2013-07-12 / Top News

New Plan Submitted for Hotel Project

By Stephanie Fortino

After unveiling yet another plan for the proposed Main Dock Inn at the head of the Arnold Dock Tuesday, July 9, developers Ira Green and Melanie Libby agreed to extend the length of time the Historic District Commission (HDC) has to review their application until the commission’s meeting next month. The HDC also scheduled another plan review meeting for the project Tuesday, July 30, at 1 p.m.

Commissioners also reviewed several minor projects and met in private with their attorney to discuss proper behavior when deliberating public issues. Commission Chairman Andrew Doud announced that Bradley Chambers had resigned for personal reasons, and his seat on the commission remains vacant until Mayor Margaret Doud appoints a replacement.

Mr. Green and Ms. Libby have submitted seven plans for the Main Dock Inn since last December, and this latest version, dated July 9, proposes the demolition of two buildings at the head of the dock but does not extend the hotel over the entire entryway to the dock.

Most earlier versions of the hotel have extended the building all the way across the entryway to the Thunderbird gift shop, but those have been met with city concern that construction would obstruct the view to the harbor. Another concern with the project has been that it would require demolition of a building that contributes, historically, to the downtown historic district.

The view is better protected in the latest plan, architect Barry J. Polzin said, because it allows a view from the dock all the up to Market Street, and the first floor does not have a traditional façade. Instead, portions of the ground floor would be open underneath the hotel and would house rental bicycles for Mackinac Cycle.

City architect Rick Neumann wondered whether a more traditional façade might better suitthe character of downtown Mackinac Island, and Mr. Polzin said Mr. Neumann and the HDC could decide which option would be more appropriate.

Mr. Polzin also argued that the contributing building slated for demolition under the latest plan is not culturally significant. The former fudge shop, built by fudge maker Selma Dufina in 1962, was listed by the city as contributing because Ms. Dufina was the first woman fudge maker on the Island, but, in fact, he said, other women preceded her.

Ms. Dufina, however, was not the reason her building was deemed contributing, however. According to the historic district study adopted by the city, the building, represents Mackinac Island’s changing tourism culture.

“[Selma’s Fudge] represents a key moment in the history of Mackinac Island’s post-World War II development as a new kind of tourist destination,” the city’s historic district study report states.

The evaluation also states the building was built at a “highly desirable location at the head of the Arnold Transit line dock in 1962,” adding to its significance.

HDC attorney Gary Rentrop also followed up on another ongoing question of whether the HDC could protect open space in historic districts. The 2010 study committee evaluated structures and historical sites, he said, but did not address open spaces, according to the contract between the company and the city.

Mr. Green and Ms. Libby purchased from Union Terminal Piers lot 127B, on which two buildings are built, and lot 128, which includes most of the open space at the head of the Arnold Dock, in January

Mr. Rentrop said that since the study committee evaluated lots 127B and 128 together with the rest of the Arnold Dock, they are considered one entity. He added that the dock cannot exist as its own entity and must somehow be connected to lot 128.

Mr. Green and Ms. Libby, however, vehemently disagreed with this notion. They maintained that their property is completely separate from the property owned by Union Terminal Piers (UTP).

Jim Wynn of UTP and Arnold Transit was present at the HDC meeting and clarified the UTP has a 25-year lease with the state for the bottomlands below the Arnold Dock. Mr. Green and Ms. Libby’s company, Main Dock 7271, LLC, owns all the uplands property, he continued, but UTP owns the riparian rights, or water access rights, to that upland. Mr. Green added that UTP also has permanent easements from the dock to city streets.

Mr. Wynn added that he spent months working with the Department of Natural Resources to solidify these plans.

Mr. Rentrop also noted that both mortgages on the property have been discharged, meaning the property titles are clear. Clear property titles on the Main Dock 7271, LLC property have been an on-going concern for the HDC as Mr. Doud pointed out that the commission could not act upon the project until the titles were cleared.

In the end, the HDC decided to send the most recent Main Dock Inn plans to the city architect, Mr. Neumann, for review. Commissioners then scheduled a special meeting for Tuesday, July 30, at 1 p.m., to further review the proposed hotel. Ms. Libby and Mr. Green also agreed to extend the deadline for the HDC to make a decision until their next regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, August 13, at 1 p.m.

Mr. Doud also read aloud a letter from Brian Dunnigan against the proposed Main Dock Inn. Mr. Dunnigan said the building would be inappropriate and would increase congestion on Main Street.

“Mackinac Island survives on tourism,” Mr. Dunnigan wrote, “and visitors anticipate and often recognize appropriate and inappropriate structures. Further tainting the appearance of the district will have nothing but a negative effect on the way visitors react to the Island.”

He then urged the commission not approve the proposed hotel, which he said “will not assimilate with its historical surroundings but will further damage the appearance and the reputation of the City of Mackinac Island.”

The HDC placed the letter on file without discussion.

Other Business

The commission also acccepted two projects reviewed and approved by zoning administrator Dennis Dombroski. The HDC delegates the approval of certain types of minor work to city staff members, including “like-for-like” replacements, such as residing a house with the same material or replacing windows with identical frames.

Commissioner Lorna Straus and husband Francis Straus submitted the first request to repair two chimneys in Hubbard’s Annex. Since Mrs. Straus is an HDC commissioner, she moved to the audience during discussion.

Mr. Dombroski noted that the repairs would not change the chimneys’ appearance and would include installing mesh caps and, as much as possible, using bricks similar to original bricks. He felt the request qualified as a staff approval and commissioners agreed.

Sam Barnwell had submitted the other request on behalf of his grandmother, Margaret McIntire. The project at Mrs. McIntire’s house included replacing bricks in a supporting wall and flower boxes with bricks that are as similar as possible in appearance to old bricks. Mr. Dombroski suggested using denser bricks to minimize water absorption. Mr. Neumann added that using a sealant on the bricks and mortar might further minimize water absorption, and commissioners supported that suggestion as long as the sealer is transparent.

The plan also included new wrought iron railings to be installed on the front stairs of the residence, with which Mr. Dombroski saw no issues. The handrails would follow along the line of the outside of the stairs, said Mr. Barnwell, and Mr. Neumann agreed they would be appropriate.

Commissioner Straus noted that the affidavit stating that Mr. Barnwell was acting on behalf of his grandmother should be included with the file. The affidavit was not included in the packet distributed to commissioners.

The commission approved a project submitted by Eugene and Melanie Haggenbaugh. The plan includes changing a white picket fence to a more historical design with brick and mortar piers and L-shaped vertical rods between the piers.

Mr. Dombroski said the project “is not replacing what’s  there today but what would have been there years ago.”

Mr. Neumann thought the restoration is an appropriate design based on memories and current evidence of what the fence used to look like. No historic photographs of the fence exist, to Mr. Dombroski’s knowledge.

The HDC noted it would like to see any applications that would change the external ap- pearance of structures within the historic districts, including changes from flat to dimensional shingles.

Commissioners also allowed the chair to assign commissioners to committees as needed. The topic was brought up when HDC clerk Tammy Frazier noted that committee assignments to review the downtown design guidelines were not made at the last regularly scheduled HDC meeting in June.

The commission also met in private with Mr. Rentrop, who told the Town Crier the discussion involved his written legal opinion regarding the constitutionality of commissioner behavior to ensure commissioners not deprive applicants of their constitutional rights. Mr. Neumann and Mr. Dombroski participated in the meeting, as well.

The latest version of the proposed Main Dock Inn preserves an open view up to Market Street from the Arnold Line dock, according to architect Barry J. Polzin. The hotel has been shifted to the north side of the property and could also feature an open first floor, as proposed here in this plan submitted to the Historic District Commission Tuesday, July 9. (Barry J. Polzin Architects)

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