2018-10-11 / Community

Master Plan shows ag strong in Huron County; residents want shoreline preserved

By John Bonke
Staff Writer • jbonke@mihomepaper.com


(NOTE: This first-draft map, from the Master Plan, uses information from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.) (NOTE: This first-draft map, from the Master Plan, uses information from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.) HURON COUNTY - The future - and the present - of Huron County includes ag and shoreline preservation. The first draft of the Master Plan reveals residents want to preserve agriculture and the shoreline - and clean up the blight and bring jobs and other opportunities to the county. Nearly two-thirds of the land is in PA 116 and the overwhelming majority of residents responding to the survey want the shoreline preserved - and open spaces and scenic vistas expanded.

• EXISTING LAND USE

Nearly 85 percent (84.43) of the county’s land is used for agriculture and most of the remainder (8.45) is woodlands and wetlands; less than one percent (0.68) is residential, according to page 76 of the Huron County Master Plan first draft.

• PA 116

Map 13 of the Master Plan first draft says, “Overall there are 536,320 acres in Huron County, 340,917 are a part of the PA 116 program This is approximately 63.5% of the County land area.”

Brookfield and Chandler townships have the most percentage of land enrolled in PA 116 at 90 percent. Brookfield 90%, Chandler 90%; McKinley 87%; Sebewaing 80%; Bloomfield 78%, Winsor 77%; Oliver 76%, Meade 70%, Sheridan 69%, Sherman 69%, Dwight 68%, Hume 68%, Sigel 67%, Caseville 66%; Paris 66%, Sand Beach 63%, Lincoln 62%, Bingham 54%, Grant 52%, Huron 49%, Fairhaven 48%; Colfax 46%, Rubicon 42%, Gore 38%, Verona 36%, Lake 26%; Pt. Austin 15%, and Pte. aux Barques 2%.

• LISTENING TO HURON COUNTY

Two years ago, stakeholders were surveyed.

The responding citizens said quality of life is good but aesthetics and blight has worsened the past 10 years, with crime and drug abuse, wind energy development and unemployment the three major challenges. Moreover, business development worsened over the past 10 years.

Survey response showed strong support to maintain agricultural land use and any additional commercial services should be located in existing towns or along main roads. Additionally, scenic vistas and open spaces along the shoreline are to be preserved and public parks should be updated and improved.

To protect natural resources, more than 75 percent want scenic view protection and about 70 percent want to limit development along the shoreline and actually have the county acquire more property and preserve existing open space.

The survey also asked about what type of development respondents want or don’t want. Nearly 90 percent want shoreline parks improved and updated; about 80 percent want to preserve scenic vistas and open spaces along the shoreline and promote the shoreline as a destination, connecting parks and towns. Almost 70 percent want more open spaces made to promote the natural beauty and scenic vistas. Less than half want to allow using the shoreline for new hotels or motels and hospitality establishments.

The top three components to Quality of Life that were better were Public Safety and Emergency Services, Medical Services and Parks and Recreation. About the same were said to be Housing Choices, Traffic, County Services and Police Services. Worse were Business Development and Aesthetics/Blight.

Respondents want more and better-paying jobs, consistent medical care access, secondary education and training, more grocery stores, busing, a rec center and trails and youth activities.

The top economic development strategies suggested by the survey included attracting and retaining a skilled workforce, adding hi-tech infrastructure, marketing and promoting the County to workers and companies and offering business incentives.

• ALTERNATIVE ENERGY DEVELOPMENT

The survey, asking folks to rank their preferences, revealed 73 percent strongly agreed or agreed solar is welcome and 65 percent like geothermal. Methane gas capture acceptance was at 49 percent and wind fared fourth, likewise with less than half, 43 percent, in favor.

The neutral category attracted 48 percent for both anaerobic digesters and biomass, 37 percent were so-so on methane and 29 nonchalant with geothermal. Solar and wind were both just under 20.

The strongly disagrees and disagrees went to wind at 39 percent, then methane, biomass and anaerobic digesters from about 10-15 percent. Solar and geothermal drew the least negatives at just under 10.

• TURBINES

The proposed first draft of the Master Plan update addresses wind in pages 56-60 and shows almost 290 or a little more than 60% of the 470-some turbines are in County-zoned Townships; Winsor has the most turbines at 61, then Bingham and Bloomfield each with 41, Dwight 35 and Brookfield 32. The non-county-zoned numbers are Chandler 87, Oliver 56, Huron 25 and Colfax 17. The Master Plan notes a total Capacity of 878 Mw from the county’s turbines.

• FUTURE LAND USE

Under Land Use in Huron County, p. 106, it says, “One of the purposes of a Master Plan is to incorporate a future land use plan that will guide the next 10 to 20 years of development in the County.” It goes on to say, “The land use plan outlined in this section on the Master Plan serves to reflect the community’s desire to promote growth in specific areas while maintaining, enhancing, and protecting the natural resources present throughout the County.”

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