December 2006 News
Mt. Bohemia zoning issues to top Dec. 14 Planning Commission meeting
By Michele Anderson
EAGLE RIVER -- Definitions and uses of yurts in relation to the Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort
at Lac La Belle will
be a major topic for discussion at the Keweenaw County Planning Commission meeting to be
held at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 14. (Please note this time. Keweenaw
Now regrets the error in the time posted on Dec. 13.)
The discussion on yurts was tabled at the Nov. 28 Planning Commission meeting, during which
Lonie Glieberman, Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort (Black Bear, Inc.) president, and his attorney Frank
Ellias addressed the Commission with concerns about definitions of ski resorts, ski hills
and yurts in the new potential Keweenaw County zoning ordinance. The Keweenaw County Board
of Commissioners is expected to vote on the new ordinance by February or March, 2007.
|Mt. Bohemia's yurts will be a top agenda item for the
Keweenaw County Planning Commission meeting on Thursday, Dec. 14, at the
Courthouse in Eagle River. (Keweenaw Now File photo.)
"Please don't change our zoning," Glieberman said to the Planning Commissioners. "Don't let
us lose our momentum. Our company has spent a lot of money. We've spent over $300,000
between referendums, zoning hearings, grant applications and now this session. That's all
money that could have been invested in the ski resort, or [in] protecting our rights as
|Lonie Glieberman, Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort (Black Bear, Inc.)
addresses the Keweenaw County Planning Commission during their Nov. 28
meeting in the Courthouse in Eagle River. Pictured also are Planning
Commissioners Joe Langdon (facing Glieberman) and Kathy McEvers
(foreground). (Photo © 2006 Michele Anderson)
Although Mt. Bohemia has a long-term (99-year) lease of its land, the actual landowners
regard the lease as giving Mt. Bohemia (Black Bear, Inc.) property rights, according to Walt
Arnold, Michigan Forest manager for Sustainable Forest Technologies, an International Paper
(IP) subsidiary which is now providing forest management and harvest services for GMO
Renewable Resources, LLC (GMO RR). GMO RR is a private forest investment management company
that recently completed the purchase of 441,000 acres of Michigan forestlands from IP, including all of IP's holdings in the Upper Peninsula.
"When you have a long-term interest on real estate, it's accepted as having the same rights as the property owner," Arnold said.
He said Black Bear has not purchased any of this land yet. Arnold noted zoning rules would include the land, not just the buildings.
"They have to seek the landowner's acceptance of whatever they do on the property," Arnold said.
Asked about the recent addition of backcountry trails at Mt. Bohemia, which involved
additional logging, Arnold said he didn't have a problem with it.
"Really what they're removing is low-quality, poor material. It's not really what we would
call crop trees (trees that would be used for a final product)," he explained.
|Listening to the Nov. 28 discussion on zoning by the
Keweenaw County Planning Commission are, from right, front row, Walt
Arnold, Michigan Forest manager for Sustainable Forest Technologies;
Lonie Glieberman, Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort (Black Bear, Inc.)
Frank Ellias, attorney for Black Bear; and, second row, from left, John
Kirk of U.P. Engineers and Architects; Robert Grasseschi; and John
Bartlett, manager of a ski resort near Petoskey in Michigan's Lower
Peninsula. (Photo © 2006 Michele Anderson)
In their press release on the land purchase, GMO RR says they plan "to continue IP's
long-standing practice of responsible, public recreational use of these forestlands for
hunting, fishing, snowmobiling and other traditional outdoor activities. The management of
the land base will continue with the same or very similar rules and regulations on
responsible public use that are in place today."
In 2000, Mt. Bohemia received the approval of Keweenaw County voters in a referendum, and
zoning was changed from Conservation Environmental Protection to Resort Service at
Glieberman's request to accommodate the ski hill, now considered a ski resort.
Since then, Keweenaw County has not changed the Resort Service (RS) zoning of the Mt.
Bohemia area, according to Jon Soper, Planning Commission chairperson.
Nevertheless, Glieberman recently requested that the Planning Commission consider a change
from Resort Residential (RR) zoning to Resort Service (RS) for potential expansion of the
ski resort in an area near Sand Point Road, a residential district. This zoning change
request will probably not be part of the Dec. 14 meeting discussion, Soper noted.
New Keweenaw County zoning ordinance nearly complete
The Planning Commission (formerly known as the Keweenaw County Zoning/Planning Commission)
has worked for about three years on the new ordinance, a revision of the County's outdated
1975 Zoning Ordinance, with Mark Wyckoff of Planning and Zoning Center, Inc., Lansing.
Wyckoff, Michigan's foremost expert on zoning issues, assisted the Commission thanks to a
grant from the Coastal Zone Management Program of the Michigan Department of Environmental
|During a public meeting on Sept. 7, 2006, in
the Mohawk School, Mark Wyckoff (standing, right) of Planning and Zoning Center, Inc.,
Lansing, replies to residents' questions on the new Keweenaw County
potential zoning ordinance. At left, standing, is Jon Soper, Keweenaw County
Planning Commission chairperson, who gave a presentation on the new
ordinance at the meeting. (Photo © 2006 Michele Anderson)
Soper said that While the yurts (beginning with a definition of yurts for the ordinance) are
the first item on the agenda for the Dec. 14 meeting, they are not the only topic that
needs to be discussed.
"We're going to have to finish some of the details of the final draft of the new ordinance
at this meeting," Soper noted.
The final draft needs to be returned to Wyckoff Dec. 15 so that it can be turned in to the MDEQ Coastal Zone Management Program by the deadline of Dec. 20, 2006, with the County's
request for the grant money to be paid. For this reason, as well as accommodating the
holiday season, the Commission's regular monthly meeting is being held earlier than usual,
In advance of their Nov. 28 meeting, the Planning Commission asked Glieberman and Ellias to
submit a draft of an acceptable definition of ski resorts and yurts, Soper noted. Glieberman
and Ellias also proposed including in the new ordinance a parking space definition of one
space for every three skiers expected to be simultaneously on the premises.
"We asked them for their input in writing, and they gave it to us," Soper said.
The Commissioners discussed at length the definition of resorts and ski resorts at the Nov.
28 meeting. The new ordinance states that new resorts, other than ski resorts, will require
a special use permit.
"All that means is that the Planning Commission has to have a public hearing to get the
approval of local residents," Soper explained.
Mt. Bohemia, as an existing ski resort, is exempted from the special use permit and is
permitted "by right" in Resort Service zoning districts. "By right" still requires obtaining zoning and building permits.* At the Nov. 28 meeting, the Planning Commission decided to
use, for the new ordinance, the definition of ski resort in the 1975 Ordinance: to include
base lodging, ski lifts, storage and maintenance buildings, restaurants, and related uses.
Janet Shea, Planning Commission vice-chair, said that definition was added to the old
ordinance when residents approved the building of Mt. Bohemia by their
referendum in 2000. She said Mt. Bohemia, which includes 1200 acres of leased land, is actually a multi-use facility.
After considering the question, "Is it a resort with a ski hill or a ski hill with a
resort?" the Commissioners decided on the former.
"We decided it was a resort with a ski hill," Shea said. "It's a multi-use facility, and it
should have a PUD. (Planned Unit Development) or a special use permit."
In fact, after a public meeting last summer, when the new ordinance was presented to the
public at the Mohawk School, Mark Wyckoff encouraged Glieberman to consider a PUD for his
ski resort, noting it would be to his long-term advantage. A PUD requires long-term
planning, a major site plan and public hearings. (See Article XII of the new draft zoning ordinance for Keweenaw County.)
|Following the September 7, 2006, public meeting in Mohawk,
Mark Wyckoff, second from right, discusses some details in Keweenaw
County's potential new zoning ordinance with Janet Shea, Planning
Commission vice-chair; Jon Soper, second from left, Planning Commission
Chair; and Lonie Glieberman, Mt. Bohemia Ski Resort (Black Bear, Inc.)
president. (Photo © 2006 Michele Anderson)
Shea noted a PUD is something that a builder can request (the County cannot insist on a PUD) in lieu of a special use. It
gives the builder a forum to negotiate alternative methods not covered in the zoning ordinance,
thus allowing more latitude in planning the development. A cluster development concept would fall into a PUD. A PUD sometimes involves a
multi-use complex with numerous principal uses, such as a development that includes housing, restaurants, golf courses, outdoor recreation,
"A PUD is advantageous to both the builder and the County, since it shows long-term development plans for that parcel and the County can
better plan the direction of development for surrounding parcels," Shea
said. "It alleviates the builder's need to keep returning to the County for
approvals, saving time and money; and it definitely reduces the misunderstandings that are inherent in complex developments."
With a special use permit, each proposed structure requires an application for a zoning permit and a building permit before
construction begins, Shea explained. The developer must show a site plan review and go
through a public hearing and approval for each structure, which can be very cumbersome and expensive for
a builder with a large multi-use development. The site plan has to be approved by the county and any changes
made to that site plan have to go through public hearings and county approval of the
revisions. Unlike the PUD, the special use permit allows no leeway for negotiation of alternative building methods, since the
special uses the developer must meet are already spelled out in the ordinance.
Some local residents oppose Mt. Bohemia yurts
The discussion on yurts and their uses led to some comments from the audience at the Nov. 28
meeting. Some local residents have expressed objections to the aesthetic appearance of the
yurts and the fact that they are presently defined as single-family dwellings.
In the present draft of the new ordinance, yurts are included with tents and
recreational vehicles (not in campgrounds) as temporary dwellings and are
permitted by right with conditions in all zoning districts (with the exception
that temporary single family dwellings are not allowed in CEP -- Conservation
Environmental Protection -- districts without a special use permit).
Glieberman pointed out that yurts may be used for both lodging and commercial purposes,
including restaurants. He said 75% of the skiers asked them to keep the yurts rather than
build a ski lodge.
Planning Commissioner Joe Langdon, also a resident of Lac La Belle, said, "I understand that
the skiers like them, but I don't think the residents like them."
Anita Campbell, Lac La Belle resident, said she felt the Commission should consider the
question, "How do they look on the outside -- to the community that has to look at them all
Ellias noted the Commission can rely on site plan approval if they don't want "a
subdivision of yurts."
John Parsons, Planning Commission member, said recently he believed yurts can be green,
affordable housing, as they are in some Western states.
"I don't think we should prohibit people in Keweenaw County from putting up a yurt if they
want to live in one," Parsons said. "I don't think they're ugly. I really don't."
As for yurts at a ski resort, he added, "I think that's a separate issue."
Parsons' view is that there is no difference between putting up 50 yurts and putting up 50
cabins or 50 mobile homes.
"What we may be talking about there," he said, "is the concentration of the structure, not
the type of structure."
|Keweenaw County Planning Commissioners discuss the
potential new zoning ordinance during their Nov. 28 meeting in the
Courthouse in Eagle River. Pictured, from left, are Janet Shea,
vice-chair; Jon Soper, chairperson; Linda Pizzi, zoning administrator;
Joe Langdon; Kathy McEvers; John Parsons; and Al Gunnari. (Photo © 2006 Michele Anderson)
Soper noted Jim Heikkila, former Keweenaw County building inspector, told him there are
already yurts, other than those at Mt. Bohemia, in Keweenaw County. Heikkila approved them
as cottages or cabins for seasonal occupancy, Soper said.
Shea said her concern is that if yurts are allowed in RS they would be allowed on any lot in
Copper Harbor and if allowed in RR people could put them up in any residential area.
"The decision on how to define and where to allow yurts doesn't just affect Mt. Bohemia. We
have to consider the whole county," Shea said. "We are going to define what a yurt is and
then determine in which zoning district they would be appropriate and whether it would be a
use by right or a special use."
|Editor's notes: * In a Dec. 9, 2006, letter to the editor of
The Daily Mining Gazette, Jon Soper, Keweenaw County Planning Commission chairperson, clarified the
"by right" designation, noting it means that a particular use or structure IS ALLOWED in a particular zoning district, but not without permission. All of the required permits must be obtained before any new construction can begin.
For background on the yurts at Mt. Bohemia and sewer permits, see the
Dec. 11, 2001, Keweenaw Now article "Black
Bear awaits DEQ septic permit," p. 3.
Want to stay in the K-NOW? Don't miss out on the whole story. Find out how you can help.
Hire a Writing Pro
Does the writing on your Web site leave something to be desired? Thesis grammar getting you down? Find out how we can help.
Lure Our Readers to You
Our readers share your passion for the Keweenaw Peninsula. Lure them to
you through banners, sponsorships, and more.