Dentist office/condo/commercial space plan draws concerns

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By Benjamin J. Gohs, Editor & Chris Faulknor, Publisher

The Boyne City Planning Commission, during its regular monthly meeting on Monday Feb. 18, convened a development plan review of a proposed mixed-use project to be located at 216 Boyne Ave., the site where Roberts Restaurant once stood.

The property, now owned by Woodward Real Estate, is located in the Transitional Commercial Zoning District and is approximately 13,800 square feet with 120 feet of frontage on Lake Street and 115 feet of frontage on North Street.

“We think it’s going to be a really nice asset to the community,” said project builder Cliff Harvey.


Project officials said the building will be a 100-percent geothermal building.

“We’re excited to offer that green technology to Boyne City,” Harvey said.

Project Background
A 100-foot by 40-foot, three-story mixed-used building is being proposed and would consist of a 2,340-square-foot dental office, 1,260-square-foot commercial space on the first floor, and a total of six 1,200-square-foot apartments with three units on each floor.

According to the proposal, the building would be placed approximately six inches from the west Lake Street property line.

A 22-space parking area would be located behind the building, which would have an 11-space carport located on the east side.

Public entrances to the dentist office and the commercial space would be located on the west and south sides of the building.

Entrances to the apartments would be located on the east side.

The planning commission’s first discussion regarding the development plan centered on parking.

The planning commission needed to determine the amount of parking the project would require.

According to city officials, the parking demand for the proposed use is calculated at 32 spaces and 22 spaces are provided.

According to the city’s 2018 parking study, parking demand for this block was calculated at 40 spaces and the parking supply for the block was calculated at 122 spaces for a net surplus of 82 spaces.

Public Comment
Leslie Pritchard said she was concerned with the Boyne City Commission’s approval of the building height ordinance in recent weeks and commended Boyne City Commissioner Hugh Conklin—who was the lone nay vote on that measure—for seeking to have the issue sent back to the planning commission for further investigation.

The rules regarding building heights was changed in response to the proposed 216 Boyne Ave. project.

“I am concerned about the process and procedures referred to in your December minutes. It refers to a public hearing for the planning commission on Feb. 19, 2018. I’m wondering if that’s a typo—if this was being rushed a bit,” said Pritchard.

She said she is concerned about the timing of the project and that there has been “very little” time to hold meaningful discussions regarding the project.

“When the city commission last week approved that amendment … regarding building height restrictions and so forth,” Pritchard said, “I’m not sure what recourse we have as citizens at this point—if it’s possible to reverse that position and what steps we could possibly take to address that.”

Other public comments included questions on how the condo units would be rented and how tall the building would be.

Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson said the proposed building height is 35 feet.

An owner of nearby properties asked how the project would affect parking in the area.

Bruce Janssen said the city asked the property owner if she would be willing to consider including housing in her dental office project—that it was not her idea.

Penny Hardy, who has worked in the downtown area for nearly 40 years, said she is concerned with potential parking issues.

“My problem is, I don’t know when the parking study was done that said we had all these excess parking spots,” she said. “But, I can tell you that I don’t think it was done in the winter when the snowbanks are so high. I don’t think it was done when the farmers market was going on.”

Hardy added, “I know it isn’t a done deal but—somehow magically—some businesses are required to have an absolute number of spots and then, lo and behold, something new comes in and all these businesses that have complied and paid their taxes and been good citizens and good downtown businesses the last 30-40 years they lived up to all these requirements. Suddenly someone new comes in and the requirements disappear for them and they have a much lower standard to comply to.”

One commenter asked how the proposed carport would affect parking.

Another local said the project will have “major implications” on the amount of available parking.

Some people expressed concerns over whether people with canes and walkers will be able to get to local medical offices if there aren’t sufficient parking spaces.

One woman said she is a runner and she is concerned that the project will create more traffic.

Longtime business owner Jim White asked about the setbacks on the property.

McPherson said the planning commission has discretion to give up to a “zero lot line.”

One commenter said the rest of the businesses in that area have setbacks of at least 10 feet.

Builder Todd Wright cautioned the planning commission to consider how it handles residential parking requirements.

“I think we need to be really careful about lightening anything up on residential parking,” he said. “I can’t imagine having a condo or an apartment and not having an assigned parking spot.”

He said residential and commercial parking mixes are not necessarily complimentary and could make it difficult for either to find necessary parking.

Don Forbes said condos are not affordable housing and that term should not be used with this project.

One woman asked how much handicapped available parking there will be. A number of other residents and business owners expressed concern over parking.

Others also expressed disbelief at “affordable” condos.

One attendee said there isn’t a need for more business office space in Boyne City.

Chris Christensen, a Boyne City realtor and Charlevoix County Commissioner, asked if there would be changes to nearby park space or the street to accommodate angled parking.

Scott MacKenzie said he hopes the developers don’t feel unwelcome but that the community has issues—parking being one of them—which need to be worked out.

“It kind of puzzles me how people seem to be so surprised that these development proposals are coming before us,” he said. “If you go back to 2006 and the Boyne City Waterfront Master Plan … this community has been talking about ‘Where do we grow?’ where does this community find sustainable or sensible growth in our business district?”

MacKenzie said these are natural progressions of 20 years of discussions and planning which involved the community and local officials, and he is a little frustrated that people are demonizing those who now want to come into Boyne City and actually bring those things to fruition.

Pritchard said the planning commission’s duty is to serve the people and not the developers.

“My concern also goes back to the master plan,” she said. “It was the vision of the people here that we were looking toward the future development of this community. We were considering progress. There’s no stopping it. We understand that. That’s why those visions were put into the code, into the zoning, specifically to address that and allow for it in a way that we saw as being responsible.”

One woman said the city can’t sustain the businesses it has now and there aren’t businesses which pay living wages so why allow more?
The developer said he is from a small town and so he understands Boyne City resident concerns. He also said he isn’t trying to build a skyscraper.

Board Discussion
Boyne City Mayor Tom Neidhamer, who also sits on the Boyne City Planning Commission, said he sees justification for the placement of the building—in response to concerns over the six-inch setback—because it is appropriate for the proposed project.

“People have to visualize that that’s on the inside of the sidewalk. You still have your curb, you still have your couple feet of treescape or landscape, then you have your sidewalk and your building,” he said… “I see justification for that because we want to maximize parking.”

There was also discussion over placement of an entrance, which developers said will be recessed so that it does not open onto the sidewalk.

One commissioner expressed concerns over allowing a reduction in required parking for this project when other businesses are required to follow the ordinance.

Before going further with their factfinding discussion regarding the project, McPherson suggested planning commissioners vote on whether to allow the parking waiver—since, if the measure failed, having further discussion would be pointless.

McPherson said there are two tools the planning commission has regarding parking—to allow a 20-percent reduction or to waive the parking requirement.

A motion was then made on whether the parking plan as presented should be approved allowing a 20-percent parking requirement reduction. The motion failed for lack of a second.

Neidhamer said the three public parking spots across the street from the project should be included in the formula and a motion was discussed to reduce the required parking to 29 spaces.

Neidhamer said there are at least 12 public parking spaces nearby.

“I think we have to be reasonable here in saying the study did identify that these are public parking (sports),” he said.

A disagreement broke out between an audience member and a planning commissioner regarding the parking study.

Neidhamer then made a motion to allow the 20 percent reduction in parking based on the compatible uses within the project.

A rollcall vote was then held.

The motion failed 5-2.

Neidhamer then made a motion to give the developer a waiver on parking. That motion failed for lack of a second.

McPherson said the plan does not meet planning commission criteria and recommended the planning commission postpone the review to give developers time to rethink their project.

“They’re going to have to come up with a plan that meets the minimum parking requirements,” said McPherson.

The planning commission ended the review by voting to postpone the review.