Commission approves boathouse lease

MARQUETTE – The Marquette City Commission on Tuesday voted 5-2 to approve a lease for the Upper Peninsula Community Rowing Club to build a boathouse on land along Lakeshore Boulevard near the Hampton Inn.

Voting for the lease approval were Mayor Robert Niemi, Mayor Pro Tem Fred Stonehouse and commissioners Don Ryan, Mike Coyne and Dave Campana. Voting against it were commissioners Sara Cambensy and Sarah Reynolds.

The decision came after months of conflict on the issue, with many members of the community expressing concern about development along this section of the lakeshore as well as disagreement within the commission regarding public use of the boathouse as well as lease terms.

“It’s just hard for me to understand how this issue has become so contentious,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the city’s two waterfront marinas serve fewer people than the boathouse will serve, and are private places.

“I’m not against marinas in the city of Marquette, but I also think we need a marina for the group that wants to row their boats,” Ryan said. “And here, this group is willing to pay for it themselves.”

Cambensy said she is concerned about lakeshore preservation, what she believes is the small number of people who will benefit from the boathouse and the club’s ability to raise enough funds.

“I’m here to do things, and it’s finance and policy, and the policies that we are setting in this example are atrocious, and I would say if we’re going to set policies like this, we should expect that more are going to keep coming our way, and we should be prepared to deal with those,” Cambensy said.

She also noted 80 percent of the building will be locked to the public, plus the lease doesn’t protect taxpayers from liability and security issues.

“I again stipulate, that by this lease, the rowing club is responsible for all expenses related to that building,” Stonehouse said. “That includes the structure, the building, the utilities, the maintenance, everything. That’s what the lease says.”

Reynolds said she voted against approving the lease because of the time length of the lease and concerns expressed about parking at the Hampton Inn.

The term of the lease will be for 25 years from the date of the agreement between the city and the club, although the lease could be terminated in five years if the club doesn’t complete the boathouse’s construction.

In lieu of rent paid to the city, the club will be responsible for all costs associated with the boathouse, including relocation of a portion of the multi-use path and construction of a parking area and any necessary utilities.

The lease stipulates construction is not to begin until evidence of adequate funding has been provided to the city commission and that the commission has approved starting the construction.

According to the lease, if the club fails to adequately operate, maintain, clean or repair the boathouse premises, the city can terminate the agreement upon 30 days written notice.

UPCRC President Kelly Drake Woodward said: “I think this project offers the community very little risk and many public benefits.”

The 5,780-square-foot facility is expected to include an American With Disabilities Act-compliant dock launch, restrooms, a green roof and an observation deck.

“I think we have to do something to move forward, and I think this is the right way to go,” Ryan said.