MARQUETTE - Marquette Township is considering a collection of amendments to zoning ordinance articles that will better reflect development patterns and create a new forest recreation zoning district meant to preserve and protect large tracts of land that are of natural, cultural and recreational value to the community.
A public hearing will be held by the Marquette Township Planning Commission at 7 p.m., today at the Marquette Township Hall and Community Center.
Planning and Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy said the planning commission staff put together the package of zoning amendments to match previous and projected residential development and place better protections on natural sites such as Sugarloaf and Hogback mountains, Wetmore Landing, Little Presque Isle, Echo Lake and others.
"These are publicly-held properties that we're proposing to rezone from resource production districts to forest recreation," McCarthy said.
Township Manager Randy Girard said the new zoning idea is just cautionary and originated as board members considered potential concerns for future development.
"The question came up at a meeting: What would be our position as a township if the state or county was in financial trouble and were talking about selling off property?" Girard said. "What would we do as a township, or what could we do, to preserve that for continuing public use and not have somebody come in, buy it and break it up into condos?
"So we had the discussion about how do we establish zoning that would be protective of all these viewsheds and natural amenities in the township."
State and county-owned forest, mostly along County Road 550, that currently falls in a resource production zone would become a forest recreation district encompassing about 6,000 acres, McCarthy said.
"I've never seen a forest recreation zoning district before. It's pretty ... insightful," McCarthy said. "The community benefits from these natural areas. We're known for our recreation, and we want to help protect those as long as possible."
The changes proposed to residential zoning are mostly corrective, bringing zoning districts into conformity with properties' current and future land use, McCarthy said.
"The township developed in such a way and so quickly that the zoning districts didn't keep up with it," he said. "We want people to have salable, marketable property in the township and not have to be hamstrung by some administrative oversight that attention wasn't given to, because there wasn't enough time to do it or something like that, so we want to be proactive."
The amendments also loosen restrictions on the use of solar and wind energy systems.
"As technology continues to advance and costs come down in order to develop those kinds of systems and they become more viable, then the township is on board with that mentality," McCarthy said.
The amendment texts are available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Township Community Center and online at www.marquettetownship.org.
"We're the lowest form of government and closest to the people, so we want to be attentive to everybody's needs," McCarthy said. "If there are things we missed or didn't cover, that's why we have public hearings so that people have the ability and come to speak to that."
For more information, call McCarthy at 228-6220 ext. 105.
Mary Wardell can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.