2014-06-14 / News

City Intervenes in Lawsuit, Saying Access From Dock Is Essential

By Stephanie Fortino

An ongoing lawsuit will decide whether Union Terminal Piers should pay to have access to city streets through private property at the head of the Arnold Dock. Last month, the transportation company successfully acquired a temporary restraining order through the 11th Circuit Court to allow access until Thursday, June 19, but a recent plea from the City of Mackinac Island asks that the driveways remain open for the rest of the summer.

City attorney Tom Evashevski filed a motion for intervention Tuesday, June 10. A hearing is scheduled Thursday, June 19, at 2 p.m. in Mackinac County Circuit Court with 46th Circuit Court Judge George Mertz of Otsego County presiding.

The legal dispute is between Arnold Transit Company and property owners Ira Green and Melanie Libby of Main Dock 7271, LLC. Mr. Green and Ms. Libby purchased the property at the head of the Arnold Dock from Union Terminal Piers in January of 2013, and part of that deal was an easement allowing access from the dock to public streets through the property, for a fee. But UTP failed to make its payment last year, or negotiate any alternative, so Main Dock 7271 terminated the easement last winter.

While Mr. Evashevski said the city is neutral on the easement dispute, he argues, “The public has a right to access the city streets from the dock, which is located on state-owned bottomlands.”

“We’re not trying to deny whatever ownership rights the various parties may have,” he said. “We’re just saying, based largely on our charter rights and exercise of that through our ferry franchise and winter service franchise, access to that dock is essential.”

The large dock in the center of town, he said, is able to accommodate some (but not all) large ships that can’t tie up elsewhere in the harbor, it is used to moor sailboats during the Chicago and Detroit yacht races, and public access may be needed for winter ferry service, for which the city has contracted Arnold Transit, a service of UTP.

The city’s Historic District Commission also wanted to intervene in the case, as HDC attorney Gary Rentrop noted the commission has different concerns than the city. Particularly, the HDC is concerned with the fate of the historic buildings on Mr. Green and Ms. Libby’s property as well as structures on the dock itself. The HDC also holds a historic preservation easement to limit development on the Main Dock 7271, LLC property as part of a settlement reached earlier this year.

But the commission was not unanimous in a decision to intervene. Commissioners Jennifer King, Lorna Straus, and Bradley McCallum voted in favor, but Andrew Doud and Lee Finkel voted against it, arguing a separate filing was unnecessary. And the city council did not grant the HDC’s request to intervene Wednesday, instead asking that Mr. Evashevski keep Mr. Rentrop informed. Concerns over legal expenses and the necessity of having the HDC make a separate claim concerned council members. Council will discuss it again in two weeks.

Another group of undisclosed downtown business owners considered getting involved in the lawsuit, according to Mr. Evashevski, but nothing more was filed by deadline Wednesday, June 11.

Both Mr. Evashevski and Mr. Rentrop are expected to be at the June 19 hearing, along with the city’s Lansing attorney, Michael Cavanaugh. Other parties are also expected, according to Mr. Evashevski, including an assistant attorney general.

Return to top

Click here for digital edition
2014-06-14 digital edition