September 26, 2013GROSSE POINTE SHORES — The commodore of the region’s premier yacht club stands ready to unfurl a new harbor by next sailing season.
William Vogel Jr., commodore of the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club, which is on the eve of its centennial, announced plans are underway to modernize the harbor with wider docks and simpler fairways.
“We are at the end of the useful life for a number of our docks,” Vogel said.
Today’s pleasure craft are wider than when the current harbor was configured 45 to 70 years ago.
“It brings the entire facility into modern-day marine and vessel uses and maneuverability,” added John Hennessey, vice president of Hennessey Engineers, in Southgate, retained to design the changes.
“We’re trying to match our inventory,” said Robert Galeota, club board member. “Some docks are in bad repair. The pilings are rusted.”
The club in 2012 was rated the nation’s third best yacht club by Platinum Clubs of America.
“It’s time to upgrade the harbor to reflect the quality we like to have at the yacht club,” Galeota said.
The new layout is contained within the harbor’s existing footprint.
“There is no physical expansion of the boundaries of the harbor itself,” Vogel said. “There’s no modifications to the main entrance of the harbor. This is merely a reconfiguration of slips of the harbor.”
Grosse Pointe Shores officials did essentially the same thing three years ago to their municipal marina, which is adjacent to the club’s and shares its opening to Lake St. Clair.
To fit wider docks within existing parameters, club members propose reducing their harbor’s total slip count from 253 to 231, according to Galeota.
“That makes the docks wider and safer,” he said.
Included in the reduction are 12 of 22 slips the club leases from the Shores.
“We will work so that it is revenue neutral to the city,” Vogel said.
“Excellent,” said Shores Councilman Bruce Bisballe, chairman of the finance committee.
Shores officials must endorse the plan as a special land use.
Mayor Ted Kedzierski, a club member, recused himself during Vogel’s presentation to council Tuesday, Sept. 17, to avoid a conflict of interest.
Mayor pro tem Kay Felt presided.
Council forwarded the matter to the planning commission for consideration, after which it will return to council.
Hennessey hopes to expedite the process to allow construction during the off-season.
“We are looking to begin work in October and carry it through until spring,” Hennessey said. “We have the Army Corps of Engineers permit in hand. We’ve met with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and are in the permitting process with them. We don’t see any problems with that.”
Although the planning commission may meet in special session to accommodate the club’s timeline, the council isn’t scheduled to convene until 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15.
“I think your prospects of beginning Oct. 1, are difficult,” Felt told Hennessey.
Reconstruction presents an opportunity for the city to reinstall culverts through park and club property to restore shoreline currents and reduce accretion above and below the neighboring harbors, according to Shores lakeside homeowner Mary Ann LaHood.
Her property overlooks trees, scruff and invasive plant species growing on accretion adjacent to the club’s downstream breakwall.
“I have to go through an awful lot of expense to clean up that mess,” LaHood told the council. “It amounts to a nuisance tax for which I am not to blame.”
She wants the city to look into the matter of flow-throughs, for which grant money is available, she said, citing her attorney.
“I’m not giving up on this,” she said.
“If there’s something being done already, maybe this is the time to look into see whether these grants are available,” said Becky Booth, a shoreline resident above the club. “We continue to have a lot of accretion to the north. Accretion continues to pile up in that corner where the eddies happen.”
LaHood, Booth and Felt were among Shores residents successfully fighting expansion of the club’s harbor more than 10 years ago.
Felt is withholding an opinion on LaHood’s request until the planning commission sends the matter back to council.
In the meantime, City Manager Mark Wollenweber is trying to consult with a university scientist who, during the club’s proposed harbor expansion, analyzed the cause of accretion in the area.
“(The scientist) said at the time the seawall results in a complete littoral barrier,” Felt said.