HARBERT – Chikaming Township’s long process of creating a new zoning ordinance document that better reflects the goals of the township’s Master Plan finally crossed the goal line after nearly three years during an Oct. 24 special meeting of the Chikaming Township Board.

Members voted 5-0 to adopt the ordinance.

There was a vote to recommend its approval to the Board during the October 2 meeting of the Planning Commission, and it was expected to come up for a vote during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Board on Oct. 10; however, a letter received from an attorney representing a lakefront homeowner caused another short delay in the process.

That remaining issue was resolved with the addition of language to the document stating that an exemption would be given to lakefront property owners who have undeveloped lots for which , an active permit from the Michigan department of Environmental Quality (now the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy – MDEGLE) has been issued under the provision of Parts 323 and/or 353 of the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA, as amended for development of the lot on the effective date of the zoning ordinance is exempt from the area, bulk, setback, height, and other dimensional requirements of the new lakefront zoning district ((R-1-W) with the following two provisions: That the lot is developed in compliance with the permit and any amendment attached to it; and that the development of the lot commences before the permit and any amendments to it expire and are not renewed in a timely manner.

Language in the new zoning ordinance adding R-1-W lakefront zoning ordinance that, going forward, principal structures must be set back at least 150 feet from the regulatory ordinary high water mark (OHWM), or halfway from that line to the front of the lot line if that distance is less than 150 feet has sparked some controversy during the approval process.

Supervisor David Bunte said that on Sept. 21 and Sept. 28 Planning Commission chairman Doug Dow hosted open houses at Chikaming Township Center for concerned lakefront property owners to answer their questions and to show where the proposed setback line would run, and he reported that 26 property owners attended these sessions and that all left saying they supported those proposed zoning changes along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

“We wanted to make sure that our attorney (Charles Hilmer), Doug Dow and our Zoning Administrator Van Thornton all approved the additional new language, and they all did,” Bunte said. “It’s not penalizing those who have already secured permits for work to be done that have been issued by the MDEGLE.

“Our intent was to bring clarity to this and to do what would work best for the township, and I think that we’ve done that,” he added.

The most discussion during the special meeting centered around moving forward with a vote immediately, or waiting to put it on the agenda for their next regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 14, but everyone agreed that throughout the lengthy process there had been transparency and public input solicited during public hearings, focus groups and open houses.

Trustee Rich Sullivan said that he had been involved in the process for almost three years and was ready for it to come to a conclusion.

“If we can vote on this at a special meeting I think we should go ahead and do it,” Sullivan commented. “We’ve given every opportunity for the public to give us their comments and recommendations in person and on our website, and I’m done. That’s my feeling.”

Bunte let out an audible sigh of relief after the vote for approval was taken, and that was accompanied by a round of applause.

He once again had high praise for everyone who worked so hard to make the new zoning ordinance a reality.

“It’s a living, breathing document, and it always will be,” Bunte commented.

The approved version of the zoning ordinance will go into effect on January 1, and the document is available for viewing via a link on the chikamingtownship.org website.

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