Houghton voters demand more public input

HOUGHTON — Nearly four-fifths of Houghton voters backed a proposal to delay the sale of the parking deck area on Lakeshore Avenue to allow for more public discussion. 

The non-binding measure was placed on Tuesday’s primary ballot after a signature-gathering campaign by the Houghton Waterfront Redevelopment Citizens Group. It received 79% of the vote, winning 830-226.

“I think it signifies that the residents of Houghton are looking for a strong public engagement process on this project,” said Ben Ciavola of the Houghton Waterfront Redevelopment Citizens Group. “It was a very significant showing, and we look forward to working with the city to help find that path forward.”

The proposal asked: “Should the sale of the waterfront parking deck property be postponed until the citizens of Houghton and other stakeholders are able to participate in an open decision-making process about future use of the property that explores other options besides a sale to a single private developer?”

Last year, the Houghton City Council voted to enter into negotiations with developers Veridea Group of Marquette about creating a mixed-use development on the site of the large parking deck, on Lakeshore Drive between Huron and Quincy streets. The city has said the status quo is untenable for the deck, which was built 40 years ago. 

The city picked Veridea from among three developers who presented their qualifications and hypothetical concepts for a development on the site at a public meeting last year.  While all three cautioned a finished proposal might not resemble what they had presented, all three had some form of mixed-use development incorporating hotel, office and retail space. They were also required to include at least as much parking as they were displacing. 

Veridea is continuing work on its proposal. An online presentation on a downtown parking study commissioned by the city and Veridea was scheduled for Wednesday. 

The city’s move to develop the site angered many city residents, who said the public should be asked first what it wants to see done with the space. 

Ciavola anticipated the city’s process would continue to move forward to some degree. 

“We look forward to providing more input to the city on how we think their process should look, and we look forward to being engaged partners,” he said. 

Members of the Houghton Waterfront Redevelopment Citizens Group also recently filed a civil suit against the city, alleging meetings of its Lakeshore Drive Redevelopment Committee earlier this year violated the Open Meetings Act. 

“We’re just looking to have the process be open and transparent,” Ciavola said. “We feel the meetings for the Lakeshore Drive Redevelopment Committee do fall under the Open Meetings Act, and we hope the city opens those up for public participation.”


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