It Takes a (Proactive) Village

The Michigan Land Use Institute has a feature by Leelanau Smart Growth Coordinator Julie Hay (her first) about how the success of Oneupweb in Lake Leelanau may force the internet company (and its 40 jobs) out of Leelanau County. Leelanau Economic Development Corporation President Don Coe said: “If Lisa was located in another state, the governor herself would fly down to convince Oneupweb to come to Michigan. Here we have the business in our county already and she’s facing too many obstacles.”

Oneupweb is just the sort of clean, efficient, solid-wage, non-polluting, 21st-century company that Leelanau County and other rural communities in and out of Michigan are desperate to recruit. Unlike northern Michigan’s manufacturing sector, which has been unable to compete in a global and networked economy and is closing plants and shedding jobs, Oneupweb is a classic example of the opportunities that are now open to smart, technically savvy, and nimble entrepreneurs who want to live in a clean, green, rural, fabulous place like Leelanau County.

But unfortunately for Ms. Wehr and other innovative companies looking to settle in this part of Michigan, outdated master plans and zoning ordinances are restricting the ability of new companies to settle in the region’s small towns. Most master plans and ordinances encourage only small retail operations and private homes within town limits. She is having a very hard time finding downtown commercial lots large enough to house her company anywhere in Leelanau County.

Ms. Wehr and other business owners say the laws need to be modernized to reflect the desires of new business owners to build larger facilities in downtown locations. The benefit of doing so, say advocates, is that village economies will soar, traffic congestion will ease, and farmland and open spaces outside town centers will remain undeveloped.

Read more from the Michigan Land Use Institute