Houghton schedules hearing in April

Animal, nuisance ordinances to be considered

HOUGHTON — Proposed ordinances on animals and nuisances will get a hearing next month at the Houghton City Council.

At Wednesday’s meeting, the council scheduled hearings for April 12 on both ordinances.

Ordinance 330 adds more restrictions on animals in the city. It bans a number of animals in the city, including exotic animals, venomous insects or snakes, and male poultry. Livestock, including bees, are only allowed within agricultural zones of the city.

“Presently there is no language in our ordinances which would prevent someone from having a few chickens, ducks, some goats, a cow, or even a Bengal tiger,” City Manager Eric Waara said in a memo to the council. “If there were to be an issue, the only leg we have to stand on is to declare them a nuisance and handle it under that ordinance.”

At Wednesday’s meeting, Cathy Azzarello of the Copper Country Beekeeping Club addressed the council.

“Everybody’s got their opinions about bees, but I also want to be a resource for you and so I want to help you make the best decisions you guys can,” she said.

Members of the Beekeeping Club proposed not a complete ban in non-agricultural areas, but restrictions based on lot size. Lots smaller than an eighth of an acre could not have any hives. The number would rise in increments, so that eight beehives would be allowed on land of 1 to 5 acres, and there would be no restriction on lots larger than that.

Other restrictions in the club’s proposal include requiring hives to be at least 10 feet from any property line, and at least 25 from any public sidewalk or public street.

The ordinance also regulates the feeding of wild animals. People may not place containers near the ground that could provide food or nourishment to wild animals, intentionally place food on the ground for birds, or intentionally place any food for seagulls, pigeons or similar birds.

It also adds a requirement that dogs be restrained and confined in accordance with state law.

In a memo to council, Waara said the issue had been prompted by complaints about dog owners letting their pets run off-leash, particularly on the waterfront. While the state law does not specifically require leashing, adopting it through city ordinance will make it easier to enforce, Waara said.

The city’s nuisance ordinance, Ordinance 331, includes adding a definition for pollinator gardens was intended to stop people from claiming to have one as an excuse for not mowing their lawn, Waara said in a memo to the council. The ordinance is also aimed at preventing the possibility of people bringing in shipping containers as small residences, as has happened in some municipalities.

The city received no comments from the public on the language regarding shipping containers, Waara said in the memo.

“We recognize that these ordinances are imperfect,” Waara said in the memo. “In some cases, what should be basic common sense is requiring us to attempt to write ordinances because we are the ones called upon when some people don’t consider their neighbors or other members of the public in their actions.”

Changes can be made to the ordinances in the future if necessary, Waara said.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Waara said he would like to see the council have the nuisance ordinance in place before summer.

A third previously proposed ordinance on property maintenance was removed from consideration. It would have included redefining what is considered a weed, as well as dealing with abandoned houses. Weeds are handled elsewhere in city code, and abandoned houses can be handled in the city’s danger buildings ordinance, Waara said in a memo to council.

In other action, the council:

• Approved the special land use permit for a proposed adult-use marijuana shop.

Nu Group, LLC, which does business as Nirvana, sought the permit for an operation at 1301 Ridge Rd. The building was formerly the site of the Bambu restaurant.

At this month’s Planning Commission meeting, Nu Group representative Zach Learman said the new business would create 20 full- and part-time jobs. Addressing the issue of smells from the business, he said it is equipped with a carbon filtration system that prevents them from circulating outside.

Councilors Robert Megowen and Virginia Cole, who both attended the Planning Commission meeting, said it had answered their questions.

• Tabled an item on the council dress code. Councilor Mike Needham had proposed the council return to wearing polo shirts with the City of Houghton logo. With only four members present at Wednesday’s meeting, the council decided to postpone the discussion.

• Heard from Police Chief John Donnelly the city had gotten numerous good applicants for a new officer position. The department also hired an experienced officer from another department interested in the new school resource officer role with Houghton-Portage Township Schools. The school resource position will hopefully start July 1.

• Heard from Waara the Lakeshore Drive rehabilitation project will go out to bids Friday.

• Accepted the Planning Commission’s 2022 report.


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