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Housing, healthcare issues addressed at Petoskey State of the Community

Petoskey community members and regional leaders watch a panel of interviews at the Petoskey State of the Community gathering.
Michael Livingston
Petoskey community members and regional leaders watch a panel of interviews at the Petoskey State of the Community gathering.

Under the stained glass windows of the Crooked Tree Arts Center, regional leaders talked about systemic issues at the 18th annual Petoskey state of the community gathering.

Speakers included figureheads in education, environment, state and local governments and tourism. The common thread in each interview was ways to address housing scarcity and access to healthcare.

Event chairman Dan Ledingham, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce president Nikki Devitt and membership director Lisa Hoyt served as interviewers.

The Little Traverse Band of Odawa Indians promoted its Crooked Tree Wellness Clinic that just opened up this month.

Health Director Jody Werner says the clinic focuses specifically on Medicaid clients so those who live near the poverty line can get treatment before health issues escalate.

“A lot of the Medicaid population does not have a place to get care,” Werner said. “And so their issues can escalate to where they get treatment in the ER, end up in the hospital, etc. Our goal is to try and stop that.”

Meanwhile, while retaining healthcare staff remains difficult, North Central Michigan College said it will continue to offer new degree programs to certify professionals.

President David Finley highlighted North Central’s new Medical Assistant certificate, which will see 37 graduates in its first year.

He said more collaboration with local resources will help keep graduates in the community. He teased a bachelor's degree in nursing that will be offered in partnership with a university downstate.

“We've been listening to the community and matching that with strengths we have as a college,” Finley said. “So think nursing, health sciences, business, manufacturing.”

McLaren Northern Michigan highlighted its commitment to offering more behavioral health resources in the region. An 18-bed facility is in the works in Cheboygan and is slated to open in the spring.

Harbor Hall, an addiction recovery service with both residential and outpatient services, discussed its commitment to expanding services to treat various kinds of behavioral health challenges. Its recent expansion will allow 32 additional people on its campus.

On the topic of housing, officials highlighted a recent change in zoning law that allows Accessory Dwelling Units in Emmet County.

Accessory Dwelling Units are smaller houses built on a person’s property to increase the overall number of options available.

“These are incremental steps to try to chip away at things we can change,” Tammy Doernenburg, Emmet County director of planning and zoning, said. “Over time, maybe they'll make a big difference.”

Those and a handful of other development projects will create more options for visitors and year-long residents, Petoskey City Manager Shane Horn said.

“We're not forgetting anyone, that this is why we're here as a local government to provide service to each and every one of you,” Horn said.

Horn identified the following housing projects in his report:

  • Approximately 200 unit mixed-use development at the former Michigan Maple Block location.
  • 60 unit housing development at the Loft’s at Lumber Square on Emmet between Fulton and Washington Street.
  • Rental Rehabilitation creating 5 workforce housing units above City Park Grill.
  • Redevelopment of the former Hotel Del-Rey creating 12 units on Emmet and Michigan Street.

Representatives from Boyne Mountain and the Highlands at Harbor Springs were brought in to talk tourism and environment. Both of which reported strong numbers in winter sports and commitments to switching to sustainable energy.
Find a full breakdown of the 2023 State of the Community on the Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce website.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.