When East Lansing City Council candidate Daniel Bollman was canvassing a few weeks ago, he received an interesting question — he was asked if he would finish out his term if he was elected.
In a normal year, the question may have seemed a bit strange. But with a handful of early, surprising resignations in the past two years, the question, while intended to be humorous, was legitimate. Bollman, who has worked in public service for over a decade, does in fact plan on finishing his term.
“He meant it as a joke, but really, what’s an additional four or more years when you figure that I’ve already been doing it for 12?” Bollman said.
Bollman grew up in Allen Park, a suburb of Detroit, and attended the University of Michigan, where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Architecture.
After graduating, Bollman moved to Kalamazoo, where he worked for two years at a small architectural firm, and for five years as the historic preservation coordinator for the city of Kalamazoo. Bollman then earned a master's degree in architecture, as well as a master's in business administration. In 2001, after getting married, he joined his wife in Georgia.
“I had two jobs there, about three years each,” Bollman said. “One of them was the staff architect at a golf and resort community, and then I worked as a manager of architecture and design in what they call a traditional neighborhood development.”
Bollman said that his job aimed to develop neighborhoods that placed more emphasis on the importance of pedestrians.
In 2007, Bollman returned to Michigan when his wife accepted a position in the department of pharmacology and toxicology at MSU. He founded East Arbor Architecture, a design firm focusing on historic preservation.
A year later, Bollman served two, three year terms on the Historic District Commission, and was chair of the commission for the last two years of this time. In 2015, he was appointed to the Planning Commission, where he has been since.
“My attempt to secure a seat on city council is an extension of ... more than a decade of commitment to apply my time and talent on behalf of the City of East Lansing,” he said.
Bollman said that he believes good urban planning and better walkability in cities are going to receive increasingly more attention over the next several years or even decades, and that his experience will help the city prepare for these challenges.
“I think that my background as an architect and my experience within the Planning Commission, Historic District Commission and volunteer committees has prepared me pretty well for many of the challenges that the city is going to be facing over the next decade,” he said.
One of the ways Bollman plans to improve urban planning in East Lansing is through form-based zoning, which he has worked on through his position on the Planning Commission.
“The intention of this new form of zoning focuses on the way the buildings look, or more appropriately, the way they interact with the street,” Bollman said. “Your typical development of a particular property, we will try to hold the building back from the property line, so that there's often a green space, but often, it's actually filled up with parking that separates the sidewalk or the street from the building."
Form-based zoning does the opposite, and moves buildings closer to the street to avoid buildings being centered in the middle of the lot, and to add greater definition to the street.
“The exterior walls of the building define the public space beyond and create a space where everybody can interact,” he said. “The wall of the building, when it's constructed, helps to define a comfortable, safe, ideally, public space that everybody can appreciate and enjoy.”
Additionally, form-based zoning would define the requirements of buildings that are to be planned in a specific area, which Bollman said would encourage development.
“That potential developer or building owner or property owner, who's planning on doing work, would have a good idea about what to expect before they undertake the services of a planner and an architect and an engineer,” he said. “It basically establishes a list of things ... and if those parameters are met, they can move forward relatively rapidly through the development process.”
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Bollman said that under the current system, a project approved by city staff is sent to the Planning Commission for a public hearing, which is brought before the commission again no less than two weeks later provided there are not any major concerns about the project. The Planning Commission then makes a recommendation, and the project lands before the city council, where a decision is ultimately made.
“City council makes that approval, and so potentially could streamline that effort by making some of the relatively straightforward projects available for approval by staff, or maybe even by the Planning Commission if the city council deems that appropriate,” Bollman said.
Bollman said that he has been working with commissioners and members of city staff on this project for about three years.
“If indeed it gets adopted by city council, I think it would be helpful to have somebody on council who's familiar with the history of that particular undertaking,” he said.
Bollman also aims to maintain and strengthen the city’s relationship with Michigan State University, and said that he’s talked to faculty at MSU about this relationship.
“I think our identity as a city is directly tied to the university,” he said. “There are people that are associated with the university who I think are looking forward to the opportunities that the new university president might provide and finding a way to get our two institutions working closer together, or more in cooperation.”
Bollman is running for a four-year term on city council.
The full candidate listing can be found on the City of East Lansing website.
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