2018-02-22 / Front Page

6-story hotel, casino planned

Will project begin yet this spring?
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

A DEPICTION of the casino and hotel planned in Peshawbestown. A DEPICTION of the casino and hotel planned in Peshawbestown. Depending on which member of the Tribal Council you ask, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians will begin building a new six-story, 116,934 square-foot waterfront hotel and casino on M-22 in Peshawbestown this spring – or not.

“I have every expectation this project will move forward,” said Tribal Councilor Tom Shomin, noting that the seven-member Tribal Council had voted 4-3 recently in favor of the project.

“I’m not so sure we really voted on it,” countered Tribal Council Secretary Jane Rohl.

Rohl declined to comment further on the topic.

One thing is certain, however. Plans have been drawn for the project and received by the County Construction Code Authority.

Tribal Council Treasurer David Arroyo said he was confident the project would start this spring — and that it would be seen as a “positive development” by Leelanau County residents because of the amount of business it will bring.

“This is all just part of an even bigger plan we’re working on to create a kind of downtown area in Peshawbestown,” Arroyo said.

Tribal Chairman Thurlow “Sam” McClellan said that he, Rohl and Tribal Vice Chair Kimberly Vargo cast the three “no” votes against the project.

“My personal opinion is that it’s much too ambitious and should be scaled back considerably,” McClellan said. “We also have a Tribal Council election coming this spring and it’s funny how we get into these big building projects just before an election,” he added.

“I see this as just another election ploy,” McClellan said.

Shomin and fellow Tribal Councilors Mark Wilson and Percy Bird Jr. are all considering their re-election prospects this spring – and all three support the new casino project along with Arroyo.

About 1,000 registered Tribal voters who live in the tribe’s six-county service area in northwest lower Michigan are slated to hold a Primary Election on April 3. That election will be held to narrow down to six candidates what will likely be a field of more than a dozen candidates running for the three seats. The top six will compete in a May 8 General Election. The deadline for candidates to file applications to run in the Primary is tomorrow.

McClellan said he agreed that this year’s Tribal Election could be viewed as a referendum on the casino/hotel project.

Earlier this month, tribal officials delivered a set of drawings to the Leelanau County Construction Code office as a kind of “heads-up” about the project, according to county building official Steve Haugen. Although the tribe is not required to receive planning and zoning approval from Suttons Bay Township where the project is located, the facility itself will need to comply with Michigan construction codes and pass inspections conducted by Haugen and others.

A two-inch-thick stack of drawings representing about half of the documents the tribe will need to submit before formally applying for building permits include line drawings and an artist’s rendering of the proposed building. Haugen said he was informed that tribal officials may apply for a permit to begin work on foundations sometime this spring.

The main floor of the building will encompass 47,521 square feet containing a casino and the check-in area for a 65-room hotel. Hotel rooms would be located on the second through sixth floors of the building, each floor encompassing 9,215 square-feet, according to construction documents. There will also be a 9,837 square-foot mezzanine.

The main floor would also include a restaurant and meeting rooms.

A walkout lower level of 13,501 square feet would include a variety of administrative spaces as well as a “marina operations” space on the West Grand Traverse Bay side of the building. No plans for a marina have yet been submitted to the county, but the tribe has long been considering building a recreational marina that could include a deep-water dock capable of accommodating cruise ships.

The project area is located on the east side of M-22 (West Bay Shore Drive) in Peshawbestown, just north of the tribe’s Eagletown Market gas station and convenience store. Currently a county-operated recycling site and a frequently-empty parking lot are adjacent to the proposed building site. The same parking lot would be used for the new hotel/ casino building.

If it is built, the new six-story building will be the tallest in Leelanau County.

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