Salted with Sharks

It’s Planning Season: Have Your Say Before Someone Takes It Away

In Infrastructure and Planning on November 10, 2010 at 10:49 am

These are tense and exciting times. Yes, I know, you say, what with the Republican Party taking over the House, and the economy flatlining and the final four… [insert whatever sports thing—PS: the Alert is looking for a sports columnist]. No, no. Forget the national scene. What’s happening right here, right now, that will affect your future in ways you’ve never even thought about?

Frankfort is developing its master plan and zoning ordinance right now, and so is Elberta. Public hearing and comment are still in the offing (Frankfort’s next public hearing is November 17 at City Hall), but so far the attendance has been small, considering the topics under discussion. Frankfort is weighing how it will handle alternative technologies—how tall will the wind towers be, and where? what are the possibilities for energy independence in the form of a garbage-vaporizing new technology? People tend to zone out when they hear the word zoning, and we shouldn’t.

The rules are being set right now for the future: how we use our waterfront, whether or not you can have a business in your home and what kind it will be, what size signs you can put on your lawn, what kinds of crazy things your neighbors might be able to do with their garage… It’s a democratic process, but not if we don’t show up.

Elberta’s five-member planning commission met last night and reviewed Scott Gest’s plans for his waterfront development. Many Elbertians have been wondering why that development hasn’t started yet, and have complained about it. But in the meantime, do you know what the plans actually are and whether you really want them? The Alert will be devoting more space to this topic in future columns. In the meantime, the next planning commission meeting is scheduled for January. Scott Gest has also been at most regular Village Council meetings (the next one is November 18), and has been very willing to talk about his plans. All these meetings are open to the public. Don’t wait till government happens to you! In a town this small, you can really make a difference.

The Elberta master plan process is expected to take only 9 months. The commission will be working with a representative of the Northern Michigan Council of Governments to smooth the process along. But how smooth do you want it to be? Joyfield Township currently has no zoning laws and have already leased about 8,000 acres of land to Duke Energy for wind turbines. The plan is for 56 wind towers. Without a zoning ordinance, there’s no guarantee what will happen when those towers cease to function or are abandoned for whatever reason. Joyfield may be setting itself up for major problems, but they’ve apparently decided it’s worth the risk.

Communities are allowed to comment on adjacent communities’ plans; after all, what our neighbors do affects us. Consider the proposal by some in Frankfort to reinstate car ferries, in the form of high speed ones from the company Lake Express. By the way, Frankfort was not the home of the original rail car ferries, Elberta was. This might be a boon for our two communities, connecting us to Wisconsin again and drawing people into our commercial areas, or it might be a boondoggle. You have a chance to decide for yourself. Future meeting times are posted at City Hall and at the Elberta post office, and they’ll be posted and covered here. —Emily Votruba

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