City Council makes key approvals for Bil-Mar redevelopment

Alex Doty • Jun 6, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Grand Haven City Council on Monday approved several measures that will allow the potential redevelopment of the Bil-Mar property to advance to the city’s Planning Commission.

"In order to accommodate the redevelopment of that property, a number of things have to happen," City Manager Pat McGinnis said of the proposal to replace the lakefront restaurant with a condominium building/restaurant.

The first thing that was approved as part of that list of items was for a new parking lot lease for the lot adjacent to the Bil-Mar. The city-owned parking lot is currently leased by the restaurant for $15,000 a year.

Council approved a $24,000 annual lease agreement with the developers for the parking lot, which would give the restaurant portion of the development exclusive use of the lot between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. from May 1 through Oct. 31.

City officials say the new license agreement is much like the current pact, except it extends the hours and the dates, and allows for up to nine cars in the lot overnight for condo users.

"I think this agreement as negotiated with the potential developer works with the development and works with the city," McGinnis said.

Also approved by City Council with a 3-2 vote Monday night was a sidewalk encroachment permit that would allow the developers to build a sidewalk on city property to the west/south of the property, which would be clearly marked as a public beach access point. Councilmen Mike Fritz and Bob Monetza voted against the plan.

City officials say the developer is interested in the encroachment because it would allow them to build tight to the lot line and still access the front (west) side of their property.

Also approved with a 3-2 vote was an encroachment permit to allow for armoring/rip rap to be installed adjacent to the property under the City Beach sand. Voting against that plan was Fritz and Mayor Geri McCaleb.

Officials say the sub-surface installation of rocks would be done in case water levels rise and threaten the property. The armor, together with a retaining wall at or near the property line, would protect the building and property when water levels come up.

Developer Brian Papke said the sub-surface installation would likely extend 10 feet out from the property line on the south and west, and then would tie into a similar structure next to the adjacent parking lot.

Papke noted that, in addition to protecting the property and building, the installation would also benefit the beach.

"It will help the beach and make the beach better because it will level it out and take care of some of the dips there," he said.

Some on City Council weren't keen on the idea of allowing the wall to extend onto city property.

"No, absolutely not," said McCaleb.

The mayor said she was concerned that should the sub-surface structure become exposed, it would remain exposed until the area was restored and the lake levels dropped.

Fritz was also opposed to the idea.

"I really don't like rip rap and all that stuff out there," he said. "Now we want to put it out on our pristine beach? ... I have a hard time with it all together."

The Planning Commission will eventually take up the matter of the planned unit development for the condo/restaurant independently of the approvals made by City Council on Monday night.

And Council's approvals will be viewed as being granted by a neighboring property owner, not the final land use authority.

City staff has also asked the developers to contact representatives of the Highland Park neighborhood to discuss the project and the consent agreement on the Bil-Mar property.

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