Harrisville works through city zoning ordinances

HARRISVILLE – The City of Harrisville is nearing the end of a three-year effort to update its zoning ordinances. And the document could be complete in the nick of time. A developer downstate has expressed an interest in turning some property at the south end of town into single-family homes.

The previous ordinance dates back to the 1980s, officials said.

“It was only one-eighth of an inch thick and it was very difficult to read,” said Harrisville Alderman Mike Baird, who is vice-chairman of the planning commission.

The new document contains 255 pages of definitions, procedures, regulations and redress essential for Harrisville to move into the future, officials said. Copies of the proposed document are available for review at the city office at 200 Fifth St., and a public hearing will be scheduled at a later date.

“It gives us a guideline to govern our community for the betterment of all and not the individual,” Baird said. “For example: the best place to store my camper is in my front yard. That’s best for me, but it’s not necessarily best for the community. So that’s why you have ordinances to tell you where you can and cannot not store things.”

Baird noted that he doesn’t have a camper, but said the idea demonstrates the basics of creating a structure so that a government can move ahead.

Another reason for the ordinances is to safeguard health, and promote safety and the general welfare of all Harrisville residents and visitors, officials said.

Based on objectives established in a city’s master plan, zoning makes sure that homes aren’t built next to sewage disposal systems; XXX-rated movie theaters aren’t located next to daycare centers and construction follows safety standards so buildings don’t fall down.

For assistance with its zoning update, the city contracted with Denise Cline, of the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments.

“They want to guide development so things happen, that it’s good development,” Cline said. “They are trying to respond to the new economy out there and encourage, for example, home-based businesses and cottage industries.”

The effort cost about $11,000, she said.

Cline lauded the planning commissioners for their efforts.

“The planning commissioners themselves went through this line-by-line and it’s theirs,” she said. “They walked around looking at what already exists in Harrisville.”

The sign ordinance is one example, she said.

“One of their planning commissioners went out and did a survey and wrote their regulations based on what really exists in the city – what works and what doesn’t work,” she said.

Home-based businesses are part of the proposed plan, Cline said.

“Some one who builds rocking chairs in their garage may want a small sales area where the public can come up and look at the inventory without disturbing their neighbor,” she said.

Here are other goals of the planning commission:

* create zoning based on what is existing, and then expand on that, giving people the opportunity to do more with their properties

* create a central business district so buildings can be built to the lot line

* create a mix-use district where complementary businesses can be operated near homes – such as bakeries, restaurants and cafes

* extend the mixed-use zone along U.S. 23

The commission was willing to tackle tough issues. Cline said the planners put in regulations governing sex-oriented businesses, manufactured housing communities, wind energy and junk yards. They have also included proposed language on lighting, to protect the area’s starry skies at night.

Developer Rick Pender recently approached the city about wanting to build single-family homes on property he owns on S. Second Street and Grant Street. He asked if the city was willing to vacate some streets that have never been built, so that he can create more marketable lot sizes.

The city tabled the request until aldermen could do more research on the request. Officials said the proposed development is probably the first for the city in 50 years.

Betsy Lehndorff can be reached via email at blehndorff@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Betsy on Twitter @bl_alpenanews.