UPDATING LAST WEEK’S ARTICLE about the proposed hotel project near Picnic Rocks on Lakeshore Boulevard… Apparently the mechanism by which such projects are approved or denied does not include our city commission. The Planning Commission, an appointed board, is the governing body that will rule on a developer’s request for a Special Land Use permit. And they’ll make their decision based on the criteria established in the city’s Land Development Code.
According to Dave Stensaas, City Planner and Zoning Administrator, as long as the code is adhered to, the Planning Commission is obligated to give it a thumbs up. “The permit must be approved if they find that it meets all the criteria in the Land Development Code.” And, according to Stensaas, that decision is final.
Purportedly, the reason our city commissioners are not involved in the approval process is in order to keep such decisions free from political pressures, often felt by elected officials. That way, if you’re planning a project and you need the city’s blessings, you won’t have to worry about commissioners’ personal feelings about you or your plans entering into the deliberations. The decision will be made based on adherence to the ordinance and the objectivity of the Planning Commission.
Sounds pretty cut and dried, until you look closely at the aforementioned “criteria.”
For example, under the Standards section of the document listing the conditions necessary for approval is this:
Operations of Use. The nature and intensity of operations involved in or conducted in connection with the proposed use is appropriate for the site and not in conflict with surrounding properties and uses.
Site Area and Potential Future Expansion Areas. That the Planning Commission has determined that there is sufficient site area for the proposed use to prevent nuisances to neighboring uses, and that there is the potential for reasonable anticipated expansion of the use without nuisances to neighboring uses.
Additional Neighborhood Factors. Other factors shall be considered as necessary to maintain property values in the neighborhood and guarantee safety, light, air and privacy to the principal uses in the district.
If the folks who don’t want a 4-story hotel shading Picnic Rocks are looking for talking points, those “conditions” might be a good place to start. If they show up en masse to next Tuesday’s Planning Commission meeting to object to this project, like we think they will, they may have more than just emotions on their side. Rather than being “cut and dried,” a fair amount of the review process seems open to interpretation.
Terms like ‘appropriate,’ ‘nuisance,’ and ‘property values’ all accommodate differences in interpretation. And that’s where the Planning Commission will earn their stripes. Regardless of their commitment to the code, the people on the planning board will find it hard to dismiss a passionate citizen protest. Nevertheless, if we have competent, engaged people on our city advisory boards, we should be able to trust their decisions.
Just so you know, if you like being on the hook for helping decide the city’s future, there are openings on the Planning Commission.
It should also be noted that the project probably has its supporters, even in the neighborhood where it’s being proposed. Those in favor of controversial projects are usually a little quieter than opponents, but it’s reasonable to assume not everyone sees a hotel as a threat to our way of life… whatever that is.
Under normal circumstances, the idea of a hotel in an area of multi-floor apartment buildings and other businesses might not create much of a stir. But the recent surge in development along the lakeshore, with a number of hotels and condos, has become a touchstone for those opposing such growth.
Until further notice, every proposed project along the lakeshore will become a cause célèbre, regardless of its potential impact. Developers beware… it’s now the cost of doing business in a community wary of change. Grrr…
Okay, calling it a rebellion might be a little too dramatic. But there are more than a few city residents none-too-happy with the upcoming change to our recycling program. The grief over the idea of mandatory recycling carts will manifest itself this month as the oversized containers will be distributed to every Marquette residence… wanted or not.
Objections, often from elderly residents, refer to the large size of the containers and the difficulty in dragging them to and fro, as well as no convenient place to put them when they’re not on the curb. And, with no explanation necessary, the winter months will be even more challenging.
There was opposition on the City Commission to this program, but not enough to defeat the idea of “free” recycling carts. Proponents say the carts have proven to increase participation in recycling when used in other communities.
Apparently the cart system is favored by the haulers. According to a Waste Management spokesperson, “The carts are convenient for residents, help prevent litter, and most of all, they’re safer for our drivers. We see fewer injuries because our drivers don’t have to lift and throw bags by hand or navigate icy surfaces.”
Yeah. We get it. But we still don’t have to like it. And we’re not going to like it when garbage collection goes to the cart system too, which is probably not far down the road. Grrr…
This just in…
No confirmation from official sources yet, but the word on the street is that Texas Roadhouse is coming to Marquette Township. Remember, we reported a few months back that Panera Bread would be putting in a new facility across from Menards. And now we hear that Texas Roadhouse, the “American steakhouse that specializes in steaks in a Texan and Southwestern cuisine style,” will be right next to Panera, with both coming in sometime next year. (No word yet on Olive Garden.)
This may be just a rumor, but what’s not to believe? Did you try to get a table in Marquette this summer?
Horace Greeley once said… “Go west, young man.” We’re not sure if Horace had Marquette Township in mind, but that seems to be the trend. See you there.