2017-07-14 / News

Island Council Deadlocks Over Zoning Variance Request

By Jacob A. Ball

Mackinac Island’s mayor and city council, in a deadlocked vote Wednesday, July 5, rejected a zoning variance sought by Brad Conkey for a new home near the shoreline in an undeveloped area of the Island.

The mayor and councilmembers, who also act as the zoning board of appeals, split 3-3 following a second hearing on the request. Councilmembers Dennis Bradley, Kay Hoppenrath, and Jason St. Onge voted against the variance. Mayor Margaret Doud and councilmembers Steve Moskwa and Anneke Myers voted to grant it.

Council rejection of the zoning variance leaves Mr. Conkey the option of revising plans for the house he wants to build for himself below the West Bluff along M-185/Lakeshore Boulevard, across from Lake Huron. He has purchased a sloping lot for it below Hedgecliffe Road.

The zoning board of appeals hearing preceded a regular meeting at which the Island city council heard concerns about private fireworks set off during the Fourth of July holiday, received a progress report on a new generator installation behind the municipal offices, and approved advertisements, tents, and trailers for July 14 and July 22 yacht races from Chicago and Port Huron to Mackinac Island.

Mr. Conkey wanted a variance from shoreline residential zoning regulations that limit building heights to 20 feet and 1.5 floors. He said it was necessary to exceed the height limit by three feet, eight inches to achieve the proper roof pitch and to have a usable partial second story on the house.

The Island’s height regulation is intended to preserve unobstructed views of the shoreline. At a June 21 hearing, City attorney Tom Evashevski said Mr. Conkey’s proposed house wouldn’t negatively impact the view of Lake Huron from the shore, but councilmembers opposing the variance said they are apprehensive about setting a precedent in an until-now undeveloped area of the Island.

Mr. Conkey’s lot is not on the shore, but across the boulevard from it. He submitted four letters of support for his home plans from owners of neighboring properties and had received unanimous approval from the city planning commission for the zoning variance. The planning commission vote goes as a recommendation to the city council.

At the regular council meeting, Mayor Margaret Doud offered praise and thanks to the Mackinac Island Police Department, Fire Department, Department of Public Works, and street crew for their efforts during the July 4 weekend and holiday.

The council, however, received a citizen complaint about private fireworks set off during the period. Councilmembers noted that private fireworks are allowed during 72-hour intervals around the Fourth of July and nine other designated holidays under a 2012 Michigan law. The law also allows Michigan residents to buy and ignite more powerful fireworks than had been permitted in the state for decades.

It has generated a raft of complaints and 41 bills in the Michigan Legislature to undo or revise those provisions. The state legislature did amend the fireworks law in 2013 to allow municipalities to pass ordinances prohibiting fireworks between midnight and 8:30 a.m. during the designated 72-hour holiday periods. The City of Mackinac Island has such an ordinance.

Installation of a new generator behind the municipal offices has been moving forward, but not without challenges. When city offices were closed June 29 for a power shutoff to connect the generator, a circuit breaker on the city’s electrical system continuously was tripped. After extensive effort late into the evening and the assistance of representatives of the manufacturer, the installation was completed.

In the process, however, an interruption to city communications systems occurred. City engineer Dennis Dombroski said the phone system will be disconnected before upcoming tests to ensure that no further problems occur. Cummins Power Generation, the manufacturer, and ASCO Power Technologies, the maker of the power transfer switch, will be on the Island next week to perform on-site testing. Mr. Dombroski said the testing could cause momentary power outages, but he doesn’t expect significant disruptions.

The city received a letter from a videographer who wants permission to use a drone in the filming of an Island wedding. The city council has been seeking state legislation that would allow it to ban drones, owing to concerns they would scare horses used four tours, taxi service, and to pull wagons hauling goods.

Daryl Garvey of Sight and Sound Michigan, who wants to film the wedding, said his drone would be flown carefully and discretely. He offered to provide the city with footage that could be used for promotions. The council, however, showed no interest in approving the proposed drone use and, instead, discussed ways to discourage visitors using drones on Mackinac Island.

The council received a request from filmmaker Spencer Cameron of Oxford to discuss shooting part of a movie on the Island. Mr. Cameron, who said he wants to capture the beauty and scenery of the Island, sought information about regulations regarding filming.

Mr. Cameron said he wants to film three scenes involving little more than a camera, a tripod, and two actors. The third scene would require a cameraman on the back of a bike carriage to film action through downtown. The council was receptive to the request, but members said they want more information about timing and locations from Mr. Cameron.

The Woodbluff Owner’s Association informed the council it has taken ownership of Forest Way, the road passing through its neighborhood. Tom Lockwood, president of the homeowner’s group, asked if the city has any interest in taking ownership of the road. If the city owned Forest Way, it would be required to keep the road plowed during the winter. City attorney Tom Evashevski advised the council to proceed cautiously. The issue was sent to the street committee for consideration.

Permission was granted to the Chicago Yacht Club for advertisements and to set up tents around the Island for the July 14 Chicago-to-Mackinac race. The Bayview Yacht Club received permission for advertisements, two temporary vehicle permits, and two temporary trailer permits for the July 22 Port Huronto Mackinac race.

Advertisements for the Chicago Yacht Club’s 109th race will include as many as four banners at Windermere Point and an assortment of advertising materials and banners for the Sailors’ Celebration at Woodfill Park on Cadotte Avenue. There will be a performance stage, food and beverage tents, a merchandise tent, and an alcoholic drinks tent. Chicago race sailors will stay on the Island until Wednesday, July 19.

An awards celebration for the Bayview Yacht Club race from Port Huron will be held on the lawn at Grand Hotel Tuesday, July 25. The council approved 48 banners of various sizes to be placed around the Island for the race. Three banners will be for the awards ceremony stage. Inflatable displays by sponsoring Bell’s Brewery will be used as a finish line marker at Windermere Point and on the patio of the Pink Pony Lounge.

Bayview Yacht Club also received two temporary vehicle and trailer permits. One trailer will be used at the finish line and a semi-trailer truck will haul the mobile stage used in the awards celebration. Last year, those trailers were hauled behind horses, but that proved to be risky.

Mission Point Resort received approval for three annual motor vehicle permits and two temporary motor vehicle permits. The annual permits are for tractors that will be used for landscaping and mowing grass. The two temporary permits are for trucks to deliver propane to bulk tanks along M-185 near Mission Point.

Approval was given to the Wheelmen Association to park antique bicycles outside the Murray Hotel, as in years past. The bicycles will be displayed during daytime hours from Thursday, August 24, to Sunday, August 27. Overflow parking for antique bicycles will be available in the courtyard of the city offices on Market Street.

A temporary motor vehicle permit was approved for Belonga Plumbing of St. Ignace to make repairs to a septic field in the Stonecliffe neighborhood.

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