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Hancock Planning Commission hears results of zoning code diagnostic

Kim Littleton presented to Hancock’s Planning Commission Tuesday night for shy of one hour, alongside Ericka Malone of OHM. He hinted at major changes to the city’s zoning ordinance, a set of regulations that dates back to the 1970’s. The alterations would bring zoning in line with Hancock’s comprehensive plan, current public policy, and are aimed at making the document more user friendly for public and private individuals alike.

City Manager Mary Babcock, along with the rest of the council, were very receptive to the ideas raised. She had some process concerns, though. In Littleton’s timeline, the next working group meeting won’t be until mid-May and the revised document wouldn’t go before the Planning Commission again until the end of that month. Public hearings are scheduled just a couple weeks later in June. Babcock wants the public to have access earlier than that.

I understand that this has to be adopted at a public hearing, but we don’t want it to get to that point without have the public view it [first].

That sentiment was agreed to by the five members present.

Commissioner Kurt Rickard says the changes proposed on Tuesday are in line with the original vision the body had for the diagnostic. He was surprised by how detail-intensive the update is.

I think it’s exactly what…the kind of document we want. It’s a lot more involved than what I think I realized. When I viewed another city’s code versus what our older code looks like, I didn’t realize it was going to be quite this much work.

There are five main recommendations. Littleton wants to see the city modernize its use regulations. He gave an example of drive throughs. There is currently nothing in the zoning code for what has become a staple of many restaurants. Conservancy, solar, and wind are other possible additions. He wants to update and realign different zoning districts, particularly to move Hancock towards a greater reliance on tourism. Other ideas are to enhance the review and approval procedures for city officials to follow and better categorize development standards.

Right now regulations for things like permitted signage, fencing, and exterior lighting are often repeated in several code articles. Littleton wants to clean that up, taking 27 articles, which are then broken down into sections and reducing it to six. Standards would be outlined as pertaining to all zones, from the downtown to residential and the waterfront, or applying to specific codes.

Lastly, Littleton is proposing more visual aids and clearer tables, which is in line with the goal of user friendliness. That would include an all-encompassing glossary of terms that could be located at the end of the document for those with questions. The zoning code update is part of the eligibility requirements for the Redevelopment Ready Communities grant program offered through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

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