2006-10-07 / Top News

Major Building Projects Proposed on Main Street

By Karen Gould

A three-story building is proposed to fill the space between May's Candy Shop (left) and Patrick Sinclair's Irish Pub. The structure will replace the Main Street building that sat on the lot and was demolished in September. A three-story building is proposed to fill the space between May's Candy Shop (left) and Patrick Sinclair's Irish Pub. The structure will replace the Main Street building that sat on the lot and was demolished in September. Major construction projects sit on the horizon that will change the face of Mackinac Island's Main Street. A new three-story downtown building that will house a Starbucks coffee shop received zoning approval pending architectural review. An employee dormitory will be remodeled inside and out, and plans for a 56-suite hotel will undergo architectural review before zoning is granted. The Mackinac Island Planning Commission moved forward on these and other projects Tuesday, October 3, during one of its longest meetings this year.

Victor Callewaert, whose two-story building between May's Candy Shop and Patrick Sinclair's Irish Pub was condemned and demolished September 21, will build a threestory building in its place.

Planning commissioners approved the building with a coffee shop on the first floor and storage on the two upper floors, pending architectural review. Commissioner Bruce LaPine, who is an employee of Mr. Callewaert, abstained from the voting.

Another matter, that of using the upper floors for two apartments instead of storage, was referred to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The apartment issue requires a variance because city housing density rules would not allow multiple apartments. The apartments would be used to house employees.

Dennis Dombroski, the city's zoning inspector, explained that even though the original building had a second floor apartment, the lot size is not large enough to allow two apartments, so the new building would require a variance for the apartments. City ordinance determines the number of apartments a building can have based on the square footage of the ground floor, regardless of the number of floors in the building.

Mr. Callewaert attended the meeting accompanied by his architect, Barry Polzin of Marquette. Mr. Polzin explained to commissioners that the upper floors would extend six feet beyond the back of the first floor, allowing enough room for an apartment on each of the upper floors. On the ground level, the overhang would provide a covered area for garbage collection and bike parking.

Commissioner Jim Petit questioned whether the city would have enough water and sewer capacity to allocate to all the projects being considered by the planning board this fall. The city has imposed a limit of 15 Residential Equivalent Units (REUs) that it can issue a year. Each REU is the equivalent of the daily use of a single family residence. The REUs are allocated by the city's public works department.

Commission Chairman Bob Brown explained that the planning commission does not have to consider REU availability in its determination of zoning and building permits. Mr. Dombroski noted that the previous structure also had REUs allocated to it, which could be transferred to the new building.

Mr. Polzin also explained he is working with Marvin May of May's Candy Shop to repair the structure's foundation before work begins on Mr. Callewaert's building. The building sits east of Mr. Callewaert's building. Mr. May also attended the meeting.

The commissioners addressed a zoning application for a new hotel planned for Main Street. After a lengthy discussion and two rounds of voting, the commission decided to send the proposed project for architectural review before considering the matter again.

Ira Green purchased the building housing Ty and Ling's convenience store next to his Maple View employee dormitory and applied for zoning approval for a 56-suite hotel. He plans to tear down the existing structure and replace it with a three-story hotel. The lot is spotzoned commercial in a neighborhood zoned single family residential.

The original structure was a house that later was converted to three apartments and a convenience store, owned by the Horn family.

Mr. Dombroski advised the commission that the building meets all density and setback requirements and commissioners need to determine the kind of landscape buffer to separate the proposed hotel from Mr. Green's neighboring property, the Maple View, which could include shrubs, trees, or fencing.

Commissioner Trish Martin said the number of guests that could be housed at the hotel would adversely impact the neighborhood, but Mr. Brown said the planning commission's decision is bound only by the zoning ordinance, and the city attorney, Tom Evashevski, agreed.

"You have to go by what the ordinance allows," Mr. Evashevski told commissioners.

Commissioner Kay Hoppenrath noted the drawings of the east elevation of the project were missing from her packet.

"I have sat on the planning commission for many years," said Mrs. Hoppenrath. "I have never been asked to vote on a project of this scale without seeing all four elevations."

Mr. Polzin, who also is the architect for this project, apologized and explained they did not focus on that elevation because that side of the building faces Mr. Green's other property, the Maple View. Mr. Polzin then explained how the east side would appear.

Commission Chairman Bob Brown read a letter from a neighboring property owner, Mike Bacon, who asked the commission to table Mr. Green's request.

"I am opposed to this project and essentially opposed to putting hotels on the property, particularly a hotel of this size and mass," wrote Mr. Bacon.

Mr. Evashevski cautioned commissioners that they needed a reason to table the application.

"We're basically saying whether that structure can be built on this piece of property," added Mr. Brown, "and it looks like it meets all the requirements."

A motion to approve the application pending architectural review resulted in a tie vote, which is considered denial. Commissioners Hoppenrath, Martin, and LaPine voted against the application, citing the missing east elevation drawings. Margaret Horn abstained because she had sold the property to Mr. Green. Commissioners Jim Petit, Lee Finkel, and Bob Brown voted for the motion. Commissioners Mary Dufina and Franc Doud were absent.

To keep the process moving forward, Mr. Polzin suggested commissioners consider allowing the project to go to architectural review and then come back to them for zoning approval. Mrs. Hoppenrath and Ms. Martin again voted against the motion, based on the lack of the east elevation drawing, while Mr. Petit, Mr. Finkel, Mr. LaPine, and Mr. Brown voted in favor.

In another matter, commissioners approved a plan to remodel Mr. Green's Maple View building, which he had once sought to convert to condominiums but now proposes to keep as employee housing. Mr. LaPine voted against the plan, noting he consistently has voted against plans for that building because it is a nonconforming structure, grandfathered as a boarding house in a single family residential (R-1) district.

Commissioners previously had approved a plan, pending architectural review, to convert the Main Street structure to condominiums. The only change between the two requests is that kitchen stoves would not be included in the employee housing remodeling project, except for three units, explained Dennis Dombroski.

Mr. Green, who wants to move forward with the remodeling, changed the plans because

his neighbor, James Azzar, is contesting the city's zoning approval in court, said Mr. Evashevski. Both Mr. Azzar and Mr. Green have filed appeals in circuit court. Mr. Azzar is seeking to stop the condominium development and is challenging the city's decision to approve the project, explained Mr. Evashevski, who said the city also would be involved in the litigation.

In other business, commissioners approved a new 3,500- square-foot house for Forest Bluff for Martha and Gary Cousino. The project had come back from architectural review and recommended changes had been incorporated into the plans.

Commissioners were advised Grand Hotel now will rebuild a third floor balcony on the Windsor Hotel, based on architectural review that recommended against the porch removal.

"The proposed removal of the cantilevered third floor balcony

from the front elevation of the hotel would significantly alter the historic appearance of the building," stated the report.

Historical architect Rick Neumann of Petoskey reviews plans for the city.

Commissioners received updated documents from Andrew Doud on his barn project. Last month, commissioners approved site plan changes pending the correction of dimensional notations, including lot coverage.

A zoning application was approved for Gwen Bagbey, who plans to build a storage building on her Harrisonville property.

Commissioners also approved a zoning application to Mary Rossio, whose plans include adding a room, deck, and doing remodeling work at her Woodbluff home.

Planning commissioners next meet Tuesday, November 7 at 3 p.m. on the second floor of community hall.

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