City of Marquette’s zoning ordinances need upgrading

Marquette city government, assisted by grassroots types and business leaders, have started a long-term planning process that, unlike a lot of similar municipal efforts we’re seen over the years, should end with substantive changes in how the city does business.

Specifically, the city is updating its zoning ordinances, the rules that govern everything from how high buildings can be built to the amount of set back structures require from a public right-of-way to where commercial businesses can, and cannot, be placed.

At a kick off event last week, city Planner and Zoning Administrator Dave Stensaas said the changes are long overdue,

“A lot of what we’re trying to do here is correct a lot of those things that are a mess,” he said for a Mining Journal story on the matter, noting what’s on the books now, in many cases, simply doesn’t match what property owners want to use their land for presently.

One big change city officials have dealt with in recent years is the move toward what is known as urban agriculture, which can include things like greenhouses, chickens, bees and other animals. Accessory dwelling units and construction of something called tiny houses — those that are less tan 400 square feet — are other newer trends.

The leg work on this effort, which is expected to take up to 18 months, will be principally handled by Marquette Planning Commission, city planning and zoning staff, a private community planning and design firm, and an ad hoc committee made up of elected officials, stakeholders and members of the public. The consulting firm McKenna Associates, of Northville, Michigan, will be paid $85,000 — $35,000 of which came from a grant — to coordinate the overall effort.

This will be an immense effort involving different types of zoning and use schemes, large numbers of stakeholders and, of course, lots and lots of politics. While we don’t usually place our stamp of approval on these kinds of projects — in our experience, the documents that are produced usually end up gathering dust on a shelf at city hall and have little or no impact — this one has possibilities.

We’ve heard complaints for years about the city’s ordinance structure; often, the term “antiquated” has been used to describe this all-important set of ordinances.

We plan to watch this process closely, with an eye especially on cost. We hope the final document is delivered on time and on price.