Houghton considers rezoning for seaplane business

(Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette) Matthew Eliason, attorney for Isle Royale Seaplanes owner John Rector, address the Houghton City Council Wednesday night. Rector is seeking a rezoning or variance to allow his business to move to a location on Houghton Canal Road. Also pictured in the photo are from left, Police Chief John Donnelly, Clerk Ann Vollrath and Councilors Buck Foltz and John Sullivan.

HOUGHTON — The Houghton City Council will decide in October whether to approve rezoning of a property on Houghton Canal Road that would allow it to host the Isle Royale Seaplanes business.

The property, adjacent to the Upper Peninsula Power Co. (UPPCO) Service Center, would be changed from residential (R-1) to industrial. The business would include docks, a concrete boat ramp, a bulk fuel tank, airport storage hangar and up to three duplex cottages, among other things.

If the seaplane business stopped operations, zoning would change to R-3. The business is now located near Ripley.

The Houghton Planning Commission considered the request at its August meeting but did not make a motion. The city’s attorney said rezoning the parcel would be considered spot zoning, which is not allowed in Michigan.

Matthew Eliason, an attorney representing property owner John Rector, disputed the city attorney’s findings. The property had been used for seaplane operation until 2001. Its location next to the UPPCO site would also make it unpopular for residential development, for which it has been zoned since 2007, he said in a memorandum to the city.

“I think the biggest question is whether Houghton wants this development — they want be the leader, and have something unique and pretty great — or whether they want to bend to someone who’s agreeing with this becoming some kind of residential development … they’ve been trying to sell lots there for 18 years,” he said.

The council delayed its vote in order to review a memorandum from Eliason, which he submitted to the city Wednesday.

“I’d at least like to get our lawyer’s respond to this memorandum,” said Councilor Rachel Lankton.

A public hearing on the ordinance will take place at the Oct. 9 council meeting.


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