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Draft of Houghton Master Plan suggests changes to housing policy and downtown development 

Earlier this month, a draft City of Houghton Master Plan 2024-2028 was released by the city. The master plan aims to guide the next 4 years of Houghton’s growth and local policy. The plan covers a wide array of topics from housing, downtown development, zoning, Michigan Tech and more. 

The City of Houghton has seen steady population growth in the past decade and anticipates more in the future. The plan offers suggestions for how to adapt to this future demand. The city population has grown 8.85% between 2010 and 2020, and Michigan Tech plans for aggressive growth in the coming years with a goal of hosting over 10,000 students by 2035. Citing a need for increased housing for students, Michigan Tech faculty and staff, and those unaffiliated with the university, the master plan suggests rezoning parts of the city currently zoned for single family housing to allow for greater density close to campus. A change to traditional zoning known as “form-based zoning” has also been offered as a potential solution. The City of Houghton explains in the draft that, “Form-based zoning focuses primarily on form (building placement and the physical form of structures). Because there isn’t strict separation of land uses, form-based zoning encourages mixed-use urban design, economic development, and pedestrian mobility”. 

In addition to housing needs, the plan addresses how the city plans to encourage economic growth in downtown Houghton. The city is considering expanding the central business zoning overlay to allow for more concentrated development on the edges of the downtown district. The central business overlay exempts buildings from parking requirements, forbids residential uses at street level, and imposes a ten foot maximum building setback. Aesthetic improvements to downtown are also included in the plan, as the city plans to “work with MDOT to replace the overhead sign and steel truss on Shelden Avenue at the bridge with a sign arrangement that meets MDOT requirements but is more context sensitive to the historic downtown district and urban design”. 

The master plan is still in the draft phase. Those wishing to add public feedback can do so until Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024. A public hearing will be held that day at 5:30 p.m. to allow citizens to voice their opinions directly. The master plan document can be found here: Public feedback can be made to city manager Eric Waara at or by mail to: City of Houghton, PO Box 606, Houghton, Michigan 49931.

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