From land use planning to zoning: Keweenaw's progress
EAGLE RIVER -- The Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners voted recently to accept and sign an agreement with the Planning and Zoning Center, Inc. (PZC), of Lansing, Mich., to have one of Michigan's top zoning experts update the 1975 County Zoning Ordinance -- now that the County Land Use Plan has been written and adopted.
Mark Wyckoff, president of PZC and editor of Planning and Zoning News, will soon be contacting county officials concerning Phase One of his proposed zoning update plan. The county officials decided to apply for a $38,500 Michigan Department of Environmental Quality Coastal Management Program grant to fund Wyckoff's plan for updating the Zoning Ordinance.
|This sign, located on U. S. 41 at the Keweenaw County
line, was posted during the summer of 2003 at the request of Keweenaw
County residents concerned about planning and zoning issues. Copper City
is located in Houghton County, near the county line. (Photo by Michele
In his proposal, Wyckoff offered to prepare the grant application (due April 1, 2004, for funding in October 2004) with no charge to the County on the condition that, if the grant is received, the County hire his company to do the update with Wyckoff himself performing most of the work. The only ultimate cost to the county will be a 10 percent match for the grant.
Keweenaw County Commissioner Don Keith, a proponent of land use planning, noted the importance of updating the Zoning Ordinance with expert assistance.
"This is the most important issue that I see facing Keweenaw County in the coming year," Keith said.
Largely through the efforts of Keith and the township land use planning committees, other county officials have acknowledged the need for expertise in updating the 1975 Zoning Ordinance. Earlier this year they considered two proposals: one by Patrick Coleman, president of U.P. Engineers and Architects, and one by Wyckoff.
It was in September 2003, while The Nature Conservancy (TNC) celebrated the completion of the 6,275-acre Keweenaw Tip purchase for the people of Michigan, that Keweenaw County residents and grassroots land use planners also saw their County Board of Commissioners and their County Zoning/Planning Board approve Wyckoff's proposal. Once his written contract was received, the Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners had to vote on a motion to accept and sign it at their meeting on November 13. (The regular meeting scheduled for November 12 was re-scheduled because of a snowstorm.) The motion passed with Commissioners Clyde Wescoat, Eric Bjorn, Don Keith and Gordon Roberts voting for it and County Board Chair Frank Stubenrauch voting against it.
Stubenrauch said he didn't feel it was necessary to re-do the County Zoning Ordinance.
Nevertheless, he added, he has signed the contract and it has been mailed to Wyckoff.
"I just didn't feel it was necessary to do the whole thing over," Stubenrauch said. "They could tweak it and change the language and clear up any inconsistencies or vague language. I think it's within the abilities of the Zoning Board to do that."
Several county officials, including Stubenrauch, had had a taste of Wyckoff's expertise on June 23, 2003, when they joined interested residents at a Planning and Zoning Training Program Wyckoff conducted in Copper Harbor. Wyckoff, who has taught in the School of Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture at Michigan State University, specializes in zoning, land use law, environmental protection, growth management and intergovernmental planning. He held a morning meeting with the Grant Township Board and two sessions -- afternoon and evening -- with county and township officials and interested citizens.
|Mark Wyckoff, president of Planning and Zoning Center, Inc.
(PZC), of Lansing, Mich., speaks to Keweenaw County residents and officials during a Planning and Zoning Training Program he held at the Mariner North Restaurant in Copper Harbor on June 23, 2003. (Photo by Janet
Shea, Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning
commissioner. Reprinted with permission.)
In one of Wyckoff's handouts given to program participants, he notes that the process for updating a zoning ordinance (which should be reviewed every five years and updated as needed) should involve the County Planning Commission, an Advisory Committee of township and citizen representatives and the public via public hearings.
Wyckoff also offered his observations on the 1975 Keweenaw County Zoning Ordinance compared to the County Zoning Act, PA 183 of 1943. He noted that while the 1975 (present) Zoning Ordinance was a relatively good ordinance for its era, it is incomplete in several areas, including the special use section and the planned unit development section. He added the ordinance is missing several very important sections: for example, it has no site plan review section; it doesn't include authority to prosecute violations as civil infractions instead of as criminal violations; it lacks significant provisions related to preservation of the natural character of the County as new development occurs; it lacks a Schedule of Regulations, a Use Table and illustrated definitions which would make it easier for citizens to understand.
One member of the Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning Commission, Keith Walters, summed up the impression Wyckoff made on many of those attending the training program.
"I was really impressed," Walters said. "The man was able to answer every question that was asked."
Stubenrauch said he agreed Wyckoff is very competent, but he didn't feel hiring him was necessary.
"The whole thing that set this off was that (Mt. Bohemia) ski hill," Stubenrauch noted, referring to the zoning controversies surrounding the ski hill development.*
Stubenrauch is among the officials who were not opposed to the Mt. Bohemia Ski Hill. While he did not want to see the ski resort septic system (originally proposed as a lagoon sewer system) paid for by taxpayers, he
said, he was not opposed to the legal decision allowing the developer to change the zoning to allow the ski hill to be built.
Wyckoff plans to complete zoning updates by September 2005
In addition to preparing the grant application, Wyckoff has agreed to do Phase One of his work program free of charge. This includes polling County and township officials and other knowledgeable persons in the County about their views of issues, problems and opportunities that need to be addressed during the Zoning Ordinance update. Wyckoff also plans to interact by email, phone and fax with township supervisors on mapping existing land use at the parcel level around developed lakes and in established settlements.
In June 2004, if the townships can cover expenses, he will travel to Keweenaw County to offer a workshop for selecting preferred alternatives for addressing the key issues, problems and opportunities identified by the townships. If funds are not available in June, he will offer the workshop in October 2004, assuming the grant is received.
Phase Two of the plan (October 2004 -- September 2005) depends on receipt of the grant and includes workshops with the County Zoning/Planning Commission and representatives of each township to review proposed land use and zoning district changes, a public meeting on the proposed changes, revisions, a public hearing and assistance to the County Zoning Administrator with the submittal of the amendments to the State of Michigan for final approval (September 2005).
Wyckoff estimates the cost of Phase Two, to be covered by the grant, at $38,500.
Janet Shea, who has served on the Land Use Planning Committees for both Eagle Harbor Township and Grant Township, is now one of the newer members of the Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning Commission. Shea has recently been involved in the Commission's team effort to revise
the County Recreation Plan.
She is happy that both the Zoning/Planning Commission and the County Board of Commissioners have chosen Mark Wyckoff's expert assistance for the Zoning Ordinance update.
"I'm excited about the next two years getting the zoning in place," Shea said. "What an accomplishment that will be!"
Anita Campbell of Lac La Belle, who served on the Grant Township Land Use Planning Committee, said she has noticed positive progress, especially on the part of the County Zoning/Planning Commission, which recently has acquired new members like Shea and Walters, who are interested in land use planning.
Shea and Campbell were part of a group of Houghton and Keweenaw County residents who attended an April 2003 meeting of Governor Jennifer Granholm's Land Use Leadership Council in Marquette,
|Anita Campbell, a member of the Grant Township Land Use Planning Committee, addresses Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm's Land Use Leadership Council during a meeting in Marquette, Mich., in April 2003. Campbell spoke about citizen grassroots efforts of participation in the Keweenaw County Land Use Plan, completed in December 2002.
Other local residents pictured are Christa Walck (front, left) of the
local Common Ground Initiative for land use planning; Janet Shea (front,
second from right), Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning commissioner; and
Virginia Jamison (front, far right), Gratiot Lake resident and member of
the Eagle Harbor Township planning committee. The Michigan Land Use Leadership Council published in August 2003 a report of recommendations on land use gleaned from meetings with groups of citizens around the state.** The report can be accessed at
"There is almost always a 'silver lining' when negative things occur," Campbell said recently. "A lot of wonderful people who care about the wilderness beauty of the Keweenaw rose up when Mt. Bohemia happened. They worked tirelessly to put together a new land use plan for Keweenaw County with a great deal of community input. New folks are getting involved in local government and volunteering for board positions, and many interested residents are now attending County meetings. Recently Keweenaw County hired the best consultant in the State of Michigan to re-write the County's 27-yr.-old Zoning Ordinance. This proactive movement by the people of the Keweenaw is a positive way to manage future development and protect our unique peninsula."
County Land Use Plan reflects work of volunteer township committees
Five volunteer township land use planning committees worked with the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region (WPPDR) to develop Keweenaw County's Land Use Plan. This grassroots effort began in the fall of 2000 when the Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning Commission asked the five townships to appoint committees to collect and analyze data on their townships for incorporation in the land use plan. WPPDR's assistance was funded by a $75,000 Kellogg grant from People and Land through the Keweenaw Community Foundation.
Increased real estate sales of timber lands by major landowner International Paper/Lake Superior Land Co., residential development near and along the Lake Superior shoreline and controversy over the Mt. Bohemia Ski Hill near Lac La Belle (completed in December 2001) had alerted township residents to the need for land use planning to protect natural features and preserve lands for public access as well as controlled economic development.
With the coordination of Lori Hauswirth, WPPDR associate planner, and with help from the Common Ground Initiative (for land use planning in Houghton and Keweenaw counties) and workshops given by Rod Cortright of Michigan State University Extension, the township land use planning committees worked for two years, holding public meetings and conducting surveys for public input.
County officials, some of whom were previously resistant to the idea of land use planning, approved the plan (with some changes to the land use map), after learning from one of Cortright's workshops that a recent change in Michigan law would have required more steps in creating such a plan after January 2003.
|At the Sept. 2002 Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning
Board meeting, some changes were made to the land use map before its
final adoption in Dec. 2002. Some landowners, including International
Paper/Lake Superior Land Co., represented here by Walt Arnold, right,
director of marketing and sales, requested adjustments to the map. Also
pictured are Jane Pelto, Keweenaw County zoning administrator, left, and
Robert Crampton, Zoning/Planning commissioner. (2002 file photo by
After a final public hearing on Dec. 3, 2002, followed by the Board of Commissioners' recommendation of the plan at their Dec. 11, 2002, meeting, the Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning Commission adopted the Keweenaw County "Blueprint for Tomorrow" Land Use Plan on Dec.
17, 2002. The plan and future land use map are available online on the WPPDR Web site
Stubenrauch admits the land use planning committees worked hard on the county plan.
"It would disappoint all those people who worked so hard on the land use plan if we didn't take the next step, which will be re-doing the zoning," Stubenrauch noted. "I might be very happy with the outcome of it, eventually."
The next step -- updating the County's 1975 Zoning Ordinance to be consistent with the land use plan -- will begin in December 2003 with Mark Wyckoff's expertise and the grant proposal
intended to fund it.
The Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners will hold their regular monthly
meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10, at the Courthouse in Eagle River.
*For some background on the Mt. Bohemia Ski Hill see our Nov. 13, 2001, article,
"Black Bear constructs Mt. Bohemia septic system without DEQ permit."
** The Michigan Land Use Leadership Council Report of August 15, 2003, recommended 160 steps the state should take to protect the environment, improve the quality of life and strengthen the state’s economic competitiveness.
The report is available at http://www.michiganlanduse.org/finalreport.htm.
Read about Gov. Granholm's reaction to the report and the priorities she expressed to civic leaders in
Michigan Land Use Institute writer Keith Schneider's Nov. 4, 2003, article,
"'Turfism is an Anachronism' -- Granholm responds to council report, sets priorities to strengthen cities, lasso sprawl."
See also the Nov. 18, 2003 Press Release, "Granholm Signs First Executive Directive to Implement Land Use Policy Changes" on the
Office of the Governor Web
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