Delamar Eyes Expanded Boating Facilities Under Proposed Zoning Change
By Beth Milligan | July 18, 2023
The Delamar Traverse City is looking at expanding amenities for boaters at its East Front Street resort under a proposed zoning change that would allow marinas and boat liveries to operate in the city’s hotel-resort district. Traverse City planning commissioners will discuss the zoning change at a special meeting tonight (Tuesday) at 7pm at the Governmental Center.
The proposal would add marinas and liveries as allowed uses by right in the hotel-resort (HR) district. Under the city’s zoning ordinance, a marina is defined as a “commercial mooring, berthing, or docking facility for watercraft with or without provisions for launching, haul-out, servicing, fueling, or sales of accessory supplies.” A livery means “any structure, site, or tract of land utilized for the storage servicing, docking, or rental of watercraft for a fee.”
In a memo to the planning commission, City Planning Director Shawn Winter notes that no zoning districts that currently allow marinas and liveries in the city contain any privately owned properties on the waterfront. The Open Space (OS) district allows those uses, but all properties in that district are “are city-owned and therefore left to the city to decide whether there is a need/desire to add a public marina/boat livery,” he wrote. “The one other exception is a portion of a city-owned lot on the east side of Boardman Lake. However, that property was ceded to the City by the Department of Conservation (predecessor to the DNR) with deed restrictions limiting the property's use to highways or parks.”
Adding marinas and liveries to the HR district would only affect a handful of properties, according to Winter, because only a few parcels under that zoning designation are on the water (the rest are either on the south side of East Front Street or along Munson Avenue). Sites that could potentially add boating facilities would include the three parcels that make up Delamar, the Bayshore Resort, and the four parcels to the east, “all of which are located east of Senior Center Park,” Winter wrote.
Winter tells The Ticker there are potential positives to expanding the allowed uses in the HR district, including economic development. “We talked to Elmwood Township Marina and the city marina (the Duncan L. Clinch Marina) about the demand for boating slips, and both of them said it’s crazy how much demand is out there,” he says. “They have no more capacity.”
Another consideration is that liveries and marinas are heavily regulated, Winter says – not just by the city, but by state and federal agencies, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Those agencies, which have jurisdiction over the bottomlands of public trust land, have extensive review and permitting processes for boating facilities to minimize environmental impacts.
Planning commissioners aren’t considering a specific plan for Delamar’s property tonight, as the resort hasn’t submitted one yet. Instead, they are reviewing the general text amendment change proposed to the zoning ordinance for the HR district. In response to The Ticker’s inquiries about future boating plans at the resort, Delamar said in a written statement: “We would like to expand our boating and marina capabilities in the future to further enhance the guest experience, but we are focused on finishing the hotel renovation at the moment.”
Delamar and city staff previously exchanged correspondence in 2019 about the resort’s interest in creating a mooring field for boats in West Grand Traverse Bay off the beach area for hotel guests. Those memos discussed city staff concerns such as visibility of watercraft at night, proximity to the mouth of the Boardman River, possible boat drift into Sunset Park, and contingency plans for handling noise complaints or emergencies on boats moored offshore. Delamar ultimately opted not to pursue the project at the time.
Attorney Joe Quandt of Kuhn Rogers PLC, which represents Delamar, says there is “no current intent to proceed with a marina project similar to the scale and character of the marina that was considered back in 2019.” Instead, the resort is seeking clarification that the continued use of its existing dock area – and the possible construction of a second seasonal dock, a project that may require state and federal approval – “is permitted in the Delamar’s zoning district,” Quandt says.
“This contemplated use also requires the city – at some point in the future – to provide a resolution of support of the effort to locate an additional dock, and the city is reluctant to provide such a resolution with the zoning issue remaining unresolved,” he adds. “Finally, reading the zoning ordinance in proper context, it appears that allowing these uses was the original intent of the ordinance in the first place.” In particular, in its text amendment application submitted to the city, Delamar said that boat liveries and marinas are “uses that clearly promote the HR district’s express purpose of ‘accommodating tourist-related land uses along the major routes near tourist attractions.’”
Planning commissioners will only discuss – not vote on – the zoning change tonight. The next step will be to hold a public hearing. Because of the timing of public noticing requirements, Winter says that the hearing can’t be held at the planning commission’s regular August meeting. Planning commissioners tonight will decide – if they’re ready to move ahead to a public hearing – whether to schedule it for a special meeting on August 15 or at the board’s regular September 6 meeting.Comment