Leelanau News and Events

Property Once Planned For Ambitious Hotel, Marina Project Hits The Market In Elmwood Township

By Craig Manning | Feb. 7, 2024

A Leelanau parcel long bandied about as the potential site for a new marina and hotel has hit the market in Elmwood Township. The land – located at 13380 Southwest Bay Shore Drive (M-22), right on the shores of West Grand Traverse Bay – has for years been one of the most high-profile development targets in both Leelanau County and Traverse City.

The Traverse City Ticker reported all the way back in April 2017 that a pair of local developers, Ron Walters and Pat Johnson, were eyeing the M-22 property for a project tentatively dubbed “the West Shore Hotel and Marina.” Initial plans called for the construction a three-story hotel on the 11-acre property, which had previously been occupied by Scuba North. The hotel would have been situated on the west side of M-22, with a marina planned for the other side of the road in order to utilize the property’s 300 feet of private Grand Traverse Bay water frontage.

For years, those plans percolated in Elmwood Township. In August 2019, the township’s planning commission granted preliminary approval to a revised version of the Greilickville site plan, which called for a 146-room hotel and a 62-slip marina. (Earlier versions of the plan called for fewer boat slips and fewer hotel rooms.) At the time, developers were bullish about fast-tracking the project, with plans to break ground in the fall of 2019 and to open the hotel and marina for business by the spring of 2020.

The pandemic scuppered those timelines, and project delays ultimately meant that the township’s approvals expired before Johnson and Walters could break ground. But by the fall of 2021, Johnson was back in front of the Elmwood Township Planning Commission seeking new approvals for the project, and by January 2022, a public hearing was back on the books for the proposal.

The project didn’t skate by with no pushback: In December 2021, before Elmwood’s planning commission scheduled a public hearing for the hotel and marina, Heather Smith – Baykeeper for the Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay – sent a letter outlining her organization’s numerous concerns with the project proposal. The Watershed Center had also been a vocal critic of the hotel and marina project when it had first come to light, back in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

“Because this parcel is an environmentally sensitive site along Grand Traverse Bay’s shoreline and because shoreline hardening and building too close to the water’s edge has the potential to impact water quality and aquatic habitat, we offer the following for your consideration,” Smith wrote in her letter, before urging the planning commission to deny the proposal unless it could stipulate that developers follower certain requirements for shoreline stabilization and preservation of aquatic habitats.

Despite Smith’s concerns, on January 18, 2022, planning commissioners voted 6-0 in favor of the West Shore Hotel and Marina project, officially approving the site plan for the second time.

But all has been relatively quiet at 13380 Southwest Bay Shore Drive in the two years since that vote. Developers never broke ground on either piece of the project, which means the 2022 approval has now expired just like the 2019 approval before it. (Elmwood Township’s zoning ordinance dictates that approved site plans expire “if construction, of the permitted use, has not commenced and proceeded meaningful toward completion by the end of one year.”)

Now, the hotel/marina plans seem off the table for good. Last month, the 13380 Southwest Bay Shore Drive property hit the market for an asking price of $3.9 million. All 12 acres of the parcel – including the 11 acres on the west side of M-22 and the one-acre, 300-foot frontage piece on the east side of the road – are part of the sale, with Teddy Lockwood of RE/MAX Bayshore serving as the listing agent.

The listing describes the M-22 land as a “prime development parcel at the base of West Grand Traverse Bay,” touting its size, its substantial private bay frontage, and an existing pier with boat slips as core draws. (The pier was installed decades ago for use by the Zephyr Oil Company) 

Perhaps most notably, the listing makes reference to the prior development plans for the property – and to the sellers’ willingness to hand off those plans to the buyer, should that person be interested. “The site has previously been approved for Hotel/Condo use and a 64-slip marina,” the listing notes. “Seller has the following available to qualified buyers: surveys, environmental reports, complete engineered marina drawings, EGLE permits, township communications, wave study, and Brownfield funding information.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story noted that the Leelanau Ticker had reached out to Pat Johnson for comment about the hotel/marina project and the sale of the M-22 property. We have since been informed that Johnson passed away in November. Our apologies and condolences to his family, friends, and acquaintances.

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