Traverse City News and Events

East Bay Projects: Baywatch Resort To Expand, Chartwell Drive Apartments Proposed

By Beth Milligan | Jan. 11, 2019

East Bay Township planning commissioners this week approved a major expansion of the Baywatch Resort on US-31 – a project that will add a second building to the property and nearly double the hotel’s capacity. Planning commissioners also expressed a willingness to consider a proposal from the owners of The Village at Chartwell to amend the site’s zoning plan to build up to 108 apartments on the property near Centre Ice Arena.

Baywatch Resort
Baywatch Resort owners Tonya and Josh Wuerfel are on track for a major expansion of their 51-unit hotel at 1529 US-31 North on East Grand Traverse Bay after township planning commissioners approved the project this week.

Project plans call for the construction of a second four-story building next to the existing hotel, which opened in 2017. The new addition would feature 48 rooms – bringing the hotel’s total to 99 – and would connect to the first phase of the development through a shared second-story continental breakfast dining room and common area. A 480 square-foot storage building/garage is also planned for the southeast corner of the site.

Planning commissioners initially green-lit the project in December, but had to redo the approval process this week after staff forgot to send out required legal notices to surrounding property owners. At this week’s public hearing, neighboring condominium owner Tom Douglas expressed concerns about tree removal during construction and the impact it could have on structural foundations on his property, as well as mitigating light pollution from the hotel.

“The only real concern I have at this point is there appears to be at least two very old pine trees…that in my mind would appear to be unnecessary in terms of removal,” Douglas said. “If they don’t have to be removed, why should they be removed?”

Project representative Doug Mansfield of Mansfield Land Use Consultants acknowledged the trees would need to be removed, but pointed out they and other trees in the corridor have suffered weather damage from harsh lake winds over the years and are vulnerable to falling, particularly if left exposed with the surrounding canopy removed. Not taking the trees down would pose a liability they could fall later and damage hotel buildings or injure guests, Mansfield said. He also noted Bayshore Resort’s expansion is a use allowed by right in the commercial corridor – with site plan approval from the planning commission – whereas residential condos like Douglas’ are a special use. “They’re living in a commercial area,” he said, addressing potential light pollution and other hotel impacts on neighboring properties. “Those kinds of nuisances are going to happen.”

Planning commissioners agreed, and unanimously approved the site plan for the expansion – though they included conditions to mitigate concerns. Chief among the conditions is a required landscaping plan – with a $16,000 letter of credit provided to the township as security to assure the plan is completed – that will introduce flowering pear trees and other township-approved vegetation througout the site. The plan also outlines measures to buffer the property from neighboring condominiums, including the construction of a fence along Baywatch Resort's east property line.

The Village at Chartwell
The ownership group behind development property The Village at Chartwell – located on Chartwell Drive and Hammond Road near Centre Ice Arena – hope to spur growth on the languishing site by converting more than 92,000 square feet of planned office, restaurant, and retail space into residential space in order to build up to 108 apartments.

Realtor Howard Walker represents the property and appeared before township planning commissioners this week to informally pitch the proposal and get feedback before returning with a formal application to amend the zoning plan. The Village at Chartwell was originally envisioned as a “town center concept” in the late 1990s, with the zoning plan (called a planned unit development, or PUD) calling for 22,000 square feet of retail/restaurant space and 85,000 square feet of office space. Up to 21 apartments can be built over the commercial space. But the project never took off as owners hoped, with only 4,800 square feet of retail/restaurant space, 9,500 square feet of office space, and five apartments developed to date. That leaves more than 92,000 square feet of combined commercial space and 16 apartments still available to be built, with no new development occurring on the property in over a decade.

Walker said increasing demand for rental housing across the region prompted owners to consider converting all of the available commercial space to residential, with the ability to build up to 108 apartments total on the property. Apartment building heights would be limited to three stories high. “The proposal is to allow a different use which would make this land developable and usable and generate a tax base,” Walker said. “I think everybody envisioned an active neighborhood there, and this been a field for over a decade.”

Planning commissioners were open to the idea of amending the PUD, though several stated they would need to see a specific concept for the apartments and hash out project details and impacts before changing the zoning plan. Walker acknowledged there was a “real possibility (the owners) might sell the property to someone who wants to develop apartments,” with commissioners and staff both opposed to amending the PUD solely to make the property more marketable for a sale without first seeing what would be built. Walker assured the board his goal was to return with a specific project concept for review. Commission Chair Robert Tubbs said officials should be open to considering the proposal to increase rental options in the township.

“Housing continues to be an issue in our area,” he said. “I’d hate to continue to have a housing crunch because we’re not at least going to take a look at (the PUD) again.”

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