Keweenaw County plans more camping capacity

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette John Soper of the Keweenaw County Planning Commission explains changes to ordinances regarding campgrounds to the County Board.

EAGLE RIVER — The Keweenaw County Board heard a presentation from John Soper of the Keweenaw County Planning Commission on plans to make possible the creation of more, and smaller, privately-owned campgrounds in the county.

Soper said the planning commission has been discussing campgrounds for several months in addressing a need for more campgrounds and RV parks in the county.

“This being a recreational area, tourism being a large part of the Keweenaw’s business, campgrounds are an important aspect of what we do here,” Soper said. “We’re trying to clean up the zoning ordinance to make it easier to have campgrounds.”

Soper said the commission removed the words “five or more” sites from the definition of a campground, because if there are more than four sites, the campground must meet the state of Michigan’s standards for campgrounds.

“Most of our Resort Services zoning are small parcels (like) Copper Harbor, Eagle Harbor and so on. The campgrounds normally are 10 acres,” Soper told the board. “So, what we did was remove the definition of five or more. You can have a campground with one or two sites, three sites, 25 sites.”

Soper said that additionally, campgrounds and RV parks are currently allowed by conditional use. The commission altered that to special use, “which means it requires a public hearing.” Special use, Soper said, can include agricultural use, essential services, forestry and others. Changing campgrounds from conditional use to special use would require a public hearing in the process of establishing a campground.

“So, if you’re in a residential area or resort area,” Soper said, “you’re going to have neighbors, and if you have a public hearing, people within 300 feet of your property get to comment. And if you have a special use condition, then we have to have a public hearing, and the neighbors get to comment.”

The amount of acreage required for a campground has also been reduced, Soper said. The ordinance now reads a campground must be a minimum of 10 acres.

“There are not (any) 10-acre parcels in town,” Soper said, “but there are smaller parcels in Lac La Belle (as small as) two acres, so what we did, was we allowed for two acres in Resort Service 1 and Resort Service 2, instead of 10.”