2008-09-06 / Top News

Mackinac Island Council Sets Sept. 24 Hearing on Historic Landmark Issue

By Ryan Schlehuber

Mackinac Island City Council set a hearing at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 24, to continue discussions on solidifying its National Historic Landmark (NHL) status with the National Park Service.

The residents of Hubbard's Annex are also working to establish NHL status of their own and will work with the city to improve the Island's overall status, which is on "watch," meaning there are concerns of noncontributing structures overwhelming those structures and landmarks that are contributing to the Island's historic theme.

"Recent developments have presented us with real questions about our future," Councilman Mike Hart said. He brought the issue up during the Council's meeting Wednesday, August 27. "Our National Historic Landmark status is under threat and I cannot stress enough the negative impact we will have if we lose that."

Mr. Hart called upon Council to seek opinions from the public and to seek ways for the city to protect its historic theme through policies that will protect contributing structures and areas, as well as provide a guide for the city in future development.

"All this is coming together and it forces us to seek a public hearing on questions of how to advance ourselves into creating a solid preservation plan," said Mr. Hart.

A historic preservation commission will need to be created, said Island Mayor Margaret Doud, and, suggested Planning Commissioner Mary Dufina, the city ought to seek an expert in the field who can lead the soonto be-created commission in planning and keeping on task, similar to what the Planning Commission did when it started to revise the city's Master Plan in 2005, a project that has yet to be completed.

The concern for the Island's National Historic Landmark status was created with a meeting the Planning Commission had with a panel of historic preservation experts Thursday, August 1. City officials have since been trying to keep the momentum building on the issue. Since the meeting, Council has applied for a Preserve America's Treasures community designation, which will make the city eligible for federal funds to help restore and preserve historic structures and landmarks.

The biggest task for the new historic preservation commission will be to create guidelines for future development, existing buildings, and landmarks, and mold the city's zoning ordinance around those guidelines.

In other business, Council, with a vote of 6-1, officially denied a request by Murray Hotel's Pat Pulte for a variance to place another sign at his hotel to advertise his pizza business. City Clerk Karen Lennard told Council it had never officially decided on the issue.

Councilman Frank Bloswick, an Island businessman himself, voted against denying the variance. Mr. Bloswick agrees with many other Island business owners that the city's sign ordinance limiting signs is too strict, especially in light of a struggling state economy.

Dr. Michael Bacon's request for Council's approval to build a 32-foot addition to his dock at Breakwater Point Condominium Complex was approved. City attorney Tom Evashevski said Dr. Bacon's next step is to seek a conveyance of submerged bottomlands in a form of a lease through the state Department of Environmental Quality. The state department requires approval from the local government before it allows such a permit.

Mr. Evashevski will report to Council at its next meeting about Mackinac County's new off-road vehicle ordinance. Council questioned whether it could have an exemption clause for Mackinac Island added in the county ordinance, stating that no motor vehicles are allowed on the Island. The city and Mackinac Island State Park Commission has banned motor vehicles since 1898.

John Chrisman, a representative from GE Illumination from Hickory Corners, whose family has a summer home on Truscott Street, advised Council to be cautious in replacing its streetlights with LED technology, reporting that newer and better LED technology is only six to 12 months away.

The city has discussed replacing its 100 street lights with the new, energy-saving LED lights with Carrier & Gable company, which has installed a sample light post on the boardwalk near the corner of Market and Main streets.

There are currently no LED light standards from the state or any local government, Mr. Chrisman said, and it is a "buyer beware" market right now.

"I know there is a lot of buzz with LEDs right now, but you're on the very, very front of LED technology right now, too," Mr. Chrisman told Council. He cautioned Council not to get into any contractual agreement until it does more research on the issue.

Councilman Jason St. Onge suggested the city hire an independent engineer to review LED technology and draft specifications for replacement streetlights, but Council took no action.

Jerry Bos, a contractor for the McGovern family, was given a temporary motor vehicle permit to move a boom lift platform for painting, pending his purchase an off-island business license.

Mission Point Resort was issued a temporary motor vehicle permit to use a van to help its new general manager move belongs from the Beaver Dock to his home.

Council renewed two business licenses, to Benjamin's of Mackinac and J.L. Beanery, and one new offisland business license to Bay Sails.

Council received a letter from Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter congratulating the police department on a job well done with its public safety officers this summer. Five public safety officers patrolled through downtown this year, offering maps and information for tourists and assisting with street traffic.

Council took no action on a letter from Pichey Cleaning company of Perry suggesting that benches be placed along the city's downtown streets.

Regular meeting times for city council meetings will be changed from 6 p.m. to 5 p.m. after Labor Day. Council meets every other Wednesday. The next Council meeting is at 5 p.m. Wednesday, September 10. A Zoning Board of Appeals hearing of Sandra and Debra Orr's request for a variance to build a basement door to their Cadotte Avenue home has been scheduled for that day at 4 p.m.

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