Muskegon Heights looks to update zoning plan after 8 years

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MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. --  Muskegon Heights is looking ahead to the next 20 years, hoping to build and develop more of their city to make the community a better place for those who live in it. To do that, city leaders are trying to include neighbors in what direction they intend to take.

The workshop took place on Monday at Muskegon Heights City Hall, and it centered around zoning. Every city has zoning; it’s basically a master plan on what areas are labeled for future development like residential neighborhoods, shopping, commercial and industrial developments. A municipality has to update their zoning plan every 5 years; Muskegon Heights hasn’t updated theirs since 2008.

“I can remember when we had a local bakery and clothing stores and different things, and so I would like to see a lot of that come back,” said Ozetta Aron, a resident of Muskegon Heights.

Others put in suggestions like new crosswalk areas or turning empty lots into pocket parks.

“I  think we take some of those vacant lots and turn them into pocket parks. You know, the kids play basketball in the street and we could repurpose some of those vacant lots so they could use them,” said Diana Jones, another Muskegon Heights resident.

The zoning administrator, Mike Franzak, hosted the workshop. He said that they are taking a look at the properties soon to make sure they are zoned properly, so eventually they can get the right developers to transform the parcels into something that will be approved and useful.

People put sticky notes on a very large aerial map of the city to point out what they'd like to see done. There were also surveys available that showcased seven properties: Lindbergh property on Barney and Hoyt, Board of Education on Sherman and Baker, a vacant downtown parcel on Broadway and 6th, a vacant industrial property on Broadway and Temple, Glendale Property on Summit and Glendale, a vacant industrial building on Broadway and Hoyt, and a vacant community center at Mona Lake Park. They asked people what each property could be used for and what it shouldn’t be used for. At the end of the survey, they asked people what other key properties need to be examined for future development.

“You can’t complain if you don’t give any input and so at least I can sit here and say no I don’t like that and they remember,” said Aron.

The City Council in an earlier meeting said they have too many vacant lots than they have money to maintain them, so they are hoping to sell them. That’s where people like David Carter - a resident looking to buy property - come in.

“I have a five year outlook for my business, and the property I am concerned with is 171 East Sherman Street and I am looking to put a restaurant there,” said Carter.

Carter found out at the workshop that the area he is looking at for his business is currently residentially zoned, something he’ll be asking them to change.

Whether people were scoping out an area to start a business or just wanting a couple new parks, the goal is the same: build up Muskegon Heights.

“The way I see it, the city is going to grow. We’ve already been down and now we're growing up,” said Carter.

Muskegon Heights is going to take these suggestions when they start to take a hard look at their zoning map. The date for when the map is to be completed is to be determined.

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