Douglas Officials Reject RJ Peterson's Request For Four Additional & Longer Docks - For Now
A request from prominent local marina owner RJ Peterson could change the local ordinance regulating dockage size, Douglas City officials indicated Tuesday.
Tower Marine’s site plan application now before the City of Douglas’ Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) for four, 60-foot (length) docks was denied Tuesday on grounds the request did not make a case for “practical difficulty” - one of numerous standard prerequisites for ZBA approval, say city officials - but rather was deemed as a request to fill an economic objective.
However, the issue is far from over and, in fact, it is precisely an economic motive that could ironically influence city leaders to change the existing zoning rules.
“The community has a need for larger docks, but the current ordinance doesn’t allow it. The existing regulation was created in 1987 - those were different times,” Douglas Zoning Administrator and Community Development Director Lisa Imus told The Local Observer Wednesday morning.
“If we could bring in more commercial activity to the city by allowing for larger docks, that would benefit the community.”
She said the ZBA discussed the issue at length.
“They are very much in favor of RJ’s project,” Imus added, explaining that despite the denial, the ZBA is recommending the city to change its regulation from the 30-foot dock allowance to 60 feet.
That recommendation, she said, is scheduled to go in front of Douglas City Council at its next meeting in the form of a first reading. If council then moves to approve that first reading, the ZBA at its next meeting on May 11 could well move to approve Tower Marine’s application with conditions. The city council would need to vote to approve the second and final reading.
Peterson says there is no need for ordinances limiting marinas and strongly agrees with the notion that more docking space means more economic activity for this resort community.
“Right now, I’ve talked to other marina’s along the shoreline here in West Michigan, and there is no more empty docks for transient boaters to tie up to. It’s similar to not having parking spaces; if you can’t accommodate folks, they are not going to spend the money in your town.”
Site plan reviews before the ZBA sometimes entails a variance request, a special appeal to deviate from the existing ordinance, sometimes granting a relief in exchange for a city/public benefit.