The Peninsula Township Board held a public hearing Wednesday night to hear public comment and consider further action on “The 81 on East Bay,” an 81-acre development bordering Boursaw Road that would include 41 single-family lots and up to 40 boat docking spaces on East Bay under a Special Use Permit.
Township residents crowded into the meeting hall at St. Joseph Catholic Church and listened as developer Kevin O’Grady’s representatives presented their information on two issues remanded back to the township by now-retired 13th Circuit Court Judge Philip Rodgers in a January 2016 ruling.
Those issues include the location and functionality of the development’s emergency access road, and whether the standards for soil erosion, grading and storm water have been met. No other issues could be considered with regard to the development, which was approved by the previous township board in August 2015 (prior to public information that the land was farmed for decades), but challenged in court by township resident James Komendera and the nonprofit group, Preserve Old Mission. The group’s suit led to the January 2016 ruling by Judge Rodgers.
At the public hearing Wednesday night, Doug Mansfield of Mansfield Land Use Consultants, the engineering firm working with the developer, argued that the proposed ’81’ plan actually includes fewer houses than a “use by right” plan, which could allow up to 62 lots under the township’s zoning ordinance and 72 residential equivalents under the township’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) allowances.
Mansfield added that development has already received preliminary approval from the Grand Traverse County Road Commission for the entrance on Boursaw Road and fire road access on Smokey Hollow Road; the Grand Traverse County Health Department for the lots and community septic system; and township engineer approval for the private road design, among others.
However, Township Board members brought up issues related to the parcel’s steep slopes (including 10- to 20-foot slopes along the water, where homeowners would likely remove stabilizing trees and vegetation), lead arsenate in the soil from previous farming, water runoff and sediment control.
During the public comment time, township residents brought up similar issues, as well as the increase in traffic from construction and new residents, shoreline protection, erosion, Master Plan considerations, dust plumes and more.
“You might wonder, why is the developer fighting so hard for this PUD,” asked Komendera during the public comment time. “My opinion is if you look at the charts, the PUD gives him twice the number of shoreline lots, so that’s going to increase the profitability of this. I’m all for everybody making a profit. I just don’t like it being done at the expense of the environment.”
Mark Nadolski, president of the long-running preservation group Protect the Peninsula, ended the public comment time by noting, “This may be a little off the wall, and maybe it’s asking too much, but if Mr. O’Grady would like to be a hero to this community and be one of the most respected people in this community, we’d like to see the township buy this property from Mr. O’Grady and turn it into a township park. There are options available for the township to do this – the conservancy, the Michigan Land Trust – and I’m sure there are many residents out here who would contribute to that cause.”
He added, “Mr. O’Grady, we want you to be a strong part of this commuinty. We’re not attacking you in any way. It’s just that the project isn’t a good fit for the Peninsula. A park would do wonders, and who knows, they might even name the park after you. Please give it some serious consideration.”
The three-hour long meeting did not give the Township Board time to deliberate on the matter, so another meeting was set for Nov. 8, 7 p.m. at St. Joseph Catholic Church.
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