‘THE CITY OF Marquette has absolutely no intention of selling any of its lakefront property. In fact, it is buying lakefront property.”
The words of Mayor Fred Stonehouse, who seems vaguely annoyed by accusations that Marquette is selling off its most valuable property on its way to becoming another Traverse City or Miami Beach. (See Facebook comments on WOTS “Marquette’s Changing Skyline “ story last week)
Here are the points he wishes to make:
The land where the Marquette Place development is being built is not actually on the lake shore. The beach, the boardwalk, and the bike path are all publicly owned. We all have access to those.
Now, do the buildings block the view of motorists on Lakeshore Boulevard? Yep, they do. But we should also keep in mind that before the developers came in, that property was an environmental mess.
Stonehouse’s next point:
The city has actually acquired lakefront land for the public in recent years–Clark Lambros Beach Park, in a generous gift from the Lambros and Butler families, and Lighthouse Park, in a trade with the Coast Guard where the city got the much larger piece of property.
And a final point:
95% of the city’s shoreline property is open to the public, and will remain open to the public. You wanna dip your toes in the lake? You can do it just about anywhere.
Now here’s the crucial question: Are there other properties on or near the lakeshore that could be sold and developed in the future? Yes. A few of them.
- The WE Energies and BLP properties. How soon they’ll be sold and redeveloped is anybody’s guess. In any case, the land will need serious remediation.
- The Cliffs-Dow site north of Picnic Rocks. It’s a brownfield property owned by the city. It’s for sale and has drawn some interest.
- The private property, adjacent to Clark Lambros Beach Park, owned by businesswoman and philanthropist Michele Butler. No sale is imminent, she says.
- Parcel 2 of the Founders Landing property, now owned by the city, where a developer is talking about building moderate income townhouses and a possible Marriott.
There are a few other smaller sites (e.g. the apparently discarded plans for a condo development near the Nestledown B&B) but that’s about it. And although the two utility properties are actually on the lake itself, the others will not be located lakeside. If and when they are developed, they’d be built on the other side of Lakeshore Boulevard. Motorists’ views of the lake wouldn’t be blocked.
That, of course, won’t satisfy everyone because the developments will likely be bigger and denser than we’re used to. Honestly, most of us would probably prefer open lakeshore everywhere–dunes, beaches, rocks, parks, gorgeous vista points. And maybe a few handsome, low-slung buildings interspersed here and there.
But the reality is, that’s not going to happen in 21st century Marquette. Tax revenue is important to keep the city and its services afloat.
Smart planning is even more important. That is, planning, with an eye not only on the dollar, but also on aesthetics and livability.
Mayor Stonehouse says he–and the city government–agree. We’ll all be watching.
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