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Moratorium on events

Permits will not be issued for events exceeding 250 people

MARQUETTE — No outdoor gatherings of more than 250 people will be permitted by Marquette Township officials over the next three months.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, and in an effort to comply with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order 220-115, the Marquette Township Board unanimously approved a resolution that “establish(es) a moratorium with the immediate effect on temporary use permits or zoning compliance certificates for outdoor gatherings in excess of 250 persons for a period of 90 days,” during a special meeting on Thursday.

During its regular meeting on Tuesday, township Zoning Administrator Jason McCarthy requested board input on a UP City Fest, Life Lite Communications temporary-use permit application for a faith-based event/concert on Aug. 14-15 in the Westwood Mall parking lot.

By consensus, the board indicated that such a gathering, which could include up to 500 people from across the Upper Peninsula, would not be in the best interest of Marquette Township residents.

McCarthy ultimately denied the application.

In a letter to event organizer Dr. Matthew Songer, McCarthy indicated that the township would likely be open to such an event “at a time when we do not find ourselves in a state of emergency due to a health pandemic,” because it was found to be in conflict with township zoning ordinance which, in part “provide(s) for flexibility for development while assuring the health, safety and general welfare for the present and future residents of the township.”

“(At any other time) We would have no issue administering zoning approval for what appears to be an uplifting and entertaining occasion,” McCarthy’s letter states.

Thursday’s resolution only applies to large group outdoor gatherings of over 250 people. Businesses and organizations may still apply for other types of use permits for small types of temporary uses, township attorney Roger Zappa told the board on Thursday.

“It would apply to any gathering that a temporary use permit is required for if that gathering consists of more than 250 people and if that is an outdoor gathering,” Zappa said. “And why it’s worded in that manner is because of the language of Gov. Whitmer’s executive order 2020-115. Those are the categories that she is very specific as to and the CDC is also pretty specific as to. They don’t use the numbers, but they use large group gatherings, but also gatherings within that category within the highest risk of people coming in from outside the local community.”

McCarthy said he suspects there will not be an “overrun of event requests exceeding 250 people this summer.”

“This moratorium simply covers that time period at least for the next 90 days, which is effectively summer,” McCarthy said. “At some time in the future when that sunset comes through, then I think the board should re-evaluate the moratorium and see where we are at then. All this does is say that from a zoning administrator’s perspective, if they have an application that comes through at 251 people, I am not going to review that application or it’s going to be denied. And anything below the 250-person threshold will be scrutinized just as it would with any other application, but it could be permitted.”

Township Manager Randy Girard said the moratorium would effectively only cover new events.

“All the ones that would have been 250 (people) or more have been canceled,” Girard said. “The Forestville (music festival) event has been canceled. We’ve canceled the community day, we have canceled the use of the (township) facilities, so we won’t be having the ball tournaments that typically we are being asked about. Those are the things that have already been canceled and this would just stop any further ones from looking to the township because all the surrounding ones have been canceling their events in their communities.”

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