2009-02-14 / Top News

ZBA Grants Variance; Council To Probe Cable Provider Change

By Ryan Schlehuber

Craig and Paula Starkweather received lot coverage variances from Mackinac Island's Zoning Board of Appeals Wednesday, February 11, after convincing the board that the oddly-shaped lot on Spring Street restricted their ability to remodel their home under the zoning laws. A stipulation that the Starkweathers remove a shed from the lot was attached to the approval.

The Starkweathers plan to rebuild their home and expand the front deck into a covered wrap-around porch, but the proposed project exceeds maximum lot coverage in an R-1 (single family residential) zone.

The couple received a letter of support from one neighbor. Another neighbor objected to the Starkweathers' request and any other variances to the zoning ordinance.

Steve and Kathy Ledtke wrote that they feel zoning ensures "safety, security, and beauty of the community" and should not be compromised by variances. Since the buildings already are in violation of the ordinance, they wrote, "perhaps the homeowners should be grateful that they can build on the footprint without having to decrease the size of their home."

Maximum lot coverage in an R-1 zone is 35%. The Starkweathers' home, shed, and a 24-foot by 20-foot rental unit now cover 36.4%. After remodeling, their buildings would cover 45.5% of the lot, however, by removing the shed, lot coverage would be reduced to 42%.

The Starkweathers' remodeling project also violates three setbacks.

The city requires a 25-foot minimum front yard setback. The remodeled home's setback would be 6.6 feet.

Zoning allows for a 10-foot minimum front yard setback to an unenclosed front porch. The Starkweathers' new deck would be only 0.60 feet.

The city's minimum rear yard setback is 25 feet. The Starkweathers' proposed rear yard setback is 2.4 feet.

"The lot we purchased is unique because of its shape," Mr. Starkweather told the board. "We want to live there for the rest of our lives and support the Island's historical, Victorian theme."

Because the lot is shaped like a triangle, ZBA members were sympathetic to what the Starkweathers were trying to do.

"I will support this for its unique layout and odd-shaped lot," said ZBA member Michael Hart. "I think the shape of the lot serves as justification."

The Starkweathers received further support for the ZBA to approve the variance request from city attorney Tom Evashevski, who, via telephone from St. Ignace, stated that it is an issue of practical difficulty, not only because of the oddshaped lot but because the proposed project will not directly affect any of the neighbors.

"You can't have a substantial detrimental effect on neighboring properties, which they don't," he said. "The lot shape is a primary criteria, as well, so then I'd have to say they're pretty much there."

Council Questions Possible New Cable Provider

At the city council meeting following the zoning board of appeals meeting, a letter signed by Tim Ransberger of Charter Communications, the Island's cable provider, and John Beck, of Michigan Cable Partners, Inc., doing business as MICom, sparked unanswered questions from Council at its regular meeting Wednesday, February 11, provoking Mayor Margaret Doud to allow city attorney Tom Evashevski to probe the issue for more information.

Neither cable representative attended the meeting.

In the letter addressed to the mayor, the men wrote they were introducing MIcom's pending acquisition of the cable system on Mackinac Island in March.

Mayor Doud told Council that Mr. Ransberger, based in Montague, had denied any knowledge of a rumored acquisition when her assistant, Kelly Bean, telephoned him January 29.

Ms. Bean said he may have not wanted to speak too soon about the acquisition.

"Afterwards, he did assure me that there would be no hiccups in our cable service," said Ms. Bean.

Mayor Doud said a copy of the letter will be sent to Mr. Evashevski and to Mackinac Island State Park Commission, which leases land to Charter.

"I will remind everybody that Charter does have a franchise agreement with us," said Mayor Doud. "We need to get more answers on this."

Council approved City Clerk Karen Lennard's report of candidates for city council and the school board for the May 5 election. Councilmen Frank Bloswick and Michael Hart are seeking reelection and will be challenged by Sam Barnwell. School board members Jason St. Onge and Leanne Brodeur are seeking reelection and are being challenged on the school board by Erin Bagbey Beck. All other candidates are unchallenged.

Mrs. Brodeur, director of the city's Recreation Department, presented Council with a brief slide show of events the department helped coordinate and fund last summer.

Mr. Evashevski, via letter, informed Council he had no objections to the state's Department of Environmental Quality's public notice regarding Dr. Michael Bacon's private use agreement for dockage for property he owns in the Mission area. He plans to widen the dock by six feet.

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