grand Rapids has put together some data (including a 116 page document) at the following link: Housing Now! data 

If you would like to see the agenda items involving the recommendations from the Feb. 20 Commission meeting go to: Committee of the Whole Agenda 

(Look for D. COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE and scroll down to 9. 87467 : Resolution setting a public hearing to consider Zoning Ordinance Text Amendments relative to the implementation of Housing NOW! plan Recommendations #3, #6, #8 and #9)

If you would like to see a PowerPoint presentation made by the City of Grand Rapids Planning department on the zoning recommendations go to: Community Zoning Discussion

There is a Facebook group discussion:

(Must be a resident of the City of Grand Rapids to join the discussion group below)

 Community Response - Housing Now! Recommendations

Next steps - What can residents do now?

Our friends at Eastown Community Association put together a list of great things you can do to be involved.

NOTE: The PowerPoints from all meetings were similar except for the maps and the east meeting due to updated information. The maps were tailored to each area. All maps are available on this page. A list of Common Planning/Zoning terms are below.

Common Planning/Zoning Terms

Below is an important list of terms that are used in some of these changes from the City of Grand Rapids website and others:

District Definitions

(More will be added):

City Center (CC) - The intent of this District is to maintain and enhance the vitality of downtown, reinforce its intense development pattern, provide compatible services near one another, allow diverse uses, and keep older, often historic, buildings in viable use. The compact development pattern of downtown establishes a pedestrian-oriented and transit-friendly environment. The City Center Zone District stresses pedestrian circulation, urban and civic design, protection of natural features, and encourages the reuse of existing buildings.

Commercial Zone District (C) - A Commercial Zone District (or C) accommodates vehicular traffic with pedestrian safety in mind. The C Zone encourages mixed use commercial areas with a residential component.

Traditional Business Area (TBA) - The TN-TBA Zone District is designed to reinforce a pedestrian and transit friendly environment in a compact area characterized by a mix of uses. New development on primary and secondary street frontages shall be compatible in use and scale with surrounding, existing uses and structures.

Transit Oriented Development (TOD) - Used in moderate to higher density development located near major transit. It's main use is where design and orientation facilitate transit use.

Transitional City Center (TCC) - The Transitional City Center is the buffer district between downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. This zone district provides a transition from downtown's intense development patterns to less intense residential and commercial areas. Unique features of TCC's such as large warehouse buildings, provide opportunities for innovative re-use.

Low Density Residential (LDR) - LDR's are where single family homes are located. Mostly single family homes, not a lot of mixed use development.

Moderate Density Residential (MDR) - Examples would be 2-4 units averages, smaller condos, duplexes.

Complete Description of these terms start on Page 20 starting under Sec. 5.6.02. - Traditional Neighborhood Mixed-Use Commercial Zone Districts: Purpose and Intent. Here

Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) - An accessory dwelling unit is a really simple and old idea: having a second small dwelling right on the same grounds (or attached to) your regular single-family house, such as: An apartment over the garage, a tiny house (on a foundation) in the backyard or a basement apartment.

Area Specific Plan (ASP) - These plans define a clear vision for specific neighborhoods by stakeholders (residents, business owners and more) for development processes. ASP’s zero in on a smaller part of the city. 

Board of Zoning Appeals - A citizen board, with quasi-judicial capacity and members appointed by the City Commission, which reviews requests for variances from the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance or appeals of a decision by the Planning Commission or Planning Staff.

By Right Development - These are development projects permitted under the City's Zoning Ordinance. These can be developed without public hearings. They would also not have to go before the Planning Commission.

Density - Density refers to the maximum number of dwelling units permitted on a zoning lot.

Development - The construction, reconstruction, remodeling, conversion, structural alteration, relocation, enlargement, or demolition of any structure, or sign; any change in use in land, building, or structure, or material change in the appearance of any structural any increase in the number of dwelling unity, businesses, manufacturing establishments, or offices; any mining, excavation, filling, grading, paving, or land disturbance; and any division of land.

Master Plan - The overall plan for the City of Grand Rapids, including appropriate graphic and written materials regarding the physical development of the City. The term Master Plan includes any unit or part of the plan and any amendment to the plan or parts thereof, including any adopted Area Specific Plans.

Neighborhood Classification - One of three areas within the city that share similar development characteristics, as established in the Master Plan and Pattern Workbook, including: Traditional Neighborhood, Mid-20th Century Neighborhood, and Modern Neighborhood, within which are individual Zone Districts, Permitted Uses, Special Land Uses, and development requirements.

Permitted Use - A use permitted by right in a Zone District, as listed in the Zoning Ordinance.

Planning Commission - A citizen board, with quasi-judicial capacity and members appointed by the City Commission, which reviews requests for approval of Special Land Uses, Site Plan Reviews, Zone Changes, and Area Specific Plans or other amendments to the Master Plan or Zoning Ordinance.

Site Plan - A plan, to scale, showing uses and structures proposed for a parcel of land. It includes lot lines, streets, building sites, public open space, buildings, major landscape features - both natural and man-made - and, depending on requirements, the locations of proposed utility lines.

Special Land Use - A land use of a lot, building or structure listed in a Zone District in the Chapter that could have additional effects related to the health, safety, convenience, and general welfare of users of nearby properties and the community as a whole, and for which additional scrutiny is needed.

Variance - Relief from certain provisions of a zoning ordinance granted to a property owner when, because of the particular physical surroundings, shape, or topographical condition of the property, compliance would result in a particular hardship upon the owner, as distinguished from a mere inconvenience or a desire to make more money. A variance may be granted, for example, to reduce yard or setback requirements, or the number of parking or loading spaces.

Zoning - The division of a city or county by legislative regulations into areas, or zones, that specify allowable uses for real property and size restrictions for buildings within these areas; a program that implements policies of the general plan.

Zone District - An area within a Neighborhood Classification in which certain Permitted Uses and Special Land Uses are allowed and development requirements must be met.