2011-02-12 / News

Master Plan Heads Back to Committee for Final Review After Public Weighs In

By Karen Gould

The Mackinac Island Master Plan will require more work in response to information received at a public hearing Tuesday, February 8, to include information about wind turbines and future development on nearby Round Island, and information about scholarships offered to students and the newly-designated Hubbard’s Annex historic district.

The Planning Commission has sent the draft master plan back to committee to make those four changes before considering the plan for adoption in March. If the committee makes any changes not discussed at the public hearing, however, a new public hearing will be required.

Already banned on Mackinac Island in a stand-alone ordinance, the topic of electricitygenerating wind turbines drew a lengthy discussion, with some attendees saying it is time to just adopt the plan and move forward.

Planning Commissioner Mary Dufina pushed to have the plan go back to committee for addition review to include language that would address wind energy devices.

After some debate, committee member Mike Hart proposed a statement in the master plan that would urge caution in the acceptance of such devices until they can blend better with the historic character of the city, but received no indication from planning commissioners as to what they would ultimately accept.

The language, he argued, cannot be more specific, because the devices are in their infancy.

Committee member Lorna Straus, who proposed the addition of the Annex historic district and scholarships, said wind turbines are covered in the plan under environmental goals. The master plan, she said, already encourages examination of the environmental impact of things. Mrs. Straus noted that adding more topics for consideration could continue forever and the city never would have an adopted plan.

“If we wait another year or two, there’ll be things we could get into the report that aren’t in it now,” she said. “There is no way we are going to have a report which has a finished date on it that will include absolutely everything anybody can think of.”

In part for that reason, the state requires that master plans be updated every five years. The city’s master plan has not been updated since in was adopted in 1999, almost 12 years ago, and, while the updating committee first met in July 2005, few meetings have been held and public involvement in the process has been sparse.

Michelle Walk, the community development director with Michigan State University Extension office in St. Ignace, suggested the city contact the National Forest Service to find out if it has any development plans for Round Island and include its response in the master plan. Except for the split of land that holds the lighthouse, Round Island is a federally-designated Wilderness.

Ms. Walk also noted that the public input section dates to 2005 and contains old information and ideas. She also suggested that discussion about concerns for future growth and its impact, and a search for solution, should be included in the goals section so it is not overlooked.

During the planning commission meeting that followed the hearing, city attorney Tom Evashevski said the city had been stalled on its ordinance work while waiting for the master plan update, although he offered no examples. He suggested the planning commission ask the committee to limit discussions to the issues raised at the public hearing, noting that another public hearing would be required if it strayed further.

“Theoretically, there are issues that could be raised at every meeting, and it could go on and on, but that’s no reason not to take care of some things that you think are important that were raised tonight,” he said.

“I think we need to talk about those things that have been brought up and go on,” said Mrs. Dufina. “Then there’s an end to it. Why bother to have a hearing or ask if we’re not going to consider those things. Seems important that they should be considered.”

A motion by committee member and Planning Commissioner Armand “Smi” Horn to adopt the master plan as presented died for lack of support. A second motion to return the plan to the committee passed.

A committee meeting has not been set.

Sitting on the Master Plan Committee are Mike Hart, Dan Wightman, Armand “Smi” Horn, Mary Dufina, Trish Martin, Bob Brown, Lorna Straus, Barb Fisher, and Phil Porter.

About a dozen citizens attended the hearing, but, aside from committee members and planning commissioners, only Ms. Walk made any comments.

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