2005-07-30 / Top News

Public To See Master Plan Priorities

By Jessica Delaney

What is the worst thing that could happen to Mackinac Island? A hard question, but one that the Master Planning Committee is asking residents to consider as they continue work on providing a new master plan for the City of Mackinac Island. A preliminary public meeting has been set for Thursday, August 4, at 6 p.m. The meeting will introduce the community to the purpose of a master plan and ask for input on the greatest priorities to be considered in devising a new city master plan.

The purpose and focus of a master plan is to provide a strategy to guide the physical growth and development of a community.

It establishes policies to guide future development regarding land uses and zoning, and provides a foundation for setting capital improvement and service priorities. More specifically, it addresses what resources must be protected, the types, densities, and locations where development can occur, and determines what public facilities are needed to support the community.

The master plan for a city is meant to be updated every five years. The last city master plan was created in 1999. A master plan committee has been brainstorming the basics for a revised master plan and they met Wednesday, July 27, to discuss the upcoming public meeting.

“The point to make here in introducing this meeting is to say that people spent time on the 1999 plan, and some of it has validity,” said Connie Dimond of JJR, L.L.C., who has been working with the city committee to set up a new master plan. “We’ll be looking at this as a start plan, and will be adding to it. The public will now have the opportunity to give their input into the priorities.” Based upon the master plan of 1999, committee members have come up with a list of priority assets which must be protected under a revised master plan. Assets to be protected include a year-around community, the tourism industry, the ban on “horseless carriages” and promotion of the horse culture on the Island, geology and rock formations, natural areas, scenic beauty and waterfront views, and historic buildings, Island history, and the State Park. These were assets specifically mentioned in the earlier master plan, and all are things which the committee feels still need to be considered in creating a new zoning ordinance.

Committee members all agreed that the most important thing to take into account is the year-around community, but are split regarding the ranking priority of other aspects.

Mary Dufina said she believes the most important aspects were the people-specific ones, such as tourism and visitors to the Island, while other committee members and city staff said they feel that the ban on motorized vehicles takes priority over the tourism industry.

“This island is one of many tourist attractions in the north here,” said Dennis Dombroski, the city engineer and building official. “Tourism is the economy, the lifeblood, but what makes this tourist destination different from anything else is the horse culture.”

“Irrespective of its effect on tourism, it’s important to those who live here,” said committee member Mike Hart. “If we lose that, we lose a great part of why we choose to live here.”

Committee members will be looking for community input at their August 4 meeting to rank the assets of the Island and to determine what are the most essential aspects to protect. To ensure that all aspects are covered, and that all members of the community have the opportunity to propose other important assets, the meeting will be set up as a brainstorming session with group exercises and limited talking.

Posters will be put up with a list of the proposed assets to protect, and community members will have a series of eight sticky notes which they will be able to use to vote for what they feel are the highest priorities. According to Ms. Dimond, this form of a brainstorming public meeting will allow for more disclosure between community and city committee members.

“This way everyone can see what the whole feel are the most important assets to protect,” she said. “It’s very transparent; there’s nothing secret about this.”

Along with prioritizing the assets, community members will also have the opportunity to choose what other issues are necessary for greater discussion.

Among issues to be discussed, drawn once again from the 1999 Master Plan, are managing growth and development on the remaining, limited, available land; housing affordability for year-around residents; employee housing, including location, and standards for maintenance and management; traffic congestion; cost of living, and balancing needed services with the ability to fund them.

Committee members were especially concerned about the cost of living on the island, and balancing services funding. Committee member Kay Hoppenrath said she is especially concerned that the cost of maintaining year-around services, such as water treatment, would lie on the shoulders of year-around residents in the form of higher taxes.

“The master plan will have a huge impact on the amount of development to occur on Mackinac Island, and that development will draw the demand for services,” said Ms. Dimond, illustrating once again the importance of the master plan for the community.

Following the public meeting, which master plan committee members are hoping will last approximately one hour, handouts will be given out. These may be shared with family and friends unable to attend the public meeting, or for those who were in attendance to write down comments or suggestions that occur to them at a later time. All papers will be required to be turned in no later than August 15 to city hall. A second public meeting will be held at the end of August, tentatively Monday, August 29, at 6 p.m.

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