January 2007 Happenings
Keweenaw County Planning Commission to hear zoning change requests and public input Jan. 16
By Michele Anderson
EAGLE RIVER -- Requests for zoning changes will be the subject of a public hearing to be held by the Keweenaw County Planning Commission at
6 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 16, in the Mohawk School Gym in Mohawk. The Commission recently completed the new proposed Keweenaw County Zoning Ordinance and has officially recommended that the Keweenaw County Board of Commissioners repeal the existing
Keweenaw County Zoning Ordinance of 1975 and adopt the proposed zoning ordinance (draft 4), dated Dec. 15, 2006.
The purpose of the hearing, according to Jon Soper, Planning Commission
chairman, is to take public comment on some proposed changes to the County Zoning
"The zoning map that we're preparing will become part of the new ordinance," Soper said. "We can't finalize the zoning map until we have this hearing."
The proposed changes include the following:
1. parcels in T58N R29W section 33 from RR to RS
2. parcels in T57N R30W section 5 from RR to TR
3. parcel in T59N R29W section 1 from RS to TR
4. parcel in T58N R27W section 20 from CD-EP to RR
5. parcel in T58N R28W section 1 from CD-EP to RR*
The first parcel on the list is expected to cause some discussion, since it involves potential expansion of the Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort, possibly to include an undetermined number of yurts which would be used for lodging accommodations. Some of the Section 33 parcels, now zoned RR (Resort Residential) are located near residential homes on or near Lac La Belle, while others are located north of the Bete Grise Road, along the edge of the Ski Hill.
In his Oct. 13, 2006, letter to the Keweenaw County Planning Commissioners, Frank Ellias, attorney for Black Bear, Inc. (the company that leases the land for
Mt. Bohemia from Sustainable Forest Technologies, an International Paper subsidiary which is now providing forest management and harvest services for GMO Renewable Resources) stated some requests for zoning changes to accommodate the planned expansion of the Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort. He
noted that the new proposed ordinance zones some of the Mt. Bohemia Property as RS-1 (which allows a minimum 50-ft. lot size) and some as RS-2, which requires 100-ft. lots. The letter emphasizes Black Bear's preference for RS-1 zoning in some areas of potential expansion of the Ski Resort, for example, the area east of the Mendota Plat, or Village of Mendota, in Section 32, extending east into Section 33 to Sand Point Road. This area is now zoned RR (Resort Residential).
(See link to topo map below.**)
|Lonie Glieberman, right, president of Black Bear,
Inc., presents documents including drawings of potential yurt
construction with buffers for the Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort to Keweenaw
County Planning Commissioners, clockwise from center, Joe Langdon
(standing), Kathy Mc Evers (not visible), John Parsons, Al Gunnari,
Janet Shea and Chairman Jon Soper. Next to Soper is Linda Pizzi, zoning
administrator. In far left background is Kathy Vettori, a court reporter
hired by Black Bear's legal counsel to record the Dec. 14, 2006, meeting
in the Courthouse in Eagle River. (Photo ©
2006 Michele Anderson)
Some local residents have indicated they do not like the present appearance
of the Mt. Bohemia yurts, and they are opposed to the idea of a potential
"subdivision" of yurts should the zoning facilitate this expansion.
At their Dec. 14, 2006, meeting, the Keweenaw County Planning Commissioners discussed at length the question of whether yurts are permanent or temporary structures and whether they can be considered single family dwellings.
At present, Mt. Bohemia has seven yurts on the Ski Hill. They house a ski lodge, ticket and administrative offices, a food concession and a ski shop. While these existing yurts have the appearance of temporary structures that can be moved, they will not be affected by the new proposed ordinance, since they are already installed.
According to the new ordinance, "A yurt may be a permanent structure if it meets the design requirement to carry a Keweenaw County snow load and all other building code requirements. A yurt used as a seasonal single family dwelling must be constructed to all the
manufacturer's requirements and meet all sanitary code requirements for septic and water at the time it is erected."
Yurts are very popular at ski resorts all over the country, according to Lonie Glieberman, president of Black Bear,
"Yurts fit in well with the whole idea of ecotourism," Glieberman said.
He presented to the Commissioners several drawings of yurt villages, some of which had green
landscape buffer zones.
|During their Dec. 14, 2006 monthly meeting, Keweenaw
County Planning Commissioners, from left, Joe Langdon
(standing), Al Gunnari and Janet Shea examine Black Bear's submitted
drawings of potential yurt villages with landscape buffers. At right is
Jon Soper, Planning Commission chairman. In far right background is Kathy
Vettori, a court reporter
hired by Black Bear's legal counsel to record the meeting. (Photo ©
2006 Michele Anderson)
According to the new proposed Zoning Ordinance, a yurt in any zoning district, if it is within 300 feet of a dwelling located on an adjacent parcel, must have a landscape buffer (according to Section 15.4 of the ordinance). In the RR district it must be on a minimum one-acre parcel.
Commissioner Joe Langdon pointed out that local residents have complained about the appearance of the Mt. Bohemia yurts, especially in seasons other than winter, when they are not covered with snow.
"These temporary yurts are the only ones we've seen so far at Mt. Bohemia," said
Lac La Belle resident Anita Campbell. "This is why we're alarmed at the idea of a yurt village that might consist of this type of temporary structure."
Alberta Mattila, a resident of Sand Point Road in Lac La Belle who attended
the Dec. 14 meeting, said she was very opposed to the yurts.
"I don't want them in Lac La Belle, and I don't like them," Mattila
said. "I think they're ugly. I think [they] would bring property values
Janet Shea, Planning Commission vice-chair, showed the other Commissioners several examples of different typed of yurts and explained how the yurts at Mt. Bohemia, built by Pacific Yurts, are much more temporary in design -- used mostly for ski resorts, camps, etc. -- than more expensive, permanent models made by other companies, such as Oregon
Yurtworks, which may have cedar siding, glass windows, insulation and other permanent features that contrast with the "membrane" design of the Pacific Yurts, which have an average life of seven or eight years.***
"It seems to me they (Pacific Yurts) don't meet the criteria for single-family dwellings," Shea said. "How is our tax base going to be affected by these?"
Both Shea and Commissioner Kathy McEvers expressed concern about the neighborhoods where yurts should be allowed.
"I don't think they're appropriate to put in already established residential areas," McEvers said.
She pointed out that 100-foot lots with yurts would not fit in Eagle River, which has
much smaller lots.
The Commission decided on the definition of a yurt for the proposed zoning ordinance as follows:
"A generally round domed building constructed of a membrane stretched on a collapsible or rigid frame used for recreational activities. A yurt may be either a temporary or a permanent structure depending upon the design. A yurt may be used as a seasonal single-family dwelling of not less than four hundred (480) square feet if is erected per manufacturer's requirements and meets all sanitary code requirements for septic and water at the time it is erected. A yurt may also be used for other commercial uses."
Section 7.14 of the proposed ordinance defines seasonal buildings and structures as "permanent structures that are specifically designed for seasonal or short term use. Not intended for year round occupancy."
Table 4-1 of the proposed ordinance allows yurts as seasonal single family dwellings.
The new proposed zoning ordinance is a revision of the County's outdated 1975 Zoning Ordinance. The Planning Commission (formerly known as the Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning Commission) has worked for about three years on the new ordinance, with the assistance of Mark Wyckoff of Planning and Zoning Center, Inc., Lansing.
Wyckoff is Michigan's foremost expert on zoning issues. His work for Keweenaw County was funded through a $39,500 grant from the Coastal Zone Management Program of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).
Frank Stubenrauch, Keweenaw County Commissioner and former County Board chairman, said he believes the County Board members are in favor of approving the ordinance at their next (Feb. 14) meeting.
"I imagine we will approve the ordinance at the February meeting," Stubenrauch said. That's the consensus that I sense."
Stubenrauch admitted he might have some reservations on parts of the new proposed ordinance, but not enough to turn it down.
"After all that work and time, I wouldn't want to vote against it," he said. "They all deserve medals -- everyone that served on that board and put in their time."
He noted Planning Commission Chair Jon Soper "certainly did a wonderful job -- a very patient, dedicated man."
Stubenrauch added he knew Wyckoff to be "certainly capable and knowledgeable."
"It came out to be a pretty well organized ordinance," Stubenrauch said.
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