2009-12-12 / Top News

Island Developer Gets Relocation/Demolition Permit for McNally Cottage

By Karen Gould

A permit has been issued to relocate or demolish McNally Cottage on Mackinac Island. Notification was presented to the Mackinac Island City Council during its Wednesday, November 4, meeting. Council reviewed the document without comment.

The 119-year-old Main Street house has been the talk around the Island since developer Ira Green sought Planning Commission approval in September, and received it in October, to demolish the structure or move it and replace it with a new three-story hotel and retail shops.

The fate of the building prompted the formation of the group "Save Our Island" and was a factor in the city's adoption of a historic district ordinance in October.

Mr. Green, who applied for the permit Tuesday, November 3, attended Wednesday's council meeting. With the permit, demolition could begin now, although Mr. Green has told council in previous meetings he plans to demolish the building next fall unless a suitable site can be found to relocate the house.

Mr. Green, who is one of the investors in the hotel complex, told The St. Ignace News Thursday, November 5, his plans have not changed for an October 2010 start time. He has concerns, however, that the city will declare a moratorium on construction next fall as work on the hotel and retail shop development is about to begin, and that prompted his early application for the permit.

"A year from now places an unfair burden on us," he said. "The city knows we are moving forward with architect plans, engineering, and the acquisition of REUs," he said.

An REU is a measure of sewer and wastewater use, and they are being carefully allocated on Mackinac Island as the treatment plant there nears capacity. An REU is a residential equivalent unit, with each unit equal to the water use of a family of four. An REU is also equal to the anticipated sewage treatment of 250 square feet of restaurant or 2.8 hotel rooms. The proposed hotel and retail complex is estimated to require about eight REUs, which are sold by the Department of Public works for $6,023 each.

"It's unreasonable for us to pursue all of these requirements and have the city, at the last minute, place a moratorium to stop our project," said Mr. Green. "If they are going to act, they should act now."

The city's Historic District Ordinance gives council the ability to declare an emergency moratorium for up to a year on all pending projects it determines "will cause irreparable harm to resources located within an established or proposed historic district." To date, the city has not imposed a moratorium.

Members of "Save Our Island" also would like to see a moratorium put in place now. A letter to the city council by the group's attorney, Eric Starck of Rhoades McKee of Grand Rapids, said a moratorium would protect the house from being demolished and give the city time to study the historic significance of the structure.

"It is important to emphasize that Save Our Island is not asking this City Council to declare that the McNally Cottage is part of a historic district; instead Save Our Island is simply asking this City Council to investigate whether the McNally Cottage is a part of Mackinac Island's history that should be preserved. Such an investigation requires a moratorium to be in place in order to prevent demolition prior to completion of the investigation," it said.

In his letter, Mr. Starck also said the moratorium is needed to protect the Island.

"This City Council has been elected to protect Mackinac Island," he wrote. "There can be no question that creating a temporary moratorium will not harm Mackinac Island. However, not enacting a moratorium in the face of demolition can irreversibly harm Mackinac Island."

On Mackinac Island, a historic district study committee is looking at the Island as a whole, excluding state park land, to determine if any areas or structures should be considered as a local historic district. The committee was appointed a year ago by Mayor Margaret Doud and has met twice since then. The last meeting, in October, lacked a quorum, so no action was taken.

In other business during Wednesday's meeting, Council approved a 12-foot-long curb cut to create a handicap cart access ramp for Mackinac Island Bike Shop on Main Street. The road also is state highway M-185 and a permit for the work already had been issued by the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Alderman Armin Porter expressed concerns about the cluttered appearance of the bicycle parking lot that holds many bicycles behind the taxi office building.

Chief Jim Marks said the Police Department is working on clearing the lot of extra bicycles.

A Public Safety Committee meeting will be scheduled for December. Alderman Armand "Smi" Horn said the committee needs to discuss the future of the Island's police vehicle that is in St. Ignace.

A request for four temporary motor vehicle permits for L & H Utility Contractors of Kingsford received limited approval. The company has been hired by Edison Sault Electric to install electrical conduit. Council approved use of three vehicles with a fourth permit pending the receipt of more information, with final approval to come from Mayor Doud. The permit request was restricted after Mr. St. Onge questioned the need for a pickup truck, with concerns it would be used to move workers to and from the job site.

A temporary motor vehicle permit was approved for Grand Hotel to ship a tractor off the Island and bring a new tractor to the hotel. Also a temporary trailer permit was approved for the hotel to remove awnings.

A temporary motor vehicle permit was approved for J.T. Underground of East Tawas pending more information, with final approval to come from Mayor Doud.

"If this is just to carry a trenching tool around, that can lay in the back of a trailer hooked to a dray," said Alderman Jason St. Onge. "It just seems lately we are getting a little cavalier with some of these things."

Al & Jim's Tree Service received approval for two temporary motor vehicle permits to chip brush at the Windermere Hotel.

A temporary trailer permit was approved for Chippewa Hotel for a lift to be used when replacing windows on the east side of the building.

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