Leelanau News and Events

Northport Planning Commission To Talk Zoning Ordinance Redraft, Master Planning Kickoff

By Craig Manning | Feb. 21, 2024

The adoption of an amended zoning ordinance and the kickoff of a new master planning process: The Village of Northport’s planning commission has both of these major items on the meeting docket tonight (Wednesday) at 6pm. Both matters have the potential to shape the next chapter of Northport, with implications ranging from construction and development to alternative energy installations to political signage.

The centerpiece of tonight’s meeting will be a public hearing for a long-in-the-works “redraft” of the Northport zoning ordinance. The planning commission has been working for more than a year to revamp, expand, and modernize the zoning code. The existing ordinance dates back to 2006, though it has been lightly amended a few times over the years.

The public notice that announced tonight’s zoning hearing broadly highlighted the proposed changes under consideration. Those touch nearly every section of the code, including numerous “new and revised definitions” under Article 2 (“Definitions”); “modifications to specific development requirements” under Article 3 (“General Provisions”); a brand-new Article 4 (“Site Development Standards”) that “unifies several site design requirements into a single chapter”; major revisions to Article 5 (“Districts”), including a new district use table and a “significant review of the requirements for development within each of the zoning districts”; and other “modifications to the ordinance” around special uses, site plan review, planned unit developments, non-conforming uses, the village’s zoning board of appeals, and more.

The version of the ordinance planning commissioners will review tonight can be viewed and downloaded here.

Many of the amendments reflect the emergence in Northport of things that were nonfactors the last time the village did a significant redraft. Article 2 now includes several added or fleshed-out definitions on alternative energy technologies. Alternative energy also gets more attention in Article 3, which now includes lengthy lists of rules about where solar and wind installations can go and how big or tall they are allowed to be.

One of the biggest additions is a new section that creates a brand-new zoning district: the R-2 S Shoreline Residential District. That new classification “is intended for single-family and two-family residential uses, together with schools, churches, parks, and playgrounds along the shoreline of Northport Bay” and will encompass “most of the residential shoreline within the Village.”

Per the proposed redraft, the creation of R-2 S Shoreline Residential District is intended “to ensure compatibility of buildings along the shoreline with neighboring buildings” and to minimize the impact that new buildings have on “viewsheds to the bay.” Specific restrictions include a 6,000-square-foot minimum lot size, a 35-foot building height maximum, and a ban on accessory dwelling units and other accessory structures “within the waterfront yard,” or the part of the yard that faces the bay.

A smaller but particularly notable change considering the forthcoming election: Northport’s new zoning draft includes new restrictions on political signage. In residential zones, homeowners would now only be allowed to have one “small-scale sign” (measuring “six square feet or less) year-round, as well as one additional “temporary” sign “during the period between three months prior to an election and seven days after its conclusion.” In commercial and industrial zones, property owners can display up to two small-scale signs year-round, as well as two additional temporary signs during the three months leading up to an election and the seven days after.

If planning commissioners approve the redrafted zoning ordinance this evening, the document will then pass to the Northport Village Council for final approval.

Planning commissioners are also preparing to kick off another major endeavor: the creation of a new village master plan. Tonight’s meeting packet includes a public notice of intent about the planning commission “initiating the process to complete an update of the master plan for the village,” as well as a master plan citizen input questionnaire and a step-by-step rundown of the master planning process that planning commissioners will be following.

The questionnaire asks local residents and stakeholders to weigh-in on priorities regarding housing development, business and economic development, historic preservation, protection of natural resources, arts and culture, safe walking and biking, and more. 

The process document, meanwhile, provides a roadmap for what locals can expect as the planning commission moves forward with developing a new master plan. Once the public notice goes out, the next step is for the planning commission to host public engagement activities to garner input and feedback. Based on that feedback, the commission will put together preliminary master plan “documents, maps, and conceptual designs.”

Northport’s existing master plan was adopted in June 2018 and laid out goals around guiding population and employment growth in the village, protecting the area’s natural beauty, encouraging affordable housing “and diversity in housing types and lifestyle choices,” promoting energy conservation, and conserving natural resources. Northport’s planning commission developed that plan over the course of two years with assistance from Networks Northwest. Under a similar timeline, Northport could have a new master plan by late next year.

Tonight’s meeting will take place at the Northport village offices, located at 116 West Nagonaba Street.

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