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Beacon Archive

August 2003
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PABI Launches a Revised Plan

PABI Sunset Picnic Update

AMVETS sponsor Lake Geneserath Fishing Tournament in September

Washington Islanders visit Beaver and suggest Exchange Trips

Chamber has Big Plans: 2nd Annual Bite of Beaver Island Expanded Fall Events

Weather or Not

On This Date

Studying Art in an Artist's Paradise

The Freedom Schooner Amistad Pays a Call

Nels Peter Sorensen, Jr.: 1938-2003

Aleta Doris Kenwabikise: 1955-2003

Proposed Downtown / Public Beach Parking Lot

Museum Week 2003

Wildlife Club News

Charlevoix County Commissioners Meeting Report

News From the Townships

A Challenge to the BIRHC Board

The Opposition Organizes

Letters to the Editor Regarding the BIRHC

From the Board: About the Current Controversy

Please Subscribe to the Beacon

Classified Ads

Proposed Downtown / Public Beach Parking Lot

On July 10th a St. James Planning Commission meeting at which the extension of Main Street was discussed drew considerable attention. After extended negotiation the township proposed to trade three lots below the old Medical Center for a ~140' parcel of the beach, a 10' strip along the south side of the Medical Center (needed for the EMS to build a second enclosed bay in which to park its E-car), and $130,000. The money would then be used to create a 34-place parking lot.

Supervisor Don Vyse spoke about the increasing downtown parking problem and the frustrations he'd experienced in trying to alleviate it over the past six years. One plan was to create a lot behind the Shamrock and Beachcomber, but that was rebuffed by the property owners. The township also tried to work out an arrangement with Holy Cross, but that too was unsuccessful. So, he said, this seemed like the best solution.

This location, the supervisor stated, would have three positive impacts. It would provide parking for downtown, albeit a block away. It would provide parking for the school, the church, and particularly the Parish Hall – and 85% of the Hall's activities involved the community at large. And it would reduce the danger of the present Playground situation; far too often kids come running out between parked cars into the street, and the current parking creates a bottleneck that has impeded, according to Gerald LaFreniere, the ability of the ambulance to reach its destination. The land swap would increase the Playground and allow it to spread out.

Township Engineer Gary Vogt talked about the design of the lot. It would be cut into its western bank by 3', he said, reducing the visibility of parked cars. On the east side the mat of trees would be thinned by removing the “weed trees,” the willows and poplars, but leaving the “specimen trees,” the pines, hardwoods, and two apple trees. This land is currently a road easement, so the green lawn below the Convent, on which outdoor events are occasionally held, would be relatively unaffected. An 18" perforated pipe would act as a catch basin for run-off. Two streetlights, matching those placed downtown, would be installed on timers to turn off at the appropriate moment. Dr. Leuk and Dr. Gillingham had examined the site closely, as well as Robyn Schmidt from the DEQ, and there were no endangered species or wetland concerns.

Upon entering the meeting, the chairman announced that anyone wishing to speak would have to register in advance, and would then be given three minutes (using an egg timer.) First the Clerk was asked to report any correspondence; she said one resident would vote against it, but the BICS Principal was in favor. Then the people on the registration list, over 15 names, were called and given a chance to comment on the proposal.

It quickly became apparent that there was a widespread aversion to installing 13,000 ft2 of asphalt on the heels of so much other asphalt on roads and driveways. Questions were asked about how bad the parking problem really was, to which the supervisor stated that he heard well over a hundred complaints a year about it. Others asked if there had been a formal study of the parking problem or a land use study about creating the parking lot.
A green parking lot (grass instead of asphalt) was suggested as a compromise. This would create difficulties for winter use, it was said, and would allow vehicle seepage to trickle into the lake. Appropriating some of the school's land as an alternate site was also suggested. Rick Speck, the school's business manager, said this would infringe on the playground, and the school already felt it was short of land.

Some comments favored the proposal, and other speakers reluctantly gave their approval, as if the parking lot would be the lesser of two evils. But several speakers said things like “I don't like the blacktopping of Beaver Island,” and received a degree of applause. “This was a nice community the way it was,” one said. “We can hardly stand any more beautification,” another added. “This is a little pot of gold for a very few people.”

"Surely we're not doing this simply because it won't cost us anything,” someone said. “After all, our supervisor succeeded on 14 of the 16 grant proposals he's written, so funding at an alternative site should not be a problem at all.”

The comments went back and forth. It was said that the present Hall Corner was “an accident waiting to happen.” “You can talk about how nice things were back then,” someone else remarked, “but are you willing to accept that degree of reduction in your standard of living? To me, this amount of asphalt is justified by the good it will achieve, which outweighs the bad.”

After the last registered speaker had been offered a chance to speak, the floor was opened to anyone else who wanted to state their opinion. It was pointed out that 9 of the first 13 speakers were against the plan, to which someone else said that many supporters had not felt a need to speak.

The Planning Commission members were then asked to comment. Bill McDonough said that this plan was the evolution of many years of trying to solve the growing parking problem, and represented, in his mind, a win-win situation. He pointed out that increasing the public beach would add value to inland lots; the view corridor established would be an enhancement; the E-car garage would solve another thorny problem; and the overall safety of the public Playground would be improved. Don Tritsch added that the economics of the proposal were a definite positive factor. John Feigen said that time was also a reason that precluded them from searching indefinitely for a better location.
At that point a vote on the proposal was requested. It passed unanimously, to the disappointment of many in the audience–although some people who had been silent congratulated the Commissioners for a difficult job well done. The opponents of this issue, whose efforts had been marshaled through some concerted organizing efforts, could take some solace in at least not having let their reservations go unexpressed, and having learned how many others share their view of Beaver Island as a green paradise. They expressed themselves well enough, extensively and somewhat eloquently, so their views will no doubt receive greater consideration in the future.

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