EagleHerald Staff Writer
MARINETTE—The City of Marinette’s Community Development Plan is nearing its final stages of revision and is expected to be complete early next year. Urban Planner Amanda Arnold from Ayres Associates, Inc, an engineering consultant, presented the plan in its current state at a community meeting Wednesday and gathered feedback from attending residents.
The City of Marinette received Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds in early 2020 to develop a plan that will set city objectives and policies for 2022 through 2027. Community members can view the current plan at https://www.marinettecomdev.com/ and contribute input by filling out the community survey (https://www.marinettecomdev.com/community-survey) or by contacting Arnold at 1-608-443-1200, 1-608-441-3564 or ArnoldA@AyresAssociates.com.
During the presentation, Arnold identified five main goals for the city:
- Marketing Marinette to people and businesses
- Increasing housing
- Encouraging redevelopment and investment
- Supporting businesses
- Providing resources that people need to live well
The presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance (PFAS) contamination in the city is an ongoing obstacle for marketing the community to outsiders, one resident pointed out.
She thought PFAS mitigation should be the top priority in the plan, given that it impacts the city’s image and almost any development project the city might undertake.
“I think we need a big investment toward fixing what we now know to be a major environmental catastrophe in our area,” she said. “This could go a very long way, I think it would be a great jumping off point for helping literally every other thing (in this plan).”
The resident said, to this end, that she would like to see more PFAS testing so that the city can have a better picture of the extent of the contamination.
Marinette Mayor Steve Genisot said the city is hoping to partner with the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay (UWGB) on more research and testing for PFAS. Alderperson Doug Oitzinger also suggested that the hospital—Aurora Medical Center-Bay Area—and local medical clinics partner with UWGB to examine the health impacts of this contamination.
In terms of attracting people to the area, Arnold mentioned the idea of offering monetary incentives for people to move to Marinette, a strategy that other cities across the country, like Baltimore, Maryland, are already implementing. She said the idea is that the city would make the money back when people, for example, purchase a house.
But other resources and infrastructure would be needed to help the city thrive and make people want to stay.
Attracting and supporting businesses is a component of this, but not without its own risks.
“Most of the storefronts in the downtown area lend themselves to small businesses, and we know that small businesses tend to start out and fail at a very rapid pace,” Alderperson Jeffrey Skorik said. “Say I want to put in a pottery store there, how does someone do a feasibility study to know whether or not that’s a risk worth taking?”
Former Alderperson and Marinette resident told the EagleHerald that, to support businesses, he thinks there also needs to be more parking overall in the city, a topic that has long been contentious in the community. Marinette resident Mathew Peterson also told the EagleHerald that parking has been a major issue for him personally, as many workers from the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard use the spaces around his home.
Some of this parking strain may be alleviated soon as the shipyard continues to expand lots for its workers.
During the presentation, Peterson said he would also like to see more broadband providers in the city, particularly given that he works from home.
Spectrum is currently the main internet provider in the city. CenturyLink also operates in the area, but Peterson said the service isn’t comparable because it can’t offer the same speed. “I have to have really good, reliable internet in order to do my job,” he said. “As far as infrastructure goes for me personally, I actually need broadband more than I need roads.”
Some residents wanted more areas to be included in the plan’s development focus. Currently, much of the development priority is in downtown Marinette and Stephenson Island. Alderperson Mike Wolfe said he would like to see Menekaunee added as a focus.
Other community members agreed. Marinette resident Kathy Korchak told the EagleHerald more specifically that she would like to see better roads, more lighting and systems to mitigate flooding in Menekaunee, the area where she resides. “It’s a nice area, especially with the boat launch, but it can be hard to get to,” she said.
Toward the end of the presentation, Skorik asked Arnold who would be responsible for monitoring the plan once the city adopts it.
Arnold said that cities typically have a municipal planner who would be responsible for doing this. Given that the City of Marinette does not have one, it would have to lay out its own strategy to ensure that the plan is implemented.
Not all residents were convinced with the proposed plans for improvement.
“I don’t think that anything in this plan would affect me,” Peterson said to Arnold after the presentation. “I don’t think it would convince me to stay.”