2015-07-25 / News

Island Zoning Board of Appeals Denies Corrigan Lot Split

By Stephanie Fortino

The Mackinac Island Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied Tom Corrigan a variance to split his lot at 7834 Main Street Wednesday, July 22, reasoning that it would have created one conforming lot and second lot that would be less than one-third the size required by the zoning ordinance.

The proposed split would have created a 15,010-squarefoot lot and a 4,740-squarefoot lot. The minimum lot size allowed in the low-density residential (R-1) zoning district is 15,000 square feet.

The property is adjacent to Mackinac Island Public School. It was rezoned from recreational open space (ROS) to low-density residential in May and contains two houses, which would have had separate lots if the variance was granted. Mr. Corrigan explained that he wanted to split the lot because he sold the rear house to his cousin.

“We wanted to change the arrangement on who pays the property taxes,” Mr. Corrigan said.

ZBA member Dennis Bradley said he would have viewed the request more favorably if the back lot would not have been so small.

“It’s not even close to being what it should be,” Mr. Bradley said.

The size of the lots was determined to make the front lot conforming to the zoning ordinance, Mr. Corrigan said.

“I purposely set the size of the back lot to be small to have the front lot fit in the requirements.”

Mr. Corrigan raised concerns about the zoning classifications throughout the neighborhood, noting that the school property is actually zoned ROS, which does not allow buildings.

“The zoning down there seems out of whack,” he said, trying to make his case for the variance.

City attorney Tom Evashevski said that if there are issues with zoning throughout the neighborhood, the best way to resolve them is by evaluating the zoning districts, not by granting variances.

“If something doesn’t make sense for the whole zoning district,” Mr. Evashevski said, “you change the whole zoning district. . . You don’t grant variances parcel by parcel.”

Mr. Corrigan also distributed a list of nearby lots and their sizes to show there are many small lots in the neighborhood. Of 20 properties on Main Street and Mahoney Avenue, seven are zoned R-1 and all have lots smaller than the minimum size required by the zoning ordinance. Sizes range from 13,376 to 5,670 square feet.

The list also included 13 properties zoned high-density residential (R-3), which has a minimum lot size requirement of 5,000 square feet. Eight of the R-3 lots are smaller than the zoning ordinance requirement and smaller than Mr. Corrigan’s proposed lot split, with the smallest at 2,160 square feet.

While many of the lots in the west end neighborhood are too small, Mayor Margaret Doud said that many existed before the city created its zoning ordinance in the early 1980s.

“Those lots have been grandfathered in,” she said. “We have to go with what the zoning ordinance says,” now.

Variances have to meet four criteria for the ZBA to approve them, which were not met for Mr. Corrigan’s request, ZBA members said.

Kay Hoppenrath opposed the lot split based on the criteria and, she said, “based on the fact that we’ve made this mistake before, creating illegal lots, and we’ve been bitten.”

For similar reasons, she and other ZBA members recalled, lots in the neighborhood were split when other families wanted to change how property taxes were charged, but the lots were eventually sold.

The ZBA received four letters opposing the lot split from neighboring property owners Victor Callewaert, Todd and Jennifer Callewaert, Mary Callewaert, and Les and Ann Parrish. They cited the small lot size as justification for the denial and said the granting of the lot split would undermine Mackinac Island’s zoning ordinance and plans for controlled development.

Mr. Corrigan’s application was given to the ZBA without a recommendation from the Planning Commission, as the group does not weigh in on variances, according to the zoning ordinance. Zoning administrator Dennis Dombroski also did not comment on the proposed lot split.

The variance request was denied by a vote of 5 to 0. ZBA member Anneke Myers recused herself from the matter and did not attend the hearing. Her husband is hired by Mr. Corrigan for construction projects.

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