Zoning changes

Marquette Township Board approves rules for tiny homes, pedestrian connectivity


MARQUETTE — The Marquette Township Board approved zoning language governing pedestrian safety and connectivity, enhanced aesthetics and tiny home regulations in the township at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Marquette Township Trustee John Markes, who has been a vocal opponent of allowing tiny homes in residential areas, was the sole nay vote on the measure.

A tiny home is defined under township zoning guidelines as a manufactured or conventionally built structure, 450 square feet in size or less, which may be built on a steel undercarriage with the necessary wheel assembly to be transported to a permanent or semi-permanent site. The steel undercarriage and/or wheels may be removed when placed on a permanent foundation.

The ordinance requires potential tiny home owners to submit requests for a special-use permit to build or place a structure in a residential area. Such requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis and are subject to a public hearing before the planning commission. All neighbors within 300 feet of the proposed structure would be notified of the tiny home request and have an opportunity to weigh in either at the public hearing or in writing.

Township Planner Jason McCarthy said the feedback regarding the additions had been largely supportive, and the township is moving in the right direction.

“I have only heard positive comments on this matter,” McCarthy said. “You know, the nice thing about zoning is that you can try something, and if it doesn’t work, you can change it.”

Other requirements for tiny home construction or placement in the township include a Marquette County building permit; Marquette County Health Department permits; off-street parking conforming to residential single-family units; connection to a public sewer and water supply in compliance with township requirements or private facilities as approved by the county health department.

McCarthy said each aspect of the new zoning language is meant to represent progressive steps in township governance.

“We feel that this is a positive step in the right direction to identify definitions of certain terms such as camper, cargo container, shipping container and tiny homes to be added to the definitions in the zoning ordinance, as well as to allow for tiny homes to be constructed with a special use permit in our residential housing districts (and) prohibiting shipping containers to be used as residential accessory structures, as well as to add — in my opinion– some great pedestrian connectivity,” McCarthy said.

Another change prohibits the use of shipping containers as accessory structures within the township. The structures are described in the ordinance as containers with strength suitable to withstand shipment, storage and handling.

“Shipping containers range from large reusable steel boxes used for intermodal shipments to the ubiquitous corrugated boxes,” the ordinance states.

The third addition to zoning language regulates pedestrian connections in commercial development by requiring accommodations from any public entrance of a development to the required parking area, a pathway for adjoining or disconnected buildings if they exist within a single parcel for public use — unless the total length of the pathway would exceed 200 feet — and a separated pathway to any existing public walkway.

The walkways are required to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act guidelines, and shall incorporate universal design principles. All pathways improvements are to be completed by the developer at the developer’s expense.

Township Supervisor Lyn Durant said the Marquette County Planning Commission voted unanimously to support the new zoning regulations, and read a portion of that panel’s finding during the meeting.

“The amendments seem to reflect the public input received,” Durant said. “The township through previous and current planning initiatives and through their master plan has a strong focus on improving walkability and mobility. Using regulations as mechanisms to achieve goals set forth in the master plan is a primary function of the zoning ordinance.”

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.