2014-06-14 / News

Silver Birches Rezoning Proposal Tabled for July

Legal Firm Reviews Plans for Property Owner
By Stephanie Fortino

The request to rezone the Silver Birches property from lowdensity residential to conditional hotel/boarding house was tabled by the Mackinac Island Planning Commission Tuesday, June 10, when property owner Liz Ware asked for an extension so her legal counsel can review the plans for city requirements. An updated request could be submitted in time for the commission’s meeting next month.

Ms. Ware is seeking conditional hotel/boarding house zoning, which allows her to ask for the zoning change while articulating preservation goals to protect the site’s historic structures and limiting future development. A former plan for the property was scaled back from earlier versions and included the addition of up to three new cottages and a new barn, but that may be changed after review.

The new plan for Silver Birches will include restoring the existing lodge and two cottages, as has been proposed previously. The plan may include a restaurant and other features, but exactly what has yet to be determined.

Larger site plans for commissioners to review, more details about future uses proposed on the site, and copies of the appropriate use permits from the Mackinac Island State Park Commission will also be included in the new package.

Ms. Ware’s attorney, Jennifer Schafer of Molosky and Company in Petoskey, told commissioners her firm will review whether the site will support any additional structures, making sure the property is not overcrowded and stays within the existing character.

Planning Commissioner Mary Dufina asked her to include “exactly everything Ms. Ware wants to do on the property.”

Commissioners received several letters against the proposed rezoning at Silver Birches, from Jim Bogan, Mary Bogan Doolen and Carl Doolen, Brian Dunnigan, Fred and Fran Holt, Susan Lenfestey, Joe Murray, R. Susan Murray, Steve and Anne Murray, Toby Murray, Cordie and Charlie Puttkammer, Lin Sheppard, and Bert and Dani Vescolani. The letters filed without discussion.

Commission Chairman Michael Straus said he is confused about whether a letter from Mackinac State Historic Parks Director Phil Porter supports the Silver Birches rezoning. In it, Mr. Porter wrote, Ms. Ware is a “good neighbor” and supported her restoration efforts. It made no mention of the rezoning request and was not specifically addressed to the Planning Commission. Ms. Ware said in May she had asked Mr. Porter to write the letter for her own use. Mr. Straus is seeking clarification from Mr. Porter.

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