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Marquette panel gives input on community’s 20-year master plan

MARQUETTE — As the Marquette County Planning Division begins the process of rewriting the county’s 20-year master plan, the Marquette Planning Commission was joined by members of the division at a Tuesday meeting to discuss local concerns.

Outdoor recreation, climate change and relocating Lakeshore Boulevard, recycling options, homelessness and affordable housing were all addressed during the meeting.

“I think one of the biggest challenges that affects both the county and the city is affordable housing,” said planning Commissioner Sarah Mittlefehldt. “As we shift deeper into the service-based economy, people who are working at the bars, working at the hotels, whatever, aren’t going to afford to live here.”

Planning Commissioner Joy Cardillo said development along the waterfront in the city of Marquette is a concern that’s talked about often among the commission.

“I think we all acknowledge that … the downtown area has had a lot of development,” Cardillo said. “How do we balance development with protecting the shoreline and sort of maintaining Marquette’s character?”

Chairman Aaron Andres said public transportation is another issue.

“There are many individuals in the city that have to use public transportation – elderly, disabled, everybody under the sun,” Andres said. “I really think we need to revamp our transit-system across multiple different areas.”

Although the county master plan has been updated every five years in accordance with the Michigan Planning Enabling Act of 2007, the plan hasn’t been updated all at once since 1982.

“We are updating the plan, which has been updated chapter by chapter on a five-year basis, but we have not updated the entire document since 1982,” said Eric Anderson, manager of planning at Marquette County’s Recreation, Planning, Community Development and Forestry Division. In 1980, the economy had just gone into recession and unemployment in the local region reached 30 percent. Some major events have happened since then, Anderson noted, including the closure of the K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base, growth of the U.S. 41 corridor, the closure of the Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.-operated Empire Mine, and so forth.

To properly assemble the 2020-2040 county master plan, members of the division are visiting planning commissions and boards throughout the county to determine what the local concerns are and how surrounding communities interconnect.

“What we’re here for mostly is to hear from you, what concerns you have about the future of things in the city and the kinds of things you would want to have considered as part of a county-wide plan,” Anderson said.

In conjunction with gathering input from local planning commissions and boards, a community survey was made available to the public in late September, which can be found at www.mqtcoplan.org.

Those who take the survey are presented with a map of Marquette County that divides it into four named regional zones — Borealis Beach, Blueberry Farms, Moose Hills and Iron Core — and are asked to answer specific questions about the region where they reside.

Senior Planner Thyra Karlstrom said about 1,200 people have filled out the survey and those who haven’t still have a few months to do so.

“We’re really happy about those results so far, but we’re asking planning commissions to help us spread the word about the survey,” Karlstrom said. “The more response we get, the better data we’re going to have and better plan we’ll ultimately put together.”

By attending each municipality’s planning commission meeting and collecting survey data, planning staff is aiming to develop a well-rounded plan of the needs, resources, challenges and opportunities in each township and region to build a picture of the whole county.

Once data is compiled, a rough draft will be presented during “regional rallies” throughout the country to review, Karlstrom said.

The end result will be a public policy document that can be integrated into the master plans of local units of government to help achieve a common vision for the future of Marquette County over the next 20 years.

The master plan will be used to evaluate zoning changes proposed by townships, apply for grants, support other initiatives in Marquette County and provide a basis for a work plan.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.

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