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Hancock OKs Navy Street grant application

HANCOCK — The Hancock City Council approved a grant application that could help ensure uninterrupted public access along a stretch of Hancock’s waterfront.

The 6-0 vote came at a special meeting Tuesday that also saw the council approve a lot split and a new logo for the city.

The Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant money would be used to purchase four lots on Navy Street — one 1.2-acre parcel owned by Carmody-Lahti Real Estate and three of 1.3 acres owned by Finlandia University. Part of the land is along the city’s waterfront.

“This could be a wonderful victory for the city and for all the residents of the city to complete our access to a waterfront trail that would go effectively from the bridge to the campground area,” said Councilor John Haeussler.

Public response has been “very favorable” to obtaining the Carmody-Lahti property, said City Manager Mary Babcock. Getting formal public access to the site has been a decades-long goal for the city.

Hancock has temporary easements with Finlandia for its parcels, which are still up for sale.

“If something comes along and they purchase it, then our grant would be amended to reflect the sale of that property,” Babcock said. “Thing can change, and they might change in this application, but I think we have a pretty solid application to submit on Thursday.”

The MNRTF grant would cover up to $171,680. The city’s match would be 26% of the total project cost, up to $60,320. The money would be spent in the 2022-23 fiscal year.

The issue was tabled at the last council meeting so the city attorney could clarify if the purchase was necessary to maintain public access. One concern was the possibility of obtaining a prescriptive easement due to the longtime informal use of the property and maintenance performed by the city.

Mayor Pro Tem Will Lytle, one of two members who had questioned the legal need for the purchase and the financial feasibility, said his concerns had been addressed.

The grant could still ultimately be unnecessary if new owners donated the property or sold it at a lower rate, he said.

“It’d be a great synergy with our property next door, so it’s not just the access, it’s that continuity along the shoreline that can ensure we have the right sort of (recreational) development in that area,” such as lookout points or birdwatching areas, he said.

The vote was 6-0 in favor, with Councilor Whitney Warstler absent from Wednesday’s meeting.

The council also:

• Approved a new logo for the city.

• Approved a lot split at 444 Hancock Ave to change the legal definition of the lot. The front porch of the house of the property is listed on the tax card of the neighboring property, which has a garage. The properties are being sold separately. The adjacent garage property will also receive a separate address, 446 Hancock Ave.

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