Peninsula Township zoning ordinance changes are afoot, but some Old Mission Peninsula residents feel that more time should be allowed for public comment, and that not enough was done to promote input from township residents at this week’s meeting of the Planning Commission.
At the meeting, Township Planner Randy Mielnik outlined several changes to the Zoning Ordinance, and a public hearing was held.
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“Lots of work has gone into this,” Mielnik said. “There’s been lots of input from different people at different times, and you have in front of you a document that is light years ahead of where we’ve been, a document that’s been stuck in the 1970s putting bandaids on a zoning ordinance that clearly needs work.”
Mielnik noted that the Peninsula Township Zoning Ordinance was first adopted in 1972 and supported only by piecemeal amendments during the last 48 years. Because the township has found it increasingly difficult to respond to current development pressures, the Planning Commission formed a committee to work on updating ordinance language with the help of a planning consultant.
In the works since 2015, the ordinance update includes ordinance reorganization, new definitions, updated definitions, new graphics, procedural clarifications, explanations of development standards, past amendments, additional development standards, an updated zoning map, and references to related provisions and other laws.
“It doesn’t do anyone any benefit to have a zoning ordinance that is confusing and contradictory and lacking terms and the kind of clarity that you would hope for,” said Mielnik. “This is complicated stuff, especially for Peninsula Township where we drill down into details.”
The ordinance changes were reviewed by township staff, legal counsel and engineering, and in January 2020, the draft document was posted on the township website.
Since January, comments have been received and incorporated into the document, and in September, the planning commission decided to hold a formal public hearing. Although Mielnik noted that the township followed the required legal protocols for posting notice of the meeting, several residents at the meeting felt it could have been better promoted, given that this is an ordinance rewrite that’s been years in the making.
Monnie Peters, who was part of the committee that worked on the ordinance rewrite, said it was unclear from the agenda and meeting packet whether the public hearing was on only the pages included in the packet or the whole ordinance.
“If it’s the whole document, I think it ought to be better advertised,” said Peters. “It’s already on the website, but you don’t say whether that’s where people should go to look at it.”
Township resident Lou Santucci agreed. “With something this major, the township should have posted in bold letters on their opening web page that the several year effort to amend the zoning ordinance was about to come to a head.”
The public hearing will continue at the next regular meeting of the Planning Commission on Nov. 16, 2020, at 7 p.m. at the Township Hall. Comments may also be provided prior to the hearing via letter to Peninsula Township Planner, 13235 Center Road, Traverse City, MI 49686; or emailed to [email protected].
There may also be a virtual zoom session on the ordinance changes. Planning Commission Chair Donna Hornberger noted that during these times when Covid-19 prohibits large gatherings and residents may not wish to attend a meeting, “we need to figure out a way to have those people heard.”
Peninsula Township is also working on an interactive website, separate from the main township website, to make it easier to promote township matters and give residents a way to offer input. Stay tuned to the Gazette and we’ll let you know when that website goes live.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb