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Parking deck on ballot

Dear editor:

Houghton city voters, there is a proposal on the Aug. 4 primary ballot, “Lakeshore Parking Lot Redevelopment,” that needs your YES vote. The proposal requests the city of Houghton to postpone selling the waterfront parking deck property to a private developer until Houghton citizens and other stakeholders can publicly discuss other options for the future of this property.

Why is this proposal on the ballot?

Last summer, the city council asked three developers to present proposals to qualify as candidates to purchase and develop the city-owned parking deck property located between Lakeshore Drive and the waterfront trail. The public presentation made by these companies of their business prospectuses and development concepts was the first time most attendees had heard of the city wanting to sell this property.

In late August, the city council chose the Marquette-based Veridea company to further develop their proposal to replace the parking deck with a $50 million mix of city mandated parking and a 3-6 story hotel and residential complex running the length of the three-block property. The city claims that this is not the final proposal, but Veridea has stated publicly to expect something similar to this plan.

The city has held three public meetings where large crowds of citizens questioned the need to sell the property, why other development ideas were not explored, and the effect the size and scope of the plan would have on lakeshore access and views, parking for downtown businesses, the historic character of the downtown, and the possible economic impact on existing hotels and other hospitality businesses.

Despite these concerns, the city manager and council continue with the sale to one developer option. They contend they are following the master plan and required protocol for public input and will solicit further public comment as the Veridea proposal solidifies.

So, for now, citizen input is limited to commenting on the Veridea plan. There will be no community-wide discussion on selling the property. No chance for citizens to share alternative development ideas.

Passage of the Aug. 4 ballot proposal will demonstrate to the City Council that a large number of Houghton voters want a more open democratic process in determining the fate of this important community-owned property.

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