HOUGHTON - Houghton County residents will have two more months to weigh in on the county's update to its master plan.
The Houghton County Planning Commission voted at its meeting Tuesday to extend the timetable for approving the update. The commission will now hold the final public hearing on the plan before its regular meeting at 4 p.m. June 19. If the commission approves the updated master plan, it would then go to the Houghton County Board of Commissioners for a vote at its July 10 meeting.
The update has received significantly more public feedback than the original version, much of it from people who believe the plan opens the door to county-wide zoning or broader state, national or international infringements upon property rights.
Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette
Members of the Houghton County Planning Commission discuss its master plan update Tuesday. The commission decided to delay a final public hearing and commission vote on the plan until June 19.
Commissioners said the updated time frame would allow more time for public comment and sufficient time for revisions.
"That gives us some time to clean up the document, get all the maps in order ..." Commissioner Anton Pintar said.
Commissioner Bill Fink said he will provide periodic updated drafts of the plan to be posted on the Houghton County website.
Pintar said if the county board rejects the update, it has to provide specific reasons why and suggestions for what should be changed. And if it does reject the update, the original master plan is still on the books.
"The decision they're making is, do they want the master plan in Houghton County to be the 2006 version, or the amended version?" he said.
The commission plans to deliver a report on the plan at May's county board meeting.
Much of Tuesday's planning commission meeting was devoted to making line edits to the plan, adding items for completeness, adjusting the text to clarify its intent and accommodating previous public objections to the tone. A paragraph was added stressing the county board and planning commission's stance against county-wide zoning.
In the section on historic features, the sentence "Many remnants of these activities remain, though not all are protected or have been explored completely," was edited to end at "remain." An earlier suggestion had been to strike a sentence stating in part that "development should be sensitive to the historic character of the area."
Chair Guy St. Germain said he agreed with Fink that the area's historic qualities are a key part of what makes it unique.
"There's a couple of things that we're remiss if we don't emphasize up here about natural assets in the area: one is its historic character, and the other is winter," he said. "I mean, hell's bells, guys, that's who we are up here."
The commission went through about a third of the plan before adjourning the meeting shortly after 6 p.m.
While comment at a previous public meeting and at this month's county board meeting ran overwhelmingly against the plan, Tuesday's comments were more evenly split.
Andrea Aho of Chassell Township said regardless of the planning commission's intent, the plan could be a stepping stone to later county-wide zoning.
"Thank you for the work you've put into it, but you really have to consider the big picture here and know that down the road your plan may not be used the way you intended it to be used," she said.
Suzanne Van Dam of Hancock said planning provides an opportunity to identify the things the county believes in worth preserving. The absence of a plan isn't freedom, she said, but chaos.
"I teach writing. I teach my students to make a plan before they go off and do their research," she said. "It doesn't mean it's an ironclad thing that's going to enslave everything ... it helps inform the way the ideas will mature, and I think that's essential in a large county-wide area."