Citizen action needed

To the editor:

It is time for the citizens of Houghton to become actively involved in the city’s plans to redevelop the waterfront.

This project will have ramifications for our community for decades to come. Yet most of the decision-making has been by city management with little public input. And if the public comments at the August 28 Council meeting is any indication, the plan is not the kind of development, if any, Houghton citizens envision.

Why is this development necessary, and why the sense of urgency? The parking decks were recently renovated. There are unoccupied buildings and storefronts that allow for condo, apartment and retail expansion without the need for new construction that will change the historic charm of the city. A hotel owners’ representative stated there is no demand for more hotel rooms. Is bigger really better?

This entire process needs to be begin again, and the city council, as representatives of all Houghton residents, should take the lead in initiating this restart. And this new process would have a better outcome if it follows the guidelines of the city’s “Public Participation Plan,” which was adopted last January.

It would be prudent to hire a third party consultant firm that specializes in sustainable small city planning and development. This firm could be charged with overseeing the planning effort and bring to city government a plan built on city needs and public consensus. The consultant team should consist of progressive city planners, creative landscape and building architects, seasoned parking design specialists and staff experienced in facilitating public meetings, forums, and charrettes.

Yes, starting over will cause some “egg on the face”, but it would also increase the Council’s credibility. The new process will take time and money. But the outcome would be something the city council, managers, and most importantly the city residents will have a sense of ownership of and agreement with. Something this important to our future should not be put on the fast track to completion. This is a great city and we can do better.

On Oct. 29 from 6-7:30 p.m., the Portage Lake District Library community room is reserved for a meeting to discuss how we, as citizens, can have a direct voice in the how this city property will be developed. All residents of the Copper Country are invited to attend.