Hancock is Redevelopment Ready Community certified

MEDC community development manager Jen Tucker, MEDC senior community planner Pablo Majano and Hancock Mayor Paul LaBine celebrate Hancock’s certification in the MEDC’s Redevelopment Ready Communities program at Hancock City Hall Friday. (Daily Mining Gazette photo)

By Daily Mining Gazette Staff

HANCOCK — Hancock celebrated its status as Michigan’s newest Redevelopment Ready Community with a ceremony Friday morning.

The free certification program through the Michigan Economic Development Corp. indicates a community has integrated transparency, predictability and efficiency into its daily development practices.

Hancock becomes the 66th Michigan community to be certified, and the fourth in the Upper Peninsula.

Communities adopt a set of best practices designed to create a predictable and straightforward experience for investors, businesses and residents working within a community, according to the RRC website. Those include updating the city’s zoning ordinances, public participation plans and city marketing, among other things.

Being RRC-certified also opens the city up for additional programs and funding.

“It is a process that I really believe in,” said Hancock City Manager Mary Babcock.

I feel like it has brought the city of Hancock forward … we have a consistent process to move forward when somebody comes to talk and try to develop something in Hancock.”

Hancock began the certification process in 2017. Mayor Paul LaBine said the program helped the city get in shape.

“A lot of our commissions and committees didn’t have rules of procedure,” he said. “In hindsight, it was a little haphazard, some of our procedures. I think that’s a big intention of this process is to get cities a little more modernized, a little more streamlined.”

Steps have included approving a new zoning ordinance to replace its more than 50-year-old document. Hancock also worked with the Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region to develop a public participation plan, identifying key stakeholders to engage with for public input and engaging the public by providing timely information.

“While we did complete the process, it’s my understanding this is just the beginning of being RRC moving forward,” LaBine said. “I look forward to keeping us vibrant, efficient, transparent, modernizing our ordinances and procedures as we move forward to attract developers locally and within the state, nationally, or anywhere else.”

Councilor Lisa McKenzie was mayor when the city began pursuing certification. As a regional planner with the Western U.P. Planning and Development Region, she’s trying to recruit other area communities to participate.

“Not only does it allow us to be ready for grant opportunities and have all our plans in place, but the MEDC is there to support us and help us in everything we do,” she said.

Jen Tucker, community development manager for MEDC, said the next thing on the agenda is focusing on troubled sites in the city in need of redevelopment or investment.

City Manager Mary Babcock said the city’s first move will come with the former Risto’s Hardware property on Quincy Street. The city’s Downtown Development Authority recently purchased the building for potential redevelopment.

RRC also helps provide city officials with continuing education to stay up to date on new policy changes and planning procedures, Tucker said.

“The work Hancock has done so far to reach certification shows that staff and local officials are committed to serving the community and sets a foundation to allow for that progress or additional investment to continue,” she said.


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