L'ANSE - The L'Anse Township planning commission voted to approve a master plan Thursday evening following a public hearing, but delayed a decision on a new zoning ordinance after hearing several comments from concerned residents.
Copies of the 241-page master plan and 181-page zoning ordinance are available at lansetownship.org, or in print at the township hall, and U.P. Engineers & Architects planner Matt Bergeon kicked off Thursday's public hearing with a brief overview of both documents.
"The most important part (of the master plan) is the future land use plan, and the development plan," Bergeon said. "What the future land use plan does is just illustrate a vision for the township. ... This isn't a regulatory map."
Stephen Anderson/Daily Mining Gazette
Right, Matt Bergeon, planner with U.P. Engineers & Architects, standing, gives an overview of L’Anse Township’s proposed master plan and zoning ordinance during a public hearing on both documents Thursday evening at the township hall. Township planning commission member Erik Mattox listens in.
The zoning ordinance, however, is where the enforceable regulations are, and Bergeon noted that both have been four- to five-year projects involving several community workshops and many planning comission meetings.
Several residents expressed concern about classification changes in Herman from agricultural to rural residential, but Bergeon and the planning commission emphasized repeatedly throughout the hearing that current residents and current uses are grandfathered in.
"There's a clause in there that states if your property is there and you're built on it, you're grandfathered in," Bergeon said. "It's not controlling what you can or cannot do with your land ... but basically this is primarily for new development and additions, remodels or significant rebuilding."
He said the ultimate goal is to protect property values and natural resources, but Herman resident Nancy Mannikko raised several concerns, in addition to Herman's misclassification, and presented a petition from 55 Herman residents opposed to the zoning ordinance.
"The master plan and the zoning ordinance don't add up," Mannikko said. "Nowhere in this zoning does it talk about one of the major industries in our township, which is logging and forestry. ... You spent five pages in that zoning plan talking about signage. There's a nice section about what's allowed at a bus stop, but nothing about timber? It makes no sense in this county. That's a huge flaw."
Later on Mannikko also raised concern about the historic use of property, raising an example of a family farm where a generation may have moved away before returning to the land to reinstate farming on the land.
"What kind of hoops are they going to have to go through to preserve their sense of heritage and the historic use of the property?" she asked.
Bergeon said it depends on the number of lots and lot size, noting the agricultural minimum is 20 acres. Non-conforming lots in an area lead to the need for approved variances in many cases. Some cases would need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis by township building inspector and zoning adminstrator Joe Brazeau.
As more questions were raised, Bergeon also reminded residents that both the master plan and zoning ordinance are "living documents," and changes could be made.
"I really like the master plan, but the zoning document, maybe it just needs a very careful proofreading because right now there are parts of it that contradict each other," Mannikko said.
After receiving residents' feedback, the planning commission moved ahead with approving the master plan - which was reemphasized as merely a non-regulatory vision for the township. The commission voted 6-1 in favor of it, with Catherine Andrews opposing based off similarities between the plan's future land use map and the zoning map, which residents voiced concern with.
As for the zoning ordinance, the commission opted to hold another meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 at the township hall - which is open to the public - to further refine the document and take into account Thursday's feedback.
"There were some great comments tonight, and we always get to this stage in the process and people come," Bergeon said. "We always ask what we can do to get more people involved early on, but, after hearing the comments, it probably wouldn't hurt for you to take one more look at it."
Actions by the planning commission serve as recommendations to the township board, which has the final say.
PDF versions of the master plan and zoning ordinance can be found at lansetownship.org.