2017-08-31 / News

Proposal Would Allow Construction of Apartments on Paro Street

By Erich T. Doerr

The St. Ignace Planning Commission decided Tuesday evening, August 8, to propose a zoning ordinance amendment that would allow for the construction of affordable apartments on a parcel of land along Paro Street on the city’s south side.

Local resident Dean Baker is seeking rezoning from an R1 singlefamily residence classification to an R3 high-density housing classification for the apartments on land south of the Charters Cove senior apartments and north of Straits State Park. His vacant property lacks an address but designated as lot 052-003-003- 10 in city records.

Mr. Baker says the property is ideal for high-density housing. Although the proposed project will require the extension of natural gas and city sewer lines, he says, the higher number of tenants would make it financially viable.

He said he sees St. Ignace as a retirement community that would be a good fit for fit a project like this. Mr. Baker bought the property for a condominium complex of six singlefamily dwellings, but the financial and mortgage foreclosure crisis a decade ago killed those plans.

Planning Commission Chairwoman Betsy Dayrell-Hart said Mr. Baker’s proposal is in line with the city’s master plan, which lists that area as likely for mixed-use development. She recommended rezoning the property and the unused area around it as R3 to avoid spot zoning.

Mayor Connie Litzner noted St. Ignace doesn’t have an R3-zoned district; the designation has been used only on a per-project basis. Commission member Rick Perry said the R3 zoning matches that of the Charter Cove apartments north of the site.

Based on the commission vote, Dr. Dayrell-Hart will draft a proposed zoning ordinance amendment in consultation with City Attorney Tom Evashevski and there will be a public hearing. The commission told Mr. Baker the process will likely take several months but shouldn’t impact the taxes he pays on the property, since it will remain zoned for single-family residential use.

The commission continued work on a new master plan with a discussion of transportation needs. Mr. Perry suggested the city get help from Eric Wedesky, planner for Eastern Upper Peninsula Regional Planning and Development Commission, in identifying the various transportation resources now available.

Dr. Dayrell-Hart said the current plan focuses on roads, but the new one should list the city’s airport, ferry docks, US-2 intercity bus station, and freight resources; it could include a plan for further development of these resources and in line with the city’s public transportation needs.

Mrs. Litzner said the city could consider development of a transportation authority next year to help it pursue transportation-oriented grants for such facilities as a parking garage, if the city decided to build one. Commissioner Diggy Clement asked where in the city is there is property zoned for a parking garage. Dr. Dayrell-Hart said that likely would likely be in a light industrial area.

Mrs. Clement said the commission needs to work on bringing more business to the downtown area, especially businesses open after regular business hours such as brew pubs. That led to discussion of options for increasing the use of Star Line Mackinac Island Ferry’s downtown Dock 2 during the summer.

Dr. Dayrell-Hart suggested the dock could be used for a floating restaurant boat that could be moved if necessary. Mr. Perry said the dock is ideal for cruise ships such as Victory Cruise Lines’ Victory I, which has tied up there several times this summer.

Mrs. Litzner said if St. Ignace wants to expand its cruise-related business, representatives should talk with officials of the cruise lines about arranging for passengers to spend more time in the city.

The commission wants to encourage more bicycle riding and walking in St. Ignace. Mr. Perry suggested installing a bike rack near the Dollar General store downtown, perhaps relocating a little-used rack now at Kiwanis Beach. Dr. Dayrell-Hart suggested St. Ignace consider movable bike corrals.

Commission member Mike Lilliquist said the city could attract more hikers if it offered them water or did more to promote the North Country Trail section that runs through town. He said requests for information about the trail are increasing at the St. Ignace Welcome Center near the Mackinac Bridge.

Stan and Kay Kujawa are seeking volunteers for the city’s trail town center in the Fort de Buade Museum. They’ve had problems keeping it staffed this summer. Those interested can call Downtown Development Authority Director Deb Evashevski’s city hall office, at (906) 643-8252.

The center may have to be moved when the museum moves, as planned, to its new location in the former Walker Furniture building near the St. Ignace Marina. Dr. Dayrell-Hart said the city should promote the trail more.

A public presentation about the city’s plans for the railroad grade, developed in part with Michigan State University’s Sustainable Built Environment Initiative program, will be held Tuesday, September 12, at 6:30 p.m. at the Little Bear East Arena. Residents will have a chance to look computer-generated images of the plan.

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