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Ahee

Harbor plan prompts accretion inquiry


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October 10, 2013
GROSSE POINTE SHORES — A pitch for permission to redraft the Grosse Pointe Yacht Club harbor within current boundaries made no waves during a special planning commission meeting 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 4.

Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the Grosse Pointe Shores city council approve construction at its next meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Club Commodore William Vogel Jr. hinted work could be phased in over a couple of off-seasons.

"Our intent would be to start in November of each year and finish before the harbor opens in April of each year," Vogel said.

Construction would be coordinated through the Shores building department to ensure boaters at the adjoining Osius Park municipal marina, which shares the club's opening to Lake St. Clair, won't be inconvenienced.

"I foresee no impact to your boating community whatsoever," Vogel told commissioners.

The commission also recommended the club be required to:

maintain the same schedule of lease payments for slips it leases in the Shores harbor and

work with the public safety director on an improved marina fire suppression system.

Accretion

The commission made a separate, unanimous recommendation for the council to capitalize on harbor construction to possibly increase shoreline currents and redress the build-up of accretion above and below the man-made peninsula on which the municipal and club marinas lie.

Specifically, Commissioner Michael Monahan motioned for "the city (to) work closely with the yacht club to study the accretion issue and possible resolutions of it, and that the city pursue any grant money available to accomplish those solutions."

"There are some things we can work with the city on — mechanical devices and things like that — to enhance flow-through there and address this issue," said John Hennessey, vice president of Hennessey Engineers, in Southgate, retained to design the new harbor layout.

"My personal opinion — this is not a legal opinion — is if there's grant money available, why not look into it?" said Shores city attorney Brian Renaud.

"We would have to work with the appropriate Shores folks to study this and work with them," Vogel said. "We would have to frame some mechanism to do that."

"I will take this back to council," Councilman Robert Barrette said.

Liaison absent

Barrette attended the planning session as a non-voting fill-in for absent Councilman Dan Schulte, who is a commissioner and the council's liaison to the municipal harbor committee.

Commission Chair Mary Matuja said she didn't know Schulte, who has missed two of the last three council meetings, wasn't going to attend.

"I called him to make sure someone is representing the council," she said. "I did not receive an answer from him. Therefore, I believe the mayor felt they needed someone from the council here," she added, explaining Barrette's presence.

"When notice of the special Oct. 3 planning commission meeting was served, I already had another engagement on my schedule, and promptly informed the city offices that I would not be attending the Oct. 3 meeting the special planning commission meeting (sic) via e-mail," Schulte said in an e-mail.

Shores building department administrator, Tom Krolczyk, serving as commission secretary, said Schulte's absence was excused.

Making NYCE

But it's the city's willingness to address accretion that impressed Shores residents and shoreline property owners Becky Booth and Mary Ann LaHood.

Their properties abut growing masses of accretion on which invasive plants take root, vegetation rots and dead fish decompose.

"If the city can work toward finding out if there's a grant and get public money to do it, it's a brilliant opportunity," Booth said.

LaHood said she was "very pleased" with the commission's recommendation about accretion.

Both residents belonged in the late 1990s to Neighbor's Concerned about Yacht Club Expansion (NYCE).

Their successful fight against the club's proposal to expand its harbor escalated into a lawsuit against the city.

"We never wanted to do it," Booth told the commission. "But, it was a vehicle for getting people to pay attention and to getting the issue acutely attended to. You and the yacht club can rest assured that there is going to be no legal action at all."

Ready to work

Club representatives are raring to go on reconstruction.

"The current infrastructure's at its life cycle," Hennessey said.

Upon completing the project, which Vogel said may cost $8-to-$9-million, the harbor will have fewer, but wider docks, straighter fairways and a new drawbridge.

Wider docks means the club will reduce the number of slips it leases from the Shores through 2021, with a 15-year extension to 2036.

Leases generate more than $9,000 in annual revenue to the Shores.

"We are willing to make this revenue neutral to you, so even if we eliminate docks, we'll draft an agreement and use this as a baseline going forward so there is no adverse financial impact to the Shores," Vogel told commissioners.

Monahan, a builder, advised the club to get its financing in place before starting construction.

"We don't want an important organization on our waterfront to struggle and impact the community," Monahan said.

"The approach is (to) get approval and estimates for what we want to do," Vogel answered. "Then, talk about phasing and financing after we have that in place."

He said he'd like a bigger harbor.

"That's not in the cards," he said. "We do not have any authority for an extra opening. So, this is our plan."

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