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Public hearing for Picnic Rocks Condos delayed

From left, Commissioners Sarah Reynolds and Mike Plourde, Mayor Pro Tem Frederick Stonehouse, Mayor Dave Campana, Commissioners Paul Schloegel and Jenna Smith and City Manager Mike Angeli listen as Marquette-area residents discuss the Picnic Rocks Condos. (Journal photo by Jaymie Depew)

MARQUETTE — Lakeshore Residences LLC, the applicant for the proposed Picnic Rocks Condos to be built along Lakeshore Boulevard in Marquette, has directed city staff to cancel the public hearing for a planned unit development, or PUD, concept qualification that was on the agenda for tonight’s Marquette Planning Commission meeting.

The planning commission will still hold its regular meeting in commission chambers at city hall at 6 p.m. today; however, the controversial project was removed from the agenda days after the estimated $30 million project caused an uproar on social media.

Lakeshore Residences was initially set to present its plans to develop the former foundry site for the first time tonight. Regardless, several Marquette residents attended the Marquette City Commission meeting Monday evening to address their concerns.

Mayor Dave Campana informed everyone at the meeting that the public hearing was removed from the planning commission’s agenda because project developers are unable to attend. The item will be revisited at a later date.

“If you’re concerned about that item you might want to watch for a future meeting,” he said.

During the meeting, residents reiterated similar comments about the project noted on Facebook, such as the buildings being too high, expensive, physically unappealing and will cause congestion to the area.

Marquette resident Margaret Brumm said about 17 people met at the former Lakeshore Iron Works site Sunday afternoon to prove that the proposed 96-unit two-bedroom apartments would not fit there.

She referred to the project as the “Godzilla condominiums” and said that when 17 people attempted to walk across the street toward Lake Superior it nearly caused traffic incidents.

“They’re going to be promised nirvana, … instead they’ll be playing dodging cars,” she said. “I’m not a cynic, but I wonder if maybe some of the reason why they withdrew from the hearing tomorrow night was (because) they wanted to wait until the issue died down a little bit. People are riled up, they’re going to continue to be riled up. We’re not going to go away just because they pulled the agenda item from the planning commission.”

Alice Reynolds, also of Marquette, asked the city commission why the project was being considered. Reynolds, a relative to one of Marquette’s founders, Peter White, said White would agree that the project does not suit the area.

“We have a lot of people in the city that are upset about this so I hope at some point that matters,” Reynolds said. “I know things haven’t always mattered before and things have went through without people in the public being listened to. There are a lot of very intelligent people in this community … so I hope that you just listen to them before you go forward with something you can’t go back on once it starts.”

At the close of the meeting, the city commission reminded residents that anyone can apply for a PUD and that the commission did not solicit the offer.

“We as a commission are not building condos. In fact, we have nothing yet to consider,” said Commissioner Mike Plourde. “The story broke before we even had a chance to look at it and nothing has been approved. Now it’s possible that it’s been tabled or the meeting has been canceled tomorrow because there is some controversy but I doubt that. What I know about the planning commission, my guess, they’re going for more information because people have expressed a lot of concerns about it.”

Plourde added that he hopes whatever is placed on the site would bring tax money into the city.

Commissioner Sarah Reynolds said the first time she heard about the project was after scrolling through Facebook.

“The first time you all heard about it and read about it on Facebook was the first time I heard about it and read about it on Facebook,” Reynolds said. “The channels of operations is planning commission first.”

Mayor Pro Tem Frederick Stonehouse suggested that concerned citizens address planning commissioners because “they’re the ones who make the first cut on it.”

“The city of Marquette did not solicit this proposal. It came, so there’s a process we have to follow when we get that,” Stonehouse said.

Commissioner Paul Schloegel, who was formerly on the planning commission, said he assumes the item was removed from the agenda because of resident concerns.

“I want you guys to have that passion for the area and make sure it’s not something we’re going to regret … down the road,” Schloegel said, adding that the city was not responsible for bringing the development into the community.

Commissioner Jenna Smith said she hopes it inspires people to step up for positions on boards and committees, such as the Harbor Advisory Committee, that have a say in such matters.

“I think it’s great that the love of the lake, the love of the views and the feeling of this town is so strong,” she said. “I hope to see people step into these positions.”

A concept approval is the first of three steps for establishing a PUD. If the plan meets the standards, both a preliminary site plan, with architectural and civil engineering details fully developed, and final site plan would need to be approved by the planning and city commissions. Four additional public hearings would also be required before the applicant could acquire a permit to build.

The Mining Journal reached out to the applicant but was unable to get a comment before press time today.

Jaymie Depew can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.