By Sue Moore
Setting Schoolcraft’s goals, objectives and strategies five years into the future demands a crystal ball at best. The village’s Planning Commission took the task to heart at its February meeting, recommending a plan for consideration by the village Council in time for its own February session.
The Council followed with a plan to seek public comments through April and possible adoption in May.
It was easy to agree on goal number one: Eliminate the center turn lane on U.S. 131 through downtown and replace it with a landscaped median within a year. “This could be a more attainable first goal than some of the others that follow,” Jorden Parker, the consultant from Wightman Associates, explained. He and Natalie Dean from Wightman helped to draft the plan that would be suitable for submission to the state of Michigan as required every five years.
The change would require approval from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Goal number five dovetailed with the median changes. It stipulates that the village work with MDOT to improve safety along the corridor with pedestrian crossing lights and reducing vehicle turning movements on the street. “This is a safety issue that is critical to our future; why not put it as goal number two?” asked Trustee Sue Hendriksma. Discussion followed: whether to accomplish those changes all at once or work with MDOT on a step-by-step basis.
Goal number two: Provide sewers for all village residents and business owners within five years. This was modified at the request of Trustee Wes Schmitt. “We should avoid controversy right off the top of this plan, unless we can get 90 percent state and federal funding for sewers. I’m not willing to back-door this to our citizens. I would hope that people don’t overreact; the funding is the big requirement,” Schmitt said.
Mae Pfost, newly appointed chair of the Planning Commission, said the village needs to get in line right away with a new infrastructure plan just presented by the Trump administration. “Our 100-year-old water pipes could be replaced. There will be money there because the state is looking for Great Lakes funding too.”
Goal number three: Work with the schools in the next three years to acquire ownership of the existing sports fields east of the railroad and market the site to single family developers. This requires a funding strategy to acquire land and develop a partnership with the school to market the land.
Goal number four: Develop an accessible trail along the north-south rail line through Schoolcraft to Portage in the next three years, then continue the trail from Schoolcraft to Three Rivers. It was agreed that this is a priority but should move down in the ranking because of the long time needed to see success. It placed high on preferences at public meetings held in 2017.
Goal number six: Create a mixed-use development zone and rezone an area to accommodate a mix of commercial development and townhouses or duplex units.
The document lays out the next six goals which largely speak to how zoning changes could work to achieve the goals. Parker told the planning commission members that they can’t do all of this themselves. “They should find the champion for each goal and let that person take the reins.”
A parks and recreation plan, also discussed, will be recommended to the Village Council on a different timeline.
A week after the planning commission’s meeting, the Council approved seeking public comment on the Master Plan until April 30. It scheduled a May 14 public hearing with a goal of final adoption at the May 21 council meeting.