2018-02-10 / News

Approval Given for Use of Imitation Wood on Storage Deck

By Jacob A. Ball

In Mackinac Island’s historic districts, natural building materials are preferred, however, permission has been given to install wood-alternative material on a bicycle storage deck overhanging the beach along Main Street and to the porch of Lake View Hotel. The bike storage project was initially approved by the Historic District Commission in August with wood boards, but concerns about the safety of the deck when wet prompted a change to the application. The deck will increase accessible bike storage for the rental shop between the Shepler dock and Bicycle Inn. Owned by Melanie Libby and Ira Green, the shop had exhausted all available space for storage, which led to bicycles being parked on the beach. The storage deck is intended to keep bikes off the beach, improve access to the bikes, and perhaps improve the appearance of the shorefront from Haldimand Bay.

The Historic District Commission approved both plans Tuesday, January 9.

Concerns about the precedent set by the decision were discussed by the commission, but the justifications for the exceptions were judged to be sufficient to receive approval. Commission architect Richard Neumann said ground floor construction, where visible, has always been wood, and he did not endorse the use of artificial wood.

Mr. Neumann did approve of the replacement porch at Lake View Hotel, which will be decked with waterproofed vinyl flooring made to look like wood. The previous flooring was sheets of rubberized vinyl, a choice made correct weatherproofing problems for that space. In December, the project received approval for a like-for-like repair of the porch, but after inspection of the condition of the decking, more significant renovation of the porch is needed. Several alternative designs have been attempted over recent years, but none has solved the issue of water damage.

The new porch will incorporate waterproof joints below a waterproof rubber membrane, with the vinyl flooring installed on top for additional weatherproofing and better appearance. Even though Mr. Neumann was concerned about the appearance of the finished porch, he gave his consent based on the difficulty of the project and his perceived improvement of the appearance compared to the current design.

“This would certainly be an upgrade to that, but I wish there would be a better solution,” he said.

The porch repairs received approval from the commission, but Chairperson Bradley McCallum voted against the project.

According to Mr. Green, the inclusion of wood decking for the bicycle storage deck was an oversight during the design stage of the project. The railings around the deck were approved as imitation wood boards, and he claimed the surface of the deck was meant to be, as well. In addition, he does not believe that anyone would be able to recognize the use of imitation wood on the deck. The deck is to be built three feet below the grade of Main Street, and he claims that the type of flooring would not be recognizable from Shepler’s ferry dock adjacent to the property.

“We are just trying to keep it from being dangerous,” Mr. Green said.

The only people who would come in close contact with the deck are the bicycle shop’s employees, but Mr. Neumann said that employees are still considered when reviewing construction inside a historic district. Based on this standard, he recommended that the deck remain wood, “as it was originally approved.” Mr. Green said that he is mostly just concerned about an employee slipping and falling on the deck when wet. The project’s eventual approval was given conditionally, so that it may remain imitation wood as long as the deck is reserved for utility use. This means that it could not eventually be used for dining or retail space.

The commission also approved a plan by AT&T to demolish a dilapidated building next to the company’s microwave antenna near Hedgecliffe in the Annex. The building is within a historic district, but is not a contributing resource. Accordingly, there is no fee for demolition. AT&T plans to construct a new structure beneath the microwave tower in the near future. The communications system will be maintained as a backup for the submarine fiberoptic system used for Internet communication. Building inspector Dennis Dombroski said the Island has become reliant on the fiber optics and the microwave tower is the only system strong enough to be used in case of a system failure.

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