By Sue Moore
Contrary to some expectations, the Reroute Schoolcraft public meeting in November was not about changing the location of U.S. 131. It was a public meeting at the Village Hall to discuss ways to bring more businesses to Schoolcraft and help it grow.
More than 50 people who turned out to listen to a presentation by Jordan Parker of Wightman & Associates. That’s the consulting firm engaged by the Village of Schoolcraft to envision what is needed in its planning for the future with a goal of keeping residents here and bringing new ones to the village.
Wes Schmitt, former village president and member of the Planning Commission, explained to the group that the workshop was organized to listen and obtain valuable feedback on how residents view their village and how they might want it to grow and change.
By gathering views on how people feel about attracting businesses, new residents, tourists, millennials, boomers, food establishments, offices and other types of businesses, the Village could incorporate the findings in its land use plan and village zoning ordinances, Schmitt told the group.
Small groups were formed to come up with ideas. What village officials heard from each was that lack of sewers in the business district is the main deterrent to growth. They also agreed on several other key issues and opportunities that need to be considered in the planning process. These included:
• U.S. 131 is both good and bad for the village. Over 27,000 cars travel Grand Street each day, helping with visibility for the village. It also means that traffic speeds can be excessive and crossing the street is often dangerous.
• Schoolcraft is a small, tight-knit community with a great quality of life for its residents who often represent three generations or more of family residing in the village. The small-town, family feel is important to those who choose to stay in Schoolcraft.
• The schools are excellent and a draw for families who want the best education for their children.
• There are nearby amenities such as Busch Park and the central location in SW Michigan, colleges and universities, Lake Michigan, and outdoor activities available.
• There is safety and security because of the caring nature of the residents.
Besides sewers, some of the more frequent needs mentioned included:
• More restaurants, including a craft brewery.
• More volunteering in the community, although there is great volunteering in the schools.
• That the railroad and highway could be capitalized upon. Give the 27,000 cars going by each day, more reasons to stop should be developed.
• The 35-mph speed limit needs to be enforced.
• New businesses and more variety are needed to further the growth in the downtown.
• Incentives for businesses and industry to locate in Schoolcraft are needed.
• More community activities to engage residents are needed.
• Biking and walking trails need to be developed, possibly to connect to outlying communities that already have trails.
• Need to capitalize on Schoolcraft as a farming community.
Each small group was asked to come up with a slogan for Schoolcraft. These offered included:
• “Growth without losing the community.”
• “Schoolcraft is a growing community with strong historic pride.”
• “Schoolcraft is a vibrant community where people want to come to visit and live.”
• “Schoolcraft, a small town with big potential.”
Residents of Schoolcraft are encouraged to get involved with more public meetings scheduled in early March and the middle of June by contacting Cheri Lutz, village manager, at 269-679-4304.