2010-05-22 / News

Master Plan Revision Work Now Under Guidance of Consultant

By Karen Gould

Fran Brink has revitalized Mackinac Island's master plan revision, which has languished in committee for more than five years. The hired consultant from Wade Trim in Cheboygan met with the Master Plan Committee February 25, setting up a schedule that calls for the work to be completed by the end of the year.

The city hired Mrs. Brink last month to provide technical assistance in putting the master plan into a workable document. She will be assembling the information generated since the work sessions began in 2005. She told the committee Thursday she will tackle the project chapter by chapter, interpreting the committee's comments, compiling survey results, and completing maps that reflect the community's vision for the Island. A draft of each chapter will be sent to committee members, giving them a week to review before they meet as a group to finalize each chapter.

Over the last six years, the committee has completed some of the details needed for the project, including asking for public ideas and noting current conditions.

When completed, the master plan will project where the community wants to see development and improvement. The document will clarify how the community thinks the city should look in the future and what the Island needs to do to reach that future vision.

The first five chapters, said Mrs. Brink, are about existing conditions, the way the Island is zoned and developed. Those chapters likely will come to the committee in a group by early April. The sixth and seventh chapters are the guts of the document, she said, and are the most important.

“Those are where the important decisions are made, in those two chapters,” said Mrs. Brink. “It says this is what we want to be, this is where we want to go, and here's a little bit of guidelines on how to get there.”

In preparation for those chapters, the planning committee has spent an inordinate amount of time considering the water and sewer facility, said Mrs. Brink, following her review of the notes on the subject. The future development of the Island, based on the capacity of the plant, has been a large part of the committee's discussions. The committee has struggled to come to grips with how the community wants to meet future demands for housing and business development, decisions that have not been resolved yet.

As she compiles the data, Mrs. Brink said she will be looking to see if the Island has the infrastructure to support future land use. If it does not, then she will go back to the committee.

Chapter six, Community Goals and Vision, includes survey findings, planning and community development, housing, natural environment, public lands, and infrastructure, which is public services and traffic.

Chapter seven is about future land use. It is an important part of the document, she said, and includes a map that lays out how the committee believes the Island should look. The map and accompanying language will serve as a guide to how the planners would like to see the Island in the future. The future land use map also serves to guide future zoning decisions, she said. Planners will be able to use the map to see if it supports a zoning request. If it does not, then that is a valid reason for denying the request.

To prepare the map, the committee used information gathered from residents at public hearings and through surveys of high school seniors and other residents five years ago. In the future land use chapter, the document lays out a vision for the Island, taking into consideration land conservation, parks, recreation, open space, shoreline residential, cottage residential, single family residential, mixed residential, hotels, historic areas, commercial districts, and planned unit development.

An existing land map in the master plan will delineate the way the Island looks now. Readers of the master plan will be able to see if opinions on the vision for the future have changed in the new plan. Mrs. Brink will incorporate changes while maintaining previous ideas.

“In 1999, here's what people thought or wanted, here's what they saw as the problems,” she said. “Here they are now. Have they changed, or not?”

Mrs. Brink, a consultant with municipalities for 20 years has worked on the St. Ignace Recreation Plan, the Mackinac County Master Plan, and Bois Blanc and Brevort townships master plans.

She lives about 70 miles from the Island and has for the last 35 years.

“I guess I kind of have a feel for what it's like to be northern Michigan,” she said. “In addition, I'm certainly familiar with the Island, its culture and uniqueness.”

She did not work on the Island's 1999 master plan, which was done by Wade Trim, although she did some follow up work, taking an inventory of all of the signs on the Island in preparation for the city's sign ordinance.

The 1999 master plan digital files have been made available to Mrs. Brink. The new master plan will be computerized to allow changes in the future.

State law dictates requirements for developing a master plan and its revisions. The first objective for Mrs. Brink is to pull together the committee's information, put it in chapter form, and present a draft to the committee. Once approved by the committee, the document will be sent to City Council. From there, the draft is sent to neighboring communities, who have 63 days for review. Then, the Planning Commission will hold a public hearing. Following the hearing, the Planning Commission can adopt the master plan or make more changes. The final document is scheduled to be completed by December.

Neighboring communities expected to be sent a draft and a final plan are St. Ignace, Mackinaw City, Mackinac County, and Marquette, Clark, and St. Ignace townships.

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