Leelanau News and Events

A New 64-Slip Marina On West Bay Under Review In Elmwood Township

By Craig Manning | Oct. 22, 2021

A proposed marina project that has been bandied about for years in Elmwood Township could finally see the light of day in 2022. The original project — which first emerged in 2017 and was approved by the township in 2019 — was for a West Shore Hotel & Marina to occupy parcels on both sides of M-22, just south of Discovery Pier. Neither piece came to fruition and the approvals have since expired, but project developer Pat Johnson appeared before the Elmwood Township Planning Commission Tuesday evening for an introductory presentation of a revised site plan focused solely on the West Shore Marina part of the development.

Presenting his plans on Tuesday evening, Johnson noted that the marina design had changed little since commissioners had approved the similar special use permit in 2019. The new project, he said, had “the modification of only two slips,” but was otherwise the same. “We’re back in front of you to obtain the permit, if possible,” he added.

The hybrid hotel-and-marina plan the Elmwood Township Planning Commission approved in 2019 included a 62-slip marina with slips ranging in length from 40 to 70 feet, with all slips intended to be sold to private owners. The design also called for an open-to-the-public fishing pier, as well as for the conversion of an existing house on the property into a marina office and shower/bathroom facility.

The 2019 plan also included a hotel with 146 rooms — which ranged one-bedroom to “elite suites” with four bedrooms and four bathrooms.

At that time, the developers pitched the idea of the hotel being a “condotel,” or a condo/hotel hybrid where some rooms would have been available for traditional hotel stays, but where others would be sold as condos. Johnson said then that his hope was to have a 40/60 split, with 40 percent of the rooms being held by a hotel management group and 60 percent by outside owners. Unit owners would have been allowed to stay at their condos for up to two contiguous weeks at a time, with those units being rented out to guests the rest of the time — and owners sharing in the rental revenues. Initial listings showed units starting at $399,000.

The current 2021 application outlines a plan for a 64-slip marina — two slips more than the previous design. Slips would range in length from 25-68 feet. Other pieces of the design — such as the renovation of an on-premises house into an office and bathhouse, or the development of marina parking across M-22 — remain largely unchanged in the new proposal.

The design also takes into account 12 existing boat slips that are already on the property. Those were installed decades ago for use by the Zephyr Oil Company and would remain under the proposed development. That would bring the total number of boat slips at the site to 76.

Johnson wrote in his latest application that he intended for construction to “begin October-November 2021,” with “final installation of floating docks [to be] completed in the spring of 2022.” Those plans are contingent upon approvals not just from the township, but also from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) — both of which must approve any work along the Lake Michigan shoreline — and from the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), which must approve the design for the M-22 pedestrian crossing that will allow marina users to reach the parking lot and vice versa.

At Tuesday’s meeting, planning commissioners raised concerns about several facets of the project, including potential environmental impacts of dredging for the marina construction as well as the fact that several easement approvals from neighboring property holders have not been updated since last time the proposal was brought before the commission. The plans Johnson submitted to the commission also don’t include specifics for how the on-site house will be converted, or what the bathroom facilities at that location will look like. These concerns, among others, were outlined in a packet given to commissioners prior to the meeting and will serve as Johnson’s checklist as he prepares for future conversations with the township.

“I think Pat has a list of stuff, if he looks at what Sarah [Clarren, planner/zoning administrator for Elmwood Township] has prepared for us, to get ready for the next round,” said Planning Commission Vice-Chair Jeff Aprill.

“I think if we get through all these approvals, it will finally be built,” Johnson agreed.

There is certainly evidence to suggest that a new marina in the vicinity is something the Grand Traverse/Leelanau region could use. Last spring, the Traverse City Ticker — sister publication of the Leelanau Ticker — touched base with harbormasters at Duncan L. Clinch Marina and Harbor West Yacht Club. The former had a waitlist more than 280 names deep for its 71 seasonal boat slips, and was advising a 5-7 year wait time for new applicants. The latter described a waitlist “so long we are no longer taking names.”

As for the hotel portion of the West Shore Hotel & Marina project? That piece of the puzzle isn’t dead either. The plans for the marina include the footprint of the hotel, “but that will not be reviewed/approved by the Planning Commission until a permit for said hotel is filed,” says Clarren.

Johnson noted during his presentation that he and his partners are “in the process” of pulling together application materials for the hotel and that they “intend to submit very soon.” The design of the hotel, he said, has not changed at all since the 2019 application, which would mean that a 146-room “condotel” is still the vision for the site.

Pictured: Project location of the proposed West Shore Marina on West Bay.

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