Community Development

2022 Proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments

Share Your Comments

As the Big Rapids Planning Commission considers amendments to the Zoning Ordinance, there are several opportunities for the community to be involved, learn about the proposed changes, and share feedback and recommendations. 

  • Community Meetings:  Attend one of the Community Meetings to learn more, ask questions, and provide staff with feedback. Two Community Meetings will be held, one on August 30 at 6:00PM at City Hall and one on August 31 at 1:00PM at Artworks Lower Gallery. See flyer for more information.
  • Public Hearing:  The Planning Commission will hold a formal Public Hearing on proposed zoning ordinance amendments at their regular meeting on Wednesday, September 21, 2022 at 6:30PM at Big Rapids City Hall. The public is welcome to attend the September 21 meeting and share your comments in person. Alternatively, people can share your comments before the meeting with Community Development Department staff via letter, email, phone call, or conversation at City Hall. These comments received before the Public Hearing will be shared during the meeting on your behalf. To share comments with Staff, contact Paula Priebe at or 231-592-4035 or Emily Szymanski at or 231-592-4036.

Summary of the Proposed Zoning Ordinance Amendments

Proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance fall into one of four categories:

  1. Administrative Changes: These are changes to the layout of the Ordinance to make it more user-friendly and include updates to Article 2: Definitions, Article 11: Use Standards, and Article 3: to replace the “Principle Uses and Structures” with a Use Table.
  2. District Standards: District Standards are found in Article 3 and provide regulations specific to each of the Zoning Districts. Proposed changes to the C-2 Downtown Commercial District and the RR Restricted Residential District utilize a Form-Based Code framework to ensure walkable development focused on maintaining the public realm of these spaces. Proposed changes to the other Residential Districts (R-1, R-2, R-3, and R-P Districts) will “right-size” the standards to the actual lot sizes in Big Rapids, adjusting lot areas and setbacks to make lots buildable and reduce non-conformities and exceptions. 
  3. Housing Types: A new section is proposed to be added to Article 4: General Provisions & Design Standards, to include additional regulations for new buildings to ensure minimum architectural standards and provide regulations for the new residential building types. The residential building types in the proposed Ordinance Amendments include houses, townhouses, flats/small apartments, apartment complexes, accessory dwelling units (ADUs), and cottage courts. Several of these are new additions and fall are “Missing Middle Housing” types that fall between the common types of single-unit houses and large apartment complexes.
  4. Zoning Map Alterations: A zoning ordinance has two components: the Zoning Text and the Zoning Map. The text is the written ordinance, while the map is how properties are identified and the text is applied. Proposed changes to the Zoning Map would adjust the zoning of 30 different properties to better align them with their surrounding neighborhood and the Future Land Use map. This Map shows the 30 parcels and their proposed zoning change. [09/09/2022 Note: Attached Map updated to fix an error regarding the properties identified on Fuller Ave; they are currently R-2 and proposed R-3. An earlier version misidentified them as currently R-1.]

All of the proposed changes can be viewed in full here. A hard copy of the proposed changes is available for review at City Hall. Changes to the Ordinance are marked in red and annotated with comments, including many sections struck through and new sections added.

Why These Changes

The Planning Commission is considering making some big changes to the Zoning Ordinance to address issues that have arisen in the past few years, to add more housing types to the City, and to meet State requirements.


To be vibrant and competitive, Michigan communities must be ready for development. This involves planning for new investment and reinvestment, identifying assets and opportunities, and focusing limited resources. In 2017, the City of Big Rapids began the process of becoming a “Redevelopment Ready” community through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC). Redevelopment Ready Communities (RRC) is a voluntary technical assistance program and is designed to create a transparent, predictable, and efficient development experience.

The RRC Program has six ‘Best Practices’ for Redevelopment Ready Communities. Best Practice 2.0 – Zoning evaluates a community’s zoning ordinance and how it meets community goals, enables the form and type of development the community is seeking and includes modern approaches to zoning. Zoning should be used to shape inviting, walkable, vibrant communities, rather than inhibit them.

One proposed change is regarding the C-2 Commercial District (the Downtown) and follows Best Practice 2.3: Concentrated Development.  Proposed standards will utilize a Form-Based Code framework for the walkable areas, where the framework is most beneficial. 

Another proposed change follows Best Practice 2.4: Housing Diversity and amends the Residential Design Standards. Proposed changes allow for diverse housing types, which create unique neighborhoods, provide lifestyle options for residents of all ages and income levels, help attract talent, and provide flexibility for meeting market demand.

Housing Study

Big Rapids is a community where more residents rent their home than own their home. While the City is not a developer and does not build housing, the City does have several roles to play in ensuring that residents of Big Rapids have the safe and attainable housing they wish to have. In order to better understand the demand for housing in Big Rapids, the City commissioned a Housing Study in 2020, which asked who wants to move here, what type of housing they are looking for and at what price points. The results of this Study compare the findings to the existing housing in Big Rapids and show that there are gaps that new housing types can fill, in homes to own, homes to rent, middle housing types (3-10 unit buildings), and large apartment complexes. The results also show that the greatest need among renters is for smaller units at $700/month rent or less. The proposed changes to the Zoning Ordinance will allow development of more of these middle housing types and allow for smaller units.

Resources to Learn More

The background research that went into the creation of the proposed zoning changes can be a lot to put into simple terms. So, we have tried to provide an array of resources that you can use to take a deep dive into concepts you’re interested in learning more about. Please visit the links below to learn more about the Redevelopment Ready Communities program, the Housing Study, Form-Based Code, Missing Middle Housing, and the current Big Rapids Zoning Ordinance.

  • To learn more about the Redevelopment Ready Community program, access their resources, and obtain additional information; click here: Redevelopment Ready Communities
  • To read the full Housing Study as well as three presentations exploring the findings from the study, click here: Housing Study
  • More information regarding Form-Based Code can be found here: Form-Based Code Institute
  • To learn more about the concept of Missing Middle Housing, please visit their website and explore their resources here: Missing Middle Housing
  •  To read the current Zoning Ordinance for the City of Big Rapids, click here: Zoning Ordinance.