New Hotels Proposed at Arnold Dock, And on Market Street
Two new hotel proposals were tabled by the Mackinac Island Planning Commission Tuesday, December 11, to permit more study of the proposals by commissioners. A 30-room, threestory hotel on Main Street at the head of the Arnold Dock, with archways to permit traffic to and from the dock, is proposed by Ira Green, and an 18-room, threestory bed and breakfast is being proposed by Robert Benser and Nancy Porter for the Market Street LLC company, to replace the buildings that house Roses Gazebo and Landing Gull on Market Street.
Mr. Green’s Main Dock Inn was tabled for continued study by commissioners, after questions were raised about the building’s appearance and traffic concerns.
He is proposing an elevated hotel to span the front of the Arnold Dock, with two floors of hotel rooms above and the existing bicycle rental and driveways to the dock remaining on the street level. The project would involve the demolition of the Ryba’s Fudge Shop and Indian Drum buildings, but a retail shop and bicycle repair shop would replace them in the new building. The other end would be at the Thunderbird Gift Shop, and the elevated design would allow continued use of windows and entrances along the side of that building. Pedestrian sidewalks to the dock would be added, in addition to existing driveways, with a clearance of at least 15 feet under the hotel, enough for the city’s fire trucks.
Architect Barry Polzin told commissioners the project meets all zoning requirements and architectural standards. The architectural review submitted by city architect Richard Neumann suggested the elevated hotel is a “radical departure from the existing traditional character of Main Street commercial buildings. The absence of a lower story underneath second and third stories floating above would be at odds with the rest of downtown, which is typically full-height one, to, three and four story buildings, all of which have a ground floor presence.”
Mr. Neumann said the plan fails the “appearance standard.”
But Mr. Polzin told commissioners there is no such standard listed in the architectural review ordinances. Standards listed, he contended, are all met, and citing an appearance standard “is not appropriate,” and is more of an opinion.
Mr. Neumann was also concerned about the amount of open space, and Mr. Polzin presented two plans, one with a facade in the middle, where the bicycle rental is, to give the appearance of a ground floor shop, and one without, which the developer prefers, because it presents a better view to the dock. He left it to the planning commission to decide.
In response to concerns about traffic patterns at the dock, Mr. Green said that all patterns have been maintained, and a demarcated sidewalk along the side of the Thunderbird has been added for safety. He said he would be discussing any safety concerns with Carriage Tours, but, since it is private property, the city shouldn’t be concerned about traffic there.
Arnold Line, Mr. Green said, has a permanent easement along the driveways.
Commissioner Lee Finkel, in his motion to table the matter for a month, said he wanted more time to review the plans, and Mary Dufina said she was concerned about ownership, with Mr. Green not scheduled to buy the property from Arnold Transit owner Jim Wynn until later in month.
City attorney Tom Evashevski said it appears the project is generally acceptable to the commission, except for questions about the architectural review, and he would like to hear more from Mr. Neumann about his concerns about the look of the building. He also noted that he had some legal questions about the review that he has referred to Lansing attorney Michael Cavanaugh, and has yet to hear back.
Commissioner Anneke Myers agreed that more direction from Mr. Neumann is needed.
“I think what happens in this process, where the architectural review is done before the planning commission even gets a chance to review the project, it may make it easier for the developer to get something on the table, but it leaves us out of the conversation with Mr. Neumann. Supposedly, everything is addressed here, by him, but we may have questions, and we need to follow up with him.”
Mr. Green told the Town Crier he could start construction next fall, if approved, but with his other hotel across from the Bicycle Inn Hotel also ready for construction, and planned projects at Mr. B’s, Lilac Tree Hotel, and the proposed bed and breakfast on Market Street, construction schedules may have to be staggered by the city to ensure the streets are not closed.
In the meantime, the former Ryba’s Fudge Shop will be leased to a retailer who is not now on the Island, and the Indian Drum store will be used as a repair and retail outlet for Mackinac Cycle Bike Rental.
Indian Drum has moved to the Horse Corral Mall.
The Benser and Nephew bed and breakfast was tabled until January so developers can designate off-street bicycle parking and the city architect can complete another review.
Bicycle parking designated on the site plan for the new hotel, commissioners noted, are actually parking areas that the property owners already designated for Lilac Tree Hotel and the expansion of Mr. B’s on Main Street, which didn’t have room for parking.
City architect Mr. Neumann, in his review of the plans, had suggested cosmetic revisions to the sides of the building, and said he didn’t like the planned turret on the southwest end of the building, which is designed to appear as a large, Victoria-era home. The turret, he wrote, “appears to be an afterthought appended to one end of the building, rather than an architectural element that is integrated into the overall design.”
In revised plans, the design for the sides was corrected, but not the turret, which the developers decided to let stand.
Commissioners said they wanted to send the revised plans back to Mr. Neumann for another look, and asked that new plans reflect 26 off-street bicycle parking spots for all three properties, the bed and breakfast (14), Lilac Tree expansion (6), and Mr. B’s (6).
Mr. Evashevski noted that the zoning request was being tabled only for the plan review and the parking issue, and that other elements of the project met city criteria.
A proposal to rezone the Silver Birches property from Single family Residential to Hotel/Boarding House was tabled for a month, to give owner representative Liz Ware time to study an alternative zoning category proposed by the commission.
Ms. Ware, of Chicago, represented her parents, Dennert and Suzanne Ware of San Antonio, Texas, who just purchased the old resort on the Island’s east side from the Betty Jane Kendall trust. Ms. Ware told commissioners she will submit, in January, renovation plans for two cottages on the site so that they can be rented next summer. In the meantime, she will formulate plans for the rest of the property, which comprises, she said, less than two acres. She said the intent is to restore the large Silver Birches lodge and rent rooms to visitors.
“Our intent,” she said, “is to do things the way it needs to be done and to renovate that property and really bring it back to life and make it wonderful.”
At the suggestion of Mr. Evashevski, she will look into a never-before-used conditional zoning, which could allow the owners to define the use and configuration of the property that would be agreeable to the city.
The property has almost 200 feet of lake frontage, with riparian right, and abuts Mackinac Island State Park property on the other three sides, the backside adjacent to Scotts Cave Road. But one of the two auxiliary cottages on the property is too close to the property line to meet residential or hotel zoning setback requirements. Allowing conditional zoning, or, as he called it, contract zoning, could eliminate that problem, Mr. Evashevski said.
Mr. Dombroski said that, with conditional zoning, the city and property owner have more flexibility because the designation is specific to the parcel. Zoning it Hotel/Boarding House, he said, “creates, immediately, a nonconforming situation. If we did contract zoning, we can define the setbacks as they exist right now. Makes it not a nonconforming issue and makes things down the road a little bit easier. Then you eliminate some of the things that might be in H/B that you might not want to see out there. There are some other uses that H/B allows that you might not want to see at Silver Birches,” he told commissioners. “So I think it could be a win-win. It would be a win for Liz in not having to deal right out of the gate with nonconforming issues, because they wouldn’t be nonconforming. And it would be a win for the city if it doesn’t hold the parcel up to uses that might not be desirable. I think Tom’s suggestion was an excellent one.”
Commissioner Anneke Myers noted that the city’s zoning ordinance does not allow for conditional zoning, but Mr. Evashevski confirmed at the city council meeting the next day that the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act will permit the city to use it.
Under the conditional zoning process, he said, Ms. Ware would define what she wants to do with the property, including uses and dimensional provisions, including height limitations and setbacks, and the property owner and city would negotiate to reach an agreement on what both would like to see. The conditional provisions would remain with the property, even if sold, he said.
In the meantime, she can renovate and rent out the cottages in 30-day increments under her existing residential zoning provisions.
At the city council meeting Wednesday, December 12, Ms. Ware requested a meeting with the Ordinance Committee to see what the city is looking for in her proposal, and Mr. Evashevski agreed that such a meeting would be a good idea, allowing both parties to explore the concept of conditional zoning and how it might be applied to the Silver Birches property.
The Planning Commission approved a new entrance to Little Luxuries shop at Lilac Tree Hotel. The shop will be expanded into the former Michigan Peddler store by removing a common wall between them, and the existing two entry doors will be reconfigured into one door for the enlarge space.
A proposal for a new handicap ramp to the front porch of the Lake View Hotel was sent to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a setback variance, with a recommendation that the variance be approved.
A five-foot side-yard setback is required in the Hotel/Boarding House zone assigned to the property, although Mr. Dombroski noted that it really should be zoned Commercial, since it is configured from lot line to lot line. The proposed ramp, he said, is “measurably improved” over what is there now. It will be constructed to blend into the existing hotel architecture and will be made of natural materials, except inside railings, which will be of metal pipe.
The ramp will parallel French Lane. Mr. Dombroski said the street actually encroaches onto Lake View Hotel property, but the ramp will not touch the street.
Permission was granted to Fortune Wireless to install three new cellular antennas on the roof of Doud’s Market in the spring. The antennas, which will extend about eight feet from the roof, or 40 feet from the street, will replace six existing antennas and allow the Sprint cellular company to bring its 4G network to the Island.
The supporting equipment will be in the basement, said representative Michael Gasser, so the only visible structures will be the antennas. Installation of them will take a couple of days, and the existing antennas will remain in place for the next six to 12 months while the 4G network is being tested.
The next planning commission meeting is Tuesday, January 8, at 3 p.m. Commissioners emphasized that all site plans, preliminary architectural reviews, and even minor changes to existing plans must be submitted at least 10 days prior to commission meetings.