Looking for a place to skate

HOUGHTON – During public comments Wednesday, the Houghton City Council heard from area residents interested in creating a skate park in the city, as well as a landlord curious about a new hearing scheduled for the rezoning of the former Good Will Farm property.

Michelle Mickalich of Trimountain and her son Tristian Mickalich, an eighth-grader at Houghton Middle School, were accompanied by several young skaters interested in a park.

“We have a lot of kids there, as you can see, and they get kicked off the streets, they get kicked off of Tech’s campus,” Michelle Mickalich said. “There’s nowhere for them to skate their skateboard.”

City Manager Scott MacInnes said the city was looking to put something into its master plan on the topic. One site the city’s considered is west of the East Houghton Park by the Super-8 Motel.

“There’s a pretty big green space that could potentially be used for a park,” he said.

Police Chief John Donnelly said he supports the idea of a park, but there has to be a substantial volunteer effort. The Tony Hawk Foundation could provide up to $25,000 in matching funds, he said, but only once a group has put up its own funds.

“The West End park, with the ice rink there, it’s a lot of volunteers that chip in and keep that park moving,” he said. “The city certainly supports it and helps it with some people here and there, but for the most part it’s volunteer work.”

People in Lake Linden, which recently added a skate park, have called it a positive development, said parent Ray Sharp of Stanton Township. Sharp backed the idea of language in the master plan in support of a park. He also volunteered to be part of an ad hoc committee to develop a site plan, look at designs and develop a fundraising strategy.

“They could be shaped poured concrete structures or wood structures that could be removed in winter,” Sharp said. He said he would report back at the next city council meeting.

MacInnes said they would consider language for the master plan.

“Based upon the comments tonight, I think that we can slide that in somewhere,” he said.

Councilor Craig Kurtz suggested they talk to Joe Schwenk and Jonathan Julien, who helped build the former indoor park in Dee Stadium.

The council also heard from a local landlord on the issue of a new public hearing on the rezoning of the former Good Will Farm property. The new hearing will take place at the next council meeting on Oct. 9.

By a 3-2 vote at the previous meeting, the council voted not to rezone the 134,000-square-foot property from R-3 (multi-family) to B-3 (general business).

Developer Jonathan Julien had requested the rezoning for an apartment complex for graduate students.

The change in zoning would allow him to include a greater proportion of one- and two-bedroom units.

Several other local landlords protested the plan at the meeting, saying it was unfair treatment, and would reduce the amount they could charge for their properties.

Council members who voted against the plan cited prior precedent, as well as the response from the landlords.

Landlord Gail Sanchez, one of the landlords who protested the rezoning, came to the meeting to ask what prompted the hearing.

City Manager Scott MacInnes said Julien had requested another hearing on the proposal.

“He felt the Council was confused about some of the things about his proposal,” he said.

MacInnes said he had discussed the issue with city attorney Dave Mechlin and showed him the minutes of the meeting. Mechlin advised him to hold another hearing.