The consensus of those who opined at the informational meeting concerning the Boyne Beach Club project last week seemed to be frustration.
Devlon Corp. President James Hevey—the project developer and meeting host—told the audience of more than 70 people that he receives two to three calls each week from local residents demanding to know when the fence around the Boyne Beach Club project property will be removed.
“Hopefully you’re here, as my wish is, to hopefully get this project cleaned up, the fence down and get it better organized than it is now,” he said. “The intent of this whole thing is to inform you where it’s at and what we intend to do and maybe how you could help us.”
Hevey began the meeting by telling those in attendance that the gathering was intended for their benefit, and he asked that those public officials present not engage in dialogue.
“Really, it’s to inform the public,” he said. “I have tried to get the municipality to allow me to have this same public forum in front of the city commission and to put me on the agenda and they have refused.”
Hevey added, “So, the reason I am doing this is because I had no alternative.”
Hevey told those in attendance that he needed his zoning permit reinstated so he could move forward with a state-funded pollution clean-up program—also known as Brownfield Redevelopment—before developing the Boyne Beach Club, which could result in a mixed-use development that includes a marina and cottages.
“We talked to our lawyers and our municipal planners who worked on the project for us and, before we asked the municipality to reinstate the zoning permit, we made sure they had the legal right to do it,” he said. “There’s nothing in their zoning ordinances, and there’s nothing legally that they can’t do it—in essence they issue a zoning permit, they can take it away if you don’t perform as they see fit … but they also have the right to reinstate it.”
Hevey cautioned that the funding for the program is estimated to run out in the near future.
When the meeting was opened for audience questions, Ralph Dietz of Boyne City asked why Hevey has been told “no” on moving forward on his project.
Hevey explained that the project’s zoning permit was rescinded by the city and determined to be invalid by a court, last year, which found that the project had not been moving toward completion within the allotted time.
Hevey was then asked the status of those people who had planned to purchase units in the Boyne Beach Club initially. He said those people were given refunds after six or eight months. He did say, if the project is ever greenlit again, that he will approach them to see if they are still interested.
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jim Baumann asked Hevey if his project was still financially viable.
Hevey said he will perform a market study once his permit is reinstated to determine the best course for the project.
Hevey said two encouraging bits of news included continued low interest rates and plans for additional construction at the One Water Street development—both of which, he said, showed a positive trend.
Barb Young asked if Hevey had ensured his riparian rights were in order. Hevey said those issues had been dealt with.
“I am not here to support your development,” said Dan Farrow. “I understand that this property originally belonged to the city and went into private hands … and in my opinion, when that factory shut down, it should have gone back into the hands of the city.”
Farrow then cited a U.S. Supreme Court decision that allows cities to forcibly seize private property under eminent domain.
“Your property is a blight upon this community and continues to be so, and I am vigorously and actively supporting my city government in opposing your development and taking this property under eminent domain and turning it back in to the city,” he said. “In my opinion, we have enough waterfront development. That should be a green area preserving the value of this city.”
Farrow added, “I don’t have a problem with rich people getting richer but … you’re going to adversely affect my quality of life by looking at a development that I don’t want and we don’t need.”
Hevey said the process of approval of the original project was undertaken and completed years ago, and people had their chance to opine on the project several years ago when it was unanimously approved.
Audience comments included hopes that Hevey had proper financial backing and that no development will ever occur on the site.
One audience member asked what would happen if there is no movement in five or 10 years.
“I’m not going to walk away from the property, so my kids will own it if the fence has to stay there,” he said…. “But we’re here and we should deal with it now.”
At times the meeting became heated and deteriorated into squabbles between audience members.
Boyne City resident Jane Smith said she didn’t blame some people for apparently distrusting Hevey since she claimed to have had concerns over her purchase of three Boyne Beach Club units which she said she had planned to donate.
“Let’s get a group together and buy it,” she said, before asking Hevey if he was an American citizen. Hevey said he was a citizen of Canada but that he was married to an American citizen and has a residence in Charlevoix.
One audience member responded by asking what difference his citizenship made.
Hevey was then asked if he had approached the Zoning Board of Appeals concerning the manner. He said he did plead for his permit but was unsuccessful.
Hevey was asked if the property is listed for sale—it is and has a price tag of $8.4 million.
Several citizens expressed concern that the aesthetics of the fenced-in project area were making the rest of the city look poorly.
Some claimed Hevey was holding the city hostage by keeping the fence up.
Hevey responded by saying he felt that he was being held hostage by the city.
Once audience member asked Hevey if he would cut the fence down by 60 percent to increase the view of the water. Hevey said he was unsure if that was even legal and that he had no plans to do so.
Hevey also talked about his discussions with the city, in 2012, about the possibility of Boyne City purchasing marina slips from him—a deal that never came to fruition.
“I have attempted, over the last while, to try to get the municipality to look at different alternatives, and in doing so we’ve come up with a couple different things,” Hevey said.
Hevey read from a letter from AKT Peerless, which specializes in Brownfield Redevelopment projects, which stated that a Brownfield project cannot be approved by the State of Michigan before the proposed project has the proper permits.
“We don’t want to get into the situation where the funding runs out for that (Brownfield), the fence is up, we don’t have a zoning permit and there’s nothing we can do and the fence stays until there’s something else that comes along,” he said. “I certainly don’t think the community wants that … I as a developer certainly don’t want that to happen.”
Hevey added, “We’re very close to that kind of thing happening.”
Hevey also discussed how the fence came to be.
“The eyesore of the fence and how it sits is a little more complicated than it would appear on the surface but we’re into a situation where we need to do a site remediation,” he said. “The site has some contamination of the soil, as most of Boyne City does. And, when we originally dealt with the development, we had to deal with the MDEQ … and in getting our plans approved we had a requirement for a ‘due care’ policy and a commitment to that … which obligated us to protect the property from the public.”
Hevey said he originally erected a chain link fence to keep the public off the project site. But, after sand began blowing across the street into businesses’ parking lots, he was asked by the city to erect the fence which now stands.
Hevey told those in attendance the history of how his company dealt with a major redesign issue and then was ready to move forward with the project when it discovered the contamination in the property’s soil.
“We had 90 percent of that building sold with $10,000 deposits, so we were very keen to get it going,” he said. “But, we had this delay because of the structure design. We had to redesign the whole thing. And that got us in a period of time that was concluded by the city that we hadn’t started construction…. We had started the marina building and we had demolished the building; which, under their guidelines, demolition is considered construction.”
Hevey added, “My requests to reinstate it were ignored so we’re back to a situation where I get all these calls, and you as citizens I assume … want this fence down and the project completed.”
Hevey said he found himself in a bit of a catch-22 wherein the city would not reinstate his permit but without the zoning permit he cannot move the project forward.