HOUGHTON – A Houghton County Circuit Court judge issued a stay blocking the enforcement and implementation of Portage Township Planning Commission site plan approval for a new development in Pilgrim Point.
Circuit Court Judge Charles Goodman will also determine whether to grant a resident’s formal request to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision.
“Based on the facts alleged in the appellant’s motion, it is clear that immediate and irreparable harm or harm will result if a stay is not issued prior to a hearing,” Goodman wrote in his order. “The appellant alleges that recent events create a reasonable belief that activities are about to occur which will alter the character of the area in which the appellant resides and affect the environment and natural resources of the area.”
The complaint was filed by Camiel Thorrez, who owns property about 100ft from the site of the Onagaming building, which was once a yacht clubhouse and later a supper club.
The owners of the former supper club plan to build a complex incorporating the original building. The building would be restored and used for a resort office, gift shop and restaurant operation.
In addition to the new development of one- and two-bedroom units, as well as new parking, on the east side of US 41, the west side would have 10 RV spots and 67 parking spaces.
The Planning Commission approved the site plan at a meeting earlier this month. But the approval ignored federal regulations, as well as the requirements of township zoning and stormwater ordinances, Thorrez said.
The property on the site includes a tree with a bald eagle nest. While the plans outlined at the August meeting would leave the tree intact, Thorrez pointed to a requirement of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act that eagles could not be waved in a way that would significantly interfere with normal breeding, feeding or sheltering behavior.
The new construction would also fall within the right-of-way of the Department of Natural Resources Recreational Trail, which crosses the property, Thorrez said.
“Once the disturbance begins, the eagles are likely to abandon their nests, and if the DNR trail right-of-way is blocked or cleared, etc., the public will suffer immediately due to heavy trail use in that area. “, Thorrez said in the stay application.
Thorrez said the township’s zoning ordinance also requires the applicant’s name, address, phone number and signature. The plaintiff, Pilgrim Point, Houghton, LLC, provided only its name and address.
The township’s master plan lists the site as a floodplain concern, Thorrez said. The site plan also did not include a Federal Emergency Management Agency floodplain map, as required by the township ordinance, Thorrez said.
“The only acknowledgment of this requirement is a statement that the area is ‘uncharted'”, he says in his file. “Although unfortunate, this does not preclude the applicant from providing the information. They must hire the necessary expert to perform the floodplain analysis and provide it as part of the site plan.
Torrez also said there was a lack of notice or a posted agenda for the meeting, in violation of state requirements.
Thorrez’s complaint, filed Friday in Houghton County Circuit Court, lists four counts: failure to comply with the township’s stormwater ordinance; failure to notify the meeting; approval of a site plan when it does not meet the requirements of the zoning ordinance; and site plan approval without the Planning Commission enforcing zoning ordinance standards.
Township supervisor Bruce Petersen said the township is still discussing its response to the motion.
“We have 21 days to respond, and we are discussing this response with our lawyer,” he said.
A message was also left for project architect Barry Polzin seeking comment.
Resident Susan Schwenk, one of the residents who came to the Planning Commission meeting to oppose site plan approval, was pleased with her stay. Her main motivation is the eagles, she says; there are currently four nestings there.
She said that apart from environmental and procedural issues, the complex was too big and would also pose a safety risk to people crossing a busy highway.
“I’m happy because I think the planning commission should never have approved this site plan,” she says. “There are many, many reasons why it should not be approved. It was obvious that night, but it was pushed.”