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October 22, 2021

The Village of Empire, located along the shores of Lake Michigan in the northern lower peninsula, has an excellent municipal water system, but like many old settlements, it has no public sewer. In 2001 Quercus Alba LLC started building an extension to the village.  This extension has about five blocks of traditionally designed, village-sized lots with sidewalks, alleys, and narrow streets. To implement this context-sensitive pattern that included 81 lots (and 126 allowed dwellings), the developer needed to install a community septic sewer system.  Without this system, the compact and walkable neighborhood would not have been possible.


At this one-day conference, attendees visited the new neighborhood and learned about how it all came together from the developer and designers.  Attendees also learned about planning, design, and the essential building blocks of villages, small towns, and neighborhoods.

The conference focused on the implementation of affordable community septic sewer systems and the finance of these critical infrastructure projects.  The Michigan State Land Bank Director outlined possible financing arrangements for infrastructure, the State of Michigan EGLE staff discussed the necessary guidelines and requirements for these systems, and legal experts outlined the legal arrangements to support community septic sewer systems.

Speakers included:

  • Robert Foulkes, planner at SMAP and the developer of the new neighborhood

  • Jennifer Hodges and Erik Arbut, Gordy Fraser Inc: purpose, design, cost, and operation of community septic systems

  • Barry Christian, State of Michigan Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE): permitting and requirements of community septic systems

  • Adam Cook, Seamless Collaborative and MiCNU President: The Anatomy of the Midwestern Village

  • Jim Tischler, Michigan Land Bank: Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Primer for Neighborhood Development

  • Russ Soyring, Former City of Traverse City Planning Director and MiCNU Board Member: Land Use Codes for Walkable Hamlets

Each session can be viewed in the videos below:

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