BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, EDITOR — PHOTOS BY CHRIS FAULKNOR
Boyne developer Ted Macksey’s 31-acre property rezone request will move to the next phase.
On Monday March 20, the Boyne City Planning Commission—following a contentious nearly four-hour meeting—sent the matter to the Boyne City Commission for consideration with a 5-3 vote.
Editor’s Note: This 3,300-word story offers the most in-depth look at the issue you will find anywhere.
History of the Issue
“Back in September (2016), the planning commission held a public hearing for consideration of the zoning application from Mr. Macksey,” said Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson, who explained the detailed timeline of the matter prior to a public comment session and board deliberation…. “At that hearing, the planning commission reviewed the case, discussed it, took public comment, and then reviewed the amendment criteria and made a motion to recommend approval of this request.”
Macksey hopes to have his two parcels of land at 600 Jefferson St. in Boyne City, currently zoned Rural Estate District, designated as Multi Family Residential District.
The properties were originally billed as being 10 acres and 20 acres; but, the project would utilize sections of 13.03 acres and 18.09 acres for a total of 31.12 acres.
“The request was then sent to the city commission for a first reading in November (2016); at that reading, the city commission reviewed the request, took public comment, and scheduled it for a second reading,” McPherson said. “That second reading occurred on Jan. 10, where there was a lot of discussion on the application, and the applicant requested that the city commission refer this case back to the planning commission so the conditional rezoning application could be submitted.”
He added, “Mr. Macksey has submitted a conditional rezoning application that would amend this original request, further eliminating what uses could be allowed in the Multi Family Residential District and putting restrictions on those uses.”
According to planning officials, an analysis of the properties revealed a maximum of 10 units per acre could be constructed for a total of up to 300 units on the subject properties.
North of the property is Evangeline Township, which is zoned Single Family Residential, characterized in their zoning ordinance as Rural Estate. To the east of the properties is zoned Rural Estate District, and is currently being used by a church.
To the south of the properties is The Brook Retirement Community.
To the west is single family dwellings zoned Traditional Residential District.
The New Offer
According to the undated written offer included in the planning commission’s agenda packet, Macksey-Built Properties proposes the following:
“The property and the proposed development will strictly be limited to market rate non-subsidized residential housing use only. Residential housing use is described as single- and two-family dwellings, and multi-family dwellings, including but not limited to apartment housing, townhouses, terraces, efficiency units, and (row) houses. All other uses provided in the Multi Family Residential District (MFRD) shall be prohibited.”
Macksey proposed splitting the property into two sections with Section A consisting of the 18.09-acre parcel, and Section B consisting of the 13.03-acre piece of land.
“Total density for ‘Section A’ will be no more than six dwelling units per gross acre for a total maximum density of 108 total dwelling units. Maximum dwelling units per building in ‘Section A’ will be no more than eight dwelling units per building,” it states in the written offer…. “Total density for ‘Section B’ will be no more than eight dwelling units per acre for a total maximum density of 104 total dwelling units. Maximum dwelling units per building in ‘Section B’ will be 16 dwelling units per building.”
It is further stated, “Total dwelling units for ‘Section A’ and ‘Section B’, 31.12 acres, will be no more than 212 dwelling units or 6.8 units per gross acre. A 30-foot natural buffer barrier shall be maintained whenever possible around the perimeter of the property, excluding road right-of-ways, storm drainage detention/retention areas, and utility easements.”
Macksey’s proposal would require amendment of Boyne City’s zoning ordinance in order to change the maximum number of dwelling units per acre.
“Further, as described in Section 6.4 H@, the development is to be constructed with private streets and shall meet all municipality minimum requirements and standards including but not limited to a minimum right-of-way of 66 feet,” the offer states. “Pedestrian sidewalks shall meet all municipalities requirements as specified in Article XIX Development Requirements Section 19.40 G. Buildings shall be constructed to meet all municipality standards as specified in the Article XXII Design Standards.”
According to the offer, the property would be developed in multiple phases.
“Within two years of the signature date of the conditional rezoning agreement, the first phase development plan shall be submitted to the city planning commission,” the offer states. “Within six months of approval of the final development plan for the first phase, developer shall obtain all necessary permits from all city, county and state agencies for site work, extension of all utilities, and road construction of the project’s first phase.”
It further states, “The developer shall commence construction of the project within six months from obtaining city, county and state permits. The developer shall have 10 years from the date of the first phase development plan final approval to complete the final phase of the development.”
Macksey introduced himself during his presentation period as someone who has owned property in the area since the early 2000s, and lived in Boyne since early 2008.
“If anybody wants to come in and discuss this development with me, I have an open-door policy, so feel free to come in and ask any questions you may have,” said Macksey, a builder and broker, whose office is located near Lynda’s Real Estate Service off Lake Street in Boyne.
Macksey has over 30 years of experience in building and development, having been involved with at least a dozen developments and built more than 500 homes.
Then, Macksey presented his plan.
“There is a 66-foot-wide easement ingress and egress off of Vogel Street, which would be on the west side of The Brook Retirement Community,” he said.
There are utilities at the street already with city water/sewer, DTE and Consumers Energy available.
Macksey has submitted a traffic analysis as required for the planning commission’s review.
“The findings of the study were completed by Progressive AE engineering showing that the road would be well under-utilized … regardless of how the 30 acres is developed,” Macksey said. “They look at peak hours in the day in terms of travel to and from work.”
Even if the project were fully developed, Macksey said, it would only add approximately 16 to 19 percent traffic capacity.
Macksey said the road is only currently being used at approximately three percent. Even with his development, the road would only be used at around 20 percent of its capacity during peak hours.
Macksey said “appropriate measures” would be taken to in stormwater management.
“In Boyne City and the surrounding region, there is a significant need for what we call ‘the middle market’ or moderately priced rental or for-purchase housing,” he said.
Macksey emphasized that his project won’t include subsidized housing.
“In some cases, subsidized housing does not bring property tax to the community,” he said. “My development will be fully taxed and bring property taxes into the community.”
Macksey said the average age of the existing housing stock in Boyne City is over 50 years old.
“There is a serious shortage of sustainable, well-built housing,” he said.
Boyne City’s housing market lags well behind other sectors of the housing market, according to Macksey. He also said new construction in the Boyne area is almost nonexistent. And, he said the sizes of households are shrinking and the population is aging, both factors which are leading to a need for higher-density multi-family housing in walking distance of city amenities like parks and shopping areas rather than large homes on large lots, as was the case in the past.
Macksey cited a study by Network Northwest of housing need projections from 2014 through 2019 which shows a snapshot of annual new housing stock needed each year to service the population.
Macksey said the study indicates the need in Charlevoix County for 49 new houses and 224 new rentals per year.
“We’re now already two or three years through that … and we really haven’t eaten into that at all,” he said…. “Boyne City is showing around 15 new houses a year and we’re not even coming close to that, and that’s from 2014. So, we’re basically around 45 houses down now, and we’re 76 new rental properties per the year.”
Macksey added, “So, over a six-year period, you’re talking there’s a need for about 450 rental properties that … that market isn’t being serviced.”
Macksey then shared information from two studies on rental housing which showed multi-family housing does not impose greater cost on local government, nor does it cause traffic problems.
And, Macksey said, he has not seen any studies which prove multi-family housing lowers neighboring property values. He claimed that, in most cases, the value of surrounding properties either remained unchanged, or were improved.
“According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies (Harvard), the bias against multi-family housing must be overcome if we are to meet the housing needs in an environmentally sustainable and economically realistic manner,” Macksey said.
“Misconceptions, exaggerations, and unfounded beliefs contaminate civic discussions about multi-family development.”
Macksey said his development would include investment protection covenants which would prevent the property from being littered with outdoor storage of items, and help ensure the property remains aesthetically pleasing.
“In summary: creating housing for a much-forgotten local market—this development will reach that market and help solve the problem. We have a severe housing problem in this community,” Macksey said.
He added that the housing issue extends throughout the region and the state because not much is being done to solve it.
“We keep kicking the can down the road,” Macksey said. “Well, sooner or later, we’re going to be in a world of hurt.”
The estimated revenue which could be generated if Macksey were to develop 200 sites could be an “overall” of homestead taxes amounting to 37 mils. Into the county, state and Boyne City could come close to $450,000, with roughly 44 percent of that, or $200,000 to $250,000, possibly going to Boyne City.
Macksey was asked about his plan for sidewalks, stormwater system, cost base for the units, and other pertinent points.
Macksey said there are city requirements on how much area and where sidewalks are located.
Stormwater is highly regulated, and Macksey said his plan will meet those requirements. The city stormwater expert suggested the development contain stormwater on-site.
In terms of cost, Macksey said, the goal would be—though he emphasized this is tentative—to hit the $850 range for a one-bedroom apartment, and maybe in the $1,200 range for a three-bedroom unit.
In terms of for-sale housing, if he were to go that route, could run in the $150,000 price range.
The commission asked who would own the units. Macksey said there could be some townhouses which could be owned by individuals.
McPherson told commissioners that the city commission can set time limits on the project’s development schedule.
Macksey said there is so much to be done in engineering, financing, and site planning, and hoping the economy is still in good shape when the development is ready.
“In Davison, we had a 10-year plan on a 300-unit development,” Macksey said. “Well, in ’07, we shut the development down and (out of) 300 units, we had developed 160.”
Macksey was asked about efficiency and right-of-way houses, which were included as a possibility in his written offer.
It was explained that a right-of-way house has at least one sidewall in common with a neighboring dwelling and fairly uniform architecture.
McPherson said it is actually probably a “row” house and the letters “row” were taken to mean “right-of-way” by someone mistaken.
There could be a homeowners association component to the condominium portion of the development.
If there is a rental apartment component, it would be operated by a management company.
Macksey was asked, once he has all approvals, when he would have a site plan ready. He said he would like to have a site plan by late this summer and hopefully be able to break ground by spring/summer of 2018.
The commission asked about access to the development for firefighters. McPherson said that type of detail is more appropriate for when the site plan is brought before the planning commission.
Following the commissioner question portion of the meeting, a public comment session was held. Here are just some of the many comments given during the meeting:
Don Lockman said his main concern is stormwater runoff. And, he asked if lower-income people could afford the proposed units.
Rod Cortright, a soil scientist, said there are some problems with the area Macksey hopes to develop. He said there are issues with the water table which could cause stormwater problems. He said he would like to see specifics for how that issue would be handled before the project is approved.
Marilyn Wakefield also said the water is a big issue.
“After owning my home for 15-plus years, every year we have had water,” she said “We have a Michigan basement plus a crawlspace—we have gone through, in that time-frame, at least 15 sump pumps, until finally just this last spring we had our basement-crawlspace fixed.”
She said it cost $16,000 to take care of the issue.
Her other issue was that the rental prices don’t seem affordable to most local folks.
One man said Petoskey’s new developments tend to be outside the city limits. He said he did not see anything in the plan concerning streetlights or stoplights.
Penny Hardy said she has lived in the neighborhood for 40-plus years and she is concerned that the added traffic from such a development will be an issue.
Art Fruge, who said he has built houses in the area of the proposed development, said it takes careful planning to ensure stormwater is dealt with properly.
“The city is going to have to take responsibility, too, and just not let one person decide where this water is going,” he said, adding that the city engineer should be involved in the stormwater plan.
Kyle Marshall, who represented Magnum Hospitality, said he thinks Boyne City has a severe lack of housing.
“This past year, I’ve lost several key employees who made a very good wage but they left this town because they could not find a place to live,” he said. “We are struggling in the blue collar segment for workers.”
Marshall said he currently employs 43 hourly workers and three managers at Café Sante, with Red Mes Grill employing roughly the same number.
Marshall said he needs more workers but he is getting no applicants because there isn’t enough workforce housing.
Jay Higgins said a new development might allow people who bought “starter homes” to move into something newer, and that that would free up some of the starter homes for young families.
Eva Colston said she has two young children and she agrees Boyne City needs some sort of affordable housing.
“I moved here 2014 and it was a struggle to find a home,” she said. “I could find $400,000 homes all day long. I could find $30,000 homes all day long. There was nothing in the middle.”
She added, “My concern is, I can’t get regular police patrol for the speeds on the road. Yes, it was my dog’s fault that she got hit by a car. However, the woman didn’t know if she hit one of my children—she was going so fast—or if she hit a dog.”
Greta Zumbaugh said this matter was personal to her because, in August of 2015, she could not find a place to live, and she is a young professional.
She said she was blessed to find a place in a local trailer park and that she had to be vetted before moving there.
“Where the price point is, I don’t know, but I hear people that if you say it’s below a certain amount then they don’t want ‘those people’ in their neighborhood—well, I’m one of those people,” she said. “I was desperate for a place to live.”
Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Ashley Cousens said she has been contacted by a number of business owners who are concerned with the lack of affordable housing for their employees.
“We have jobs here that are professional. We have retails jobs. We have restaurant jobs. And, people need places to live,” Cousens said.
“Otherwise, those industries will not continue to grow.”
Andy Smith said he felt like he hit the lottery when he finally was able to get his home.
Smith said, as a young educated professional who had difficulty finding a place to live, he also is one of “those people.”
Frank Minier, who said it took him several years to find an affordable house, said he has concerns with how the stormwater will be handled.
“We do need housing but maybe this is just a little bit over the top,” he said.
Kevin Cooper, who has lived his whole life in the neighborhood for 53 years, said that Macksey talked about how successful he was but also said that he had to shut down a development after a decade with only half the units built.
“What happens when he starts this 200-and-some units and decides that he can’t get it done in his 10 years, throws his hands up and walks away after we’ve already rezoned him?” Cooper said…. “He admitted failure to us not 20 minutes ago.”
Jerry Douglas said that maybe Macksey’s development is an opportunity for the city to do something about the water problem on that side of town while addressing the housing problem.
Chris Colston asked what would happen if the development is built but the units are not sold or rented.
“Is there another plan?” he asked. “Do they redevelop or change the plan and do something different or is it just stopped because it’s not profitable?”
Chris McKay said one of his biggest concerns is the amount of traffic the project could generate.
Members of the planning commission then addressed a number of the concerns mentioned by attendees of the meeting.
The board asked McPherson to address concerns about the water and soils on the proposed properties.
McPherson said the property is currently zoned for development and any issues relating to the property would be examined during the site plan review.
“As part of any site plan review that went forward, that (stormwater) would be a critical part of it,” he said, adding that Macksey said a wetland delineation would be performed.
However, in his discussion with Tip of the Mitt Watershed, McPherson said they do not believe there are any regulated wetlands on the property, though there are hydric soils (permanently or seasonally saturated by water) which must be addressed.
According to Boyne City Water/Wastewater Superintendent Mark Fowler, the city’s water system is currently at approximately 25 percent of its capacity and that the Macksey proposal would add approximately 1.5 percent to the water capacity.
The city’s wastewater treatment plant is near 55 percent, with the Macksey development adding near 6 percent to its capacity.
Boyne City’s police, EMS, and department of works each offered assessments on the development’s potential impact on local services—all three indicated the city would be able to adequately handle any increased need for services.
The issue of the road coming off Vogel Street was addressed. It would be maintained privately but open to the public.
There was a concern about how stormwater would be removed from the site in an affordable and efficient manner.
The commission then went down the list of reasons for which a property may be rezoned—including that the proposed district is more appropriate than any other for the desired use; that the property cannot reasonably be used as zoned; that the proposed zone change is compatible with the established land use pattern; all proposed uses are compatible with the site’s physical, geological, hydrological, and environmental features.
After further discussion, a motion was made and passed to recommend to the city commission to approve the conditional rezoning request within Macksey’s written offer.
“Yes” votes: George Ellwanger, Chris Frasz, Tom Neidhamer, Joe St. Dennis, and Ken Allen.
“No” votes: James Kozlowski, Aaron Place, and Jason Biskner.