2014-05-17 / News

May 13 Topics: Liquor Control, Birches Meeting

City Seeks To Control Entertainment
By Stephanie Fortino

The Planning Commission will consider adding a special landuse regulation to the city’s zoning ordinance as a way to control where bars and restaurants can have live entertainment and dancing. The topic came before the Planning Commission for the first time April 13. The city has been considering establishing local liquor control measures since last year.

The commission also tentatively scheduled a committee meeting to review an updated rezoning request for Silver Birches and decided to continue discussions with the Board of Public Works about the Island’s limited sewer capacity.

The city’s Ordinance Committee last discussed the liquor control measures in February, deciding a special land-use permit would best suit the city’s goal of limiting noise and rambunctious behavior officials say are associated with dance and entertainment permits. The amendment to the zoning ordinance would only regulate where new permits can be located in the city, leaving existing venues intact.

A second layer of control would be a regulatory ordinance applied to all liquor license-holding establishments and might include limiting hours of operation or noise, and inside lighting restrictions like preventing strobe lights that might spook horses. Such an ordinance would be determined and approved by the City Council, not the Planning Commission.

Planning Commissioner Anneke Myers, who also sits on council and is a member of the Ordinance Committee, explained, “The state no longer gives any local control to planning commissions or city councils or anything to decide how many liquor licenses come into your community. And we’ve recently had multiple dance and entertainment licenses applied for and granted by the state, despite some reservations by the City of Mackinac Island.… We could have some real potential for late nightclubs and loud, noisy things that necessarily don’t fit into the plan for downtown.”

The city wants to discourage nightclub-like establishments from the city, Mrs. Myers said, and regulating dance and entertainment permits associated with liquor licenses is the way to do it.

She noted the restrictions would not discourage quieter establishments, like restaurants that serve alcohol with meals.

Commissioner Mary Dufina said, “There are some people who don’t want to see any more, don’t want to have all the noise that goes along, especially with dance and entertainment.”

The commission is working with Adam Young of Wade Trim to establish the zoning ordinance amendment. More information, including color maps, will be available at the next Planning Commission meeting Tuesday, June 10, at 4 p.m. in City Hall.

Silver Birches

Committee Meeting

A committee meeting to provide input on updated plans for Liz Ware’s request to rezone the Silver Birches property has been scheduled for Wednesday, May 21. Ms. Ware should have engineering and health department reports on the septic system by then, which will help determine how much capacity the property can support and where new development may be located. If Ms. Ware does not have reports in time for the committee meeting, it will be cancelled.

Ms. Ware is trying to change the property’s zoning to conditional (or restricted) hotel/boarding house from low-density residential. As part of the process, she must include a future development plan that would serve to show the maximum development that could ever occur on the site under the conditional zone. She has said she plans to restore the existing buildings on the site before adding any new development.

The committee of Mrs. Dufina, Lee Finkel, Trish Martin, and Andrew McGreevy already met with Ms. Ware in April to give some input on her plans. Further discussions will help Ms. Ware finetune her development goals, which she will resubmit in time for the next Planning Commission meeting in June.

A previous plan for future development at Silver Birches was poorly received by nearby property owners on the north side of the Island, at British Landing, and others. Many were against the change from low-density residential to restricted hotel/boarding house, saying the rezoning would jeopardize the tranquility of the area and is inconsistent with the city’s master plan.

Ms. Ware noted the development plans have already been scaled back from what was proposed in March.

The commission has yet to decide whether to recommend the rezoning request to the City Council, which serves as the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). The ZBA will make the final decision whether to allow the change.

The commission also received two letters from Brian Dunnigan and John Davey against the rezoning request, and another from Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter in favor of Ms. Ware’s restoration efforts. The letters were not read aloud and were placed on file.

The commission will send a letter to the Board of Public Works (BPW) expressing their desire to meet and discuss the ongoing issue of the Island’s sewer capacity. A committee met with the BPW last year, but discussions have stalled since then.

“The ball was dropped,” said commissioner Candi Dunnigan.

Since the city’s sewer plant was recently updated, the Department of Public Works will wait a year to have the capacity reevaluated.

Mrs. Dufina pointed out commissioners need to decide whether they should consider sewer capacity availability when reviewing applications. Each year, the city rations new sewer tie-ins as a way to limit development. Communicating with BPW will help make those determinations.

The Planning Commission also discussed the bicycle rental facility that will be installed on the site of the old Iroquois Bike Shop. The commission will not have to review the application because it falls under the jurisdiction of the Historic District Commission, for architectural review, and City Council, which reviews bicycle density requirements through the issuance of rental licenses.

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