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Waterfront development

To the editor:

The goal of the Houghton Waterfront Redevelopment Citizen’s Group is to expand opportunities for public input on the potential development of the Houghton’s Lakeshore Drive parking deck property. This group is circulating a ballot petition that if successful would place on the May 28 ballot an initiative that reads “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?” Because the property is in the city of Houghton, only residents who are registered to vote in the city can sign this petition, even though the impact of this development affects all area residents and visitors.

Petitions are available for signing at these downtown businesses: 5th and Elm Coffee House, the Print Shop, and Swift’s Hardware. Area residents will also be circulating the petition. Signatures will be collected through 5 p.m. Jan. 27.

Currently the city is only considering the option of selling the property to a single developer, and from a flowchart presented at the Nov. 13 Houghton city council meeting, opportunities for public input will only solicit feedback on the developer’s plans for the site. It also appears the process is rushed with a projected start of construction in 2020 or 2021 and completion in 2021 or 2022.

I believe the property is a huge asset for the city and the best use of the parking deck property can only come from gathering and carefully considering a multitude of ideas from those who will be impacted by the development. I envision a public input process that includes public surveys, community meetings, facilitated workshops, and focus groups to generate and explore a wide variety of potential uses of the property. Once a broad array of options is developed, additional public input would narrow down the options to determine the best use of the property.

This public input process would reach out to not only city residents and businesses, but area residents as well as they too work, shop, and utilize the downtown area. This area is blessed with an abundance of innovative, talented, and conscientious people, and the opportunity to tap into this resource should not be disregarded.