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Ironwood to consider business industrial zone


October 3, 2020

IRONWOOD — An expansion in the city’s industrial zone could create a new business category to buffer non-industrial areas, according to reports at the Ironwood Planning Commission meeting on Thursday. 

In his report to the commission, Tom Bergman, director of community development for the city of Ironwood, said zoning consultants are recommending that, if the city were to expand out of its current industrial zone, it include a business district area. The question for the planning commission and the city commission is to consider if Ironwood is a large enough community to designate a second business district as is the trend of larger municipalities.

“The consultants are leaning toward having one,” Bergman said.

The Ironwood industrial park is too compact to include large industrial operations of outdoor logging yards along with large indoor industries that include manufacturing and distribution centers, he said. These are not necessarily in conflict with each other but a third type of industrial use, the business center, is a possible separate designation for expansion of the zone.

The city is receiving requests from small tool and die manufacturing and precision engineering manufacturers of very small components, Bergman said. These would fit the business center designation, as would artisan manufacturing that requires larger facilities.

“The Liberty Street area is a traditional industrial area but if we expanded somewhere else it might be more of a business district type of industrial,” Bergman said. “If we ever get a chance to expand the industrial part that is probably where the biggest need is for more of that business district style of area.”

In his update on the adult-use marijuana ordinance that was approved by the city commission in September, Bergman said his office is currently developing the application and the scoring process mechanism for the competitive licensure process. A revised nuisance odor ordinance to address marijuana to include infraction consequences will be presented to the city commission in November along with the licensure process.

“Based on all of the calls I am getting it’s going to be a pretty intensive process in terms of the number of applications we are probably going to get,” Bergman said. “In terms of the number of licenses we are going to give out I think we will probably do something where we’ll have an open period for maybe two or three months to accept applications.”

Every application will require a conditional use permit and the planning commission will have a major role in reviewing, scoring and recommending potential applicants, he said. The planning commission is also the only part of the application process that includes a public hearing, he said. 

“Everybody who can at least get an application to us will have to come through the planning commision to move forward to the scoring criteria portion of the process,” Bergman said.

Mark Silver, planning commission member, said he felt 90 days was a long time for an application process. He said that if applicants are “ready and at the door” then a 30 to 45 day process should be adequate. 

Bergman said the additional time will allow the city to screen applications for completeness and allow time for applicants to respond to requests for additional information. There should be anywhere from 20 to 30 applicants, he said.

In the city master arts plan report, planning commission member Nancy Korpula said the work includes making the plan an addendum to the Ironwood marketing plan. She invited Howard Sandin, president of the Downtown Art Place board of directors, to provide an update on the  U.P. Arts and Culture Alliance and it’s current project, the Atropolis connectivity network. 

The plan this year was to have an arts and culture economic impact study with which to provide information to city and county governments that the impact on this community is important as well as the more visible winter sports and motorized trails, Sandin said. Unfortunately, the study is being delayed as the pandemic shutdown is not the appropriate time for the economic impact study, he said. 

A grant from the Michigan Council for the Arts and Cultural Affairs has made it possible to work with a San Francisco company on developing a virtual portal for the Upper Peninsula, Sandin said. Creating a professional database would unite artists, performers and venues throughout the U.P. 

“We are now negotiating with a company to do this,” Sandin said. 

The database will provide communities access with various entities and people as a way to encourage and streamline the organization of public events, he said. It will help to share information and expose more possibilities for artists in the U.P.

“Next year at this time we hope to create the economic impact study to provide information for the planning commission and the city commission,” Sandin said. “We hope to show what the arts bring in from a financial standpoint.”

The next regular planning commission meeting is Nov. 5.


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