2017-07-27 / News

St. Ignace Planning Commission Ponders Future Land Use in New Master Plan Work

By Erich T. Doerr

The St. Ignace Planning Commission dedicated its Tuesday, July 18, meeting to its ongoing development of a new master plan. The commission met with Eric Wedesky of Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development in a video chat to discuss the matter.

Tuesday’s conversation focused on land use maps and the need to make them match current conditions in St. Ignace. The planning commission used maps from Mackinac County and the Internet to look at how things are planned before each commissioner set off on a walk around a pre-selected region of the city to see how well the maps matched the real world. About the half the maps ended up needing minor corrections based on their actual uses. In one instance, a large space designated as a public area was actually a big backyard.

“The purpose of doing that stuff is so that when you are all done, you can use a computer program to determine how much land is publicly owned, how much is for recreation, how much is commercial, etc.,” Planning Commission Chair Betsy Dayrell-Hart said. “It helps you know what you have proportionally in your city…That helps you out for when you talk with anyone about development in your city.”

Dr. Dayrell-Hart said the commission is already considering what its future land use maps could look like in the new plan. The areas where the commission is looking at development options include the former railroad grade downtown, the city’s waterfront, and the Ferry Lane corridor. One possible future use the commission wants to see developed is higher density and affordable housing. The city’s zoning only allows the higher density R3 zoning as a spot zoning option, but it would be good if space could be set aside and worked into the master plan to better meet the demand.

“We wanted them in areas that are within a walkable distance to grocery stores, downtown, and the school,” Dr. Dayrell-Hart said.

The master plan’s decisions regarding the future of the railroad grade will tie in with city’s work with the Michigan State University’s Sustainable Built Environment Initiative to determine new ideas for how the grade will look and function in the future. One concept is using the grade as a route for non-motorized traffic.

The first draft of the new master plan isn’t expected to be ready until the spring 2018. The plan development discussion focuses on what the city needs to encourage for the future, where it can put it, and what its current assets are. The plan acts as a suggestive guideline for what the city wants in the future.

Dr. Dayrell-Hart is continuing to encourage people to fill out the planning commission’s surveys about what they want and hope to see in St. Ignace’s future. They are online at cityofstignace.com/index.php?pag e=Planning_ Commission. The topics for the surveys include land use, placemaking, and employment and training. Fewer than 200 people have filled out the surveys so far, but they will be available all summer.

“It only takes a few minutes to fill it out,” Dr. Dayrell-Hart said.

While there are still several months of planning left for the master plan, the commission is already beginning to get ready for its next project, the development of a new city zoning plan. A zoning plan can’t be legally developed by a city unless it has a master plan in place. Dr. Dayrell- Hart said St. Ignace hasn’t had a zoning plan in place for many years.

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