Pearl Street Mall setback variance OK’d

Garrett Neese/Daily Mining Gazette Derek Bradway shows the Houghton Zoning Board of Appeals a sketch for a proposed residential area to be constructed on top of the Pearl Street Mall.

HOUGHTON — The Houghton Zoning Board of Appeals approved a rear-yard setback variance at the Pearl Street Mall property Wednesday with a condition limiting any building on the property to 40 feet high.

Developer Derek Bradway sought a variance to enable him to build a multi-story residential structure on top of the existing building. The new structures would require structural columns north of the existing wall of the Pearl Street Mall.

The variance would reduce the setback requirement from 7.7 feet to 3 feet.

The council approved the restriction on height for the whole building despite word from city attorney Paul Tomasi that restricting height solely within the changed setback area would stand up better to legal scrutiny. Board member Mike Needham, who proposed the height restriction, said the wider restriction would prevent a height that would not fit the neighborhood.

“I could certainly see a situation where it’s three stories on the back and four stories on the other side of the hallway with no doors on one side,” he said.

The variance request passed 4-1, with board member Buck Foltz voting in opposition.

“I’m shocked this is here today,” he said. “I cannot possibly believe that was ever the intent for that spot, for that mall, that area or anything else. In my opinion, that lacks integrity.”

The building is zoned B-2, and abuts the recently created R-4 district, created in part to encourage higher-density residential areas. In the event someone owned lots 1 through 5, and then lot 6, they would be able to count that lot as part of their setback if the lots are combined into one, Tomasi wrote Waara. The height on buildings in B-2 are governed by their setback from a residential district.

“If someone purchased lot 6, you essentially add 50 feet, so now we go from 34, 35 to 84, 85,” Waara said. “That is the allowable height under the zoning ordinance.”

Bradway said he had not settled on a height for the building.

The board unanimously approved a variance request to correct what Waara called an administrative oversight from the original zoning of the Pearl Street Mall in 2005. Lots 4 and 5 were omitted from the Zoning Board of Appeals hearing and variance then; several existing variances were approved.