Lake County community discusses ‘Master Plan’

LAKE COUNTY - Developing more township involvement and bringing the communities of Lake County together were the main points of a discussion during a public hearing held recently regarding the Lake County Master Plan.

Linda VanDolsen, chairwoman of the Lake County Planning Commission presented the panel’s final draft of the Master Plan to the public and the Lake County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.

During the hearing, which was attended was by about 20 people, a dominant discussion theme sugested it was time for Lake County to start taking advantage of the resources it has available, and also time for the county’s 16 townships and two villages to work better together.

“It’s time to break down territorial walls,” said Gwen Warren, a Planning Commission representative from Webber Township. “There were some township meetings I went to where I definitely didn’t feel welcomed.”

Even though a public hearing on the Master Plan is not required by law, the Planning Commission wanted one to get as much of the community’s input on the plan as possible.

“We want to make sure everybody is heard and get everybody’s input and viewpoint,” VanDolsen said.

Warren stressed that the Master Plan is just the beginning of the process.

“This is the starting point,” she said. “If (everybody at the meeting) brings two people to our next meeting, then we’ll be moving forward.”

“Have we taken advantage of all our opportunities here in Lake County?” she asked. “No. But we’ve made baby steps here of which I’m proud.”

VanDolsen stressed that the Master Plan is not meant as a solution for the community’s problems, but as a starting point for solving them.

“This is not an activist document,” VanDolsen said. “It’s up to you - you are the townships.”

“It comes back to the communities. These big projects take money and take collaboration.”

“This is something for all of us to work on together,” said Robert Myers, chairman of Lake County Board of Commissioners.

Yates Township resident Nicolette McClure said that the county leaders need to do a better job on reaching out the county’s senior citizens.

“We are the most elderly community in the state of Michigan,” McClure said. “We do no education in this community to keep people (healthy). I see nothing in this (Master Plan) about educating our community on health.”

Susan Dennis, who as an area specialist with the United States Department of Agriculture helped the Planning Commission develop the Master Plan, said that the Lake County Master Plan is one that can be a model for other communities.

“I am very proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” Dennis said. “I use (Lake County) as an example to the other counties on what can be done.”

Many community leaders praised the work that the Planning Commission had done. The county commissioners will now review the plan and barring recommendations for major changes, the Master Plan should be approved in the near future, according to VanDolsen.