Major Public Hearings On Deck For Enduro Motorcycle Race, Bluebird Brownfield Plan
By Craig Manning | Nov. 20, 2023
Two high-profile proposals will get public hearings in Leelanau County this week. Today (Monday, Nov. 20) at 1pm, the Kasson Township Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) will hold a hearing concerning an ongoing debate about whether a property owner should be allowed to host a major motorcycle race. Then, tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 21) at 6pm, the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing to get feedback on a Brownfield Redevelopment Plan submitted by the owners of The Bluebird Restaurant & Tavern in Leland.
Enduro Motorcycle Race
Today’s Kasson Township hearing relates back to a proposal from earlier this year, when applicants James Schettek, Bill Kasben, and Fran Seymour sought a Special Use Permit (SUP) from the township’s planning commission to turn five parcels of farmland into a temporary racetrack, campground, and venue for a motorcycle racing event. Initially, Schettek, Kasben, and Seymour hoped to host a Memorial Day weekend event with Michigan Sprint Enduros, an organization that runs offroad motorcycle races throughout the state.
But that proposal, which would have utilized property that Kasben owns at the corner of East Kasson and South Bright roads, drew public backlash. While Schettek, Kasben, and Seymour framed the event as a positive, family-friendly economic booster that would draw 150-300 people to the township during a major travel weekend, nearby neighbors worried the race would violate the township’s master plan and agricultural zoning by bringing significant pollution, noise, trash, and privacy infringements to their backyards.
Those neighbors eventually formed a neighborhood association (Kasson Township Neighborhood Association, or KTNA), mainly to present a united front against the SUP proposal. The KTNA subsequently hired an attorney to represent their cause, and members showed up in droves for a May 8 planning commission meeting. After over an hour of public comment, applicants asked planning commissioners to “table” their SUP request so they might have time to consult with their own attorney. Commissioners acquiesced, and the proposal was temporarily set aside.
While that tabling nixed the a Memorial Day weekend event in 2023, Seymour told the Leelanau Ticker in May that he and his fellow applicants still had every intention of proceeding with the SUP request. “Ideally, we want to do several races per year, and we're not married to having to do it on Memorial Day weekend,” he explained. “We'd rather make sure we're doing everything correctly, and that we have our own legal representation to protect our rights.”
The planning commission ultimately denied the SUP request in July. Now, the applicants have requested “administrative review” of both the planning commission and Township Zoning Administrator Tim Cypher over the denial, and are seeking an appeal from the ZBA to resuscitate their application.
Both Peter Wendling, the attorney for the applicants, and Kristen Houle, who is providing legal representation for the KTNA group, have submitted findings of fact in recent months and weeks, going back and forth with arguments about the handing of the SUP proposal. Wendling argues that the applicants were not allowed to route their application through the proper sections of the zoning ordinance. Wendling also suggests the SUP proposal was never given fair deliberation by the planning commission due to alleged failures of process on the part of Cypher and the commission itself, as well as outside opinions and interference from Houle and Thomas Grier, who serves as legal counsel for Kasson Township.
All findings of fact and other case documents can be found on the Kasson Township website.
Today’s public hearing is a continuation of ZBA proceedings that began last month, with a special meeting and public hearing held on Wednesday, October 11. The ZBA made no decisions on the appeals at that meeting.
Bluebird Brownfield Redevelopment Plan
The Leelanau Ticker reported earlier this month that Skip and Lynn Telgard, owners of Leland’s Bluebird Restaurant & Tavern, were eyeing a $6.2 million Brownfield Redevelopment Plan to knock down and rebuild their restaurant. That plan would replace the Bluebird building – which the Telgards say is currently “functionally obsolete” – with “a smaller restaurant closer to the serene Leland River,” complete with a 100-seat indoor space and a 100-plus-seat outdoor patio area.
The plan would also include the demolition and redevelopment of the adjacent former Early Bird restaurant – most recently leased to Leelanau Coffee Roasting Company for the just-shuttered Leland Breakfast Bistro – as “a new two-story mixed-use building with retail anticipated on the first floor and up to three residential units on the second floor.”
Tuesday’s public hearing will include an overview of the proposed Brownfield Redevelopment concept, as well as an opportunity for the general public to comment. Locals can read more on the Leelanau County website.
The Brownfield plan for the Bluebird has already been approved by both the Leland Township Board and the Leelanau County Brownfield Redevelopment Authority, and now requires the green light from the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners. If approved, the Telgards will be able to access tax increment financing to fund their redevelopment project.
Just prior to Tuesday’s meeting, at 4:30pm, commissioners will attend a walkthrough of the Bluebird site. Last week, County Clerk Michelle Crocker sent a “notice of quorum,” noting that there “may be a quorum of the Leelanau County Board of Commissioners present” at the walkthrough, but that the walkthrough does not constitute an official meeting and that “no official business will take place.”Comment
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