Seven Hills Development on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
Seven Hills Development on the Old Mission Peninsula | Jane Boursaw Photo
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At Monday’s Zoom meeting of the Peninsula Township Planning Commission, a development project on Seven Hills Road was sent back to the drawing board.

The developers are seeking a Special Use Permit to further develop the commercially-zoned office/retail space located at 13795 Seven Hills Road, north of Devils Dive Road. At one time, the property was owned by Arnold White and used as an engineering and manufacturing facility, specializing in cherry sprayers and cherry shakers.

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For many years, it’s housed a handful of occupants, including Tinker Art Studio, Old Mission Massage Therapy, John Wunsch’s Strings by Mail and others. The developers are hoping to keep some of the current residents and add in community-oriented businesses like a coffee shop, yoga studio, farmer’s market and distillery/tasting room.

The project also includes a two-story, 10-unit motel, but Jay Milliken, one of the developers who represented the group at Monday’s Planning Commission meeting, was surprised to learn that they did not have the required five acres necessary to move forward with the motel as part of the plan.

The parcel entails about two acres, and at the meeting, Township Planner Randy Mielnik told Milliken, Planning Commission members, and Zoom attendees that the project would not pass through the Planning Commission to the Township Board as presented, as it lacked the required five acres necessary for the motel.

In their application for a Special Use Permit, however, the developers said they realized they didn’t have the required five acres, but that the project met all the requirements under the draft of the Zoning Ordinance Rewrite – which has not yet been approved and is still in draft form (a subcommittee was appointed at Monday’s meeting to further the process along).

Milliken said at Monday’s meeting that he was under the impression that the project could be approved through the Special Use Permit process.

“From day one, township planning and zoning knew our plans, so that was very frustrating,” Milliken told writer Beth Milligan for her story posted on The Ticker today. “But we are absolutely pushing forward. We have every intention of adding something positive and responsible for the Old Mission Peninsula community.”

When I asked in the meeting chat whether the developers could come back to the Planning Commission with a new plan that doesn’t included the motel, Township Attorney Greg Miehn said that would be an appropriate response. The developers could also apply for a zoning variance through the Peninsula Township Zoning Board of Appeals.

Milliken also noted that the word “motel” implies something akin to “Motel 6,” but that is not their intention.

“People think of a Motel 6 or Hampton Inn, and that’s so far away from our intention,” he told The Ticker. “When you just see on paper that someone wants to build a hotel on a residential peninsula, I would question it, as well, but we are not trying to build a big hotel. We are using an existing commercially-zoned property so residents have rooms for their friends and family. We are not trying to add tourism; the tourism is already there. Our intention with the development is to serve old Mission Peninsula.”

According to their application, the developers are currently under a purchase contract with the existing owner of the parcel, and they are dedicated to responsible growth on the Old Mission Peninsula.

From their application: “The project is helmed by five long-term residents of the Old Mission Peninsula: Jordan Valdmanis, Brian Peace, Troy Daily, Jeff Fedorinchik and Jay Milliken, who share a love and dedication to responsible growth and development. The intent of Seven Hills is to create a focused, well-curated experience rooted in local commerce and exceptional hospitality.”

Still, OMP residents who participanted in the Zoom meeting were skeptical, with several commenters noting that when the results of the Master Plan survey were released, residents did not want more development on the Old Mission Peninsula.

Other commenters mentioned water drainage issues in that area; traffic issues on Seven Hills Road, Peninsula Drive and Devils Dive Road; and the fact that Peninsula Township residents have paid via taxes for the Purchase of Development Rights program to preserve the quality of life on the OMP – and does a motel fit with that quality of life in a small residential and agricultural community?

Still others mentioned the irony of restricting short-term rentals but allowing a 10-room motel, and the possibility of opening a Pandora’s Box of other motels on commercially-zoned parcels.

The Planning Commission voted to table the public hearing until the January meeting, or at such time when the developers return with an amended plan.

Thoughts? Sound off in the comments section below.

SUPPORT YOUR INDEPENDENT LOCAL NEWSPAPER: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

Because Old Mission Gazette is a "Reader Supported Newspaper" -- meaning it exists because of your financial support -- I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks our way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. In a time when local news is becoming a thing of the past, supporting an independent community newspaper is more important now than ever. Thank you so much for your support! -Jane Boursaw, Editor/Publisher, Old Mission Gazette

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