Local leaders tour shoreline property

Development considered for former sawmill, jet fuel storage site

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Local leaders walk the site of an old sawmill in Wells Township along the Lake Michigan shoreline where the Hannahville Indian Community is considering developing 60 acres of land into businesses, housing and a recreational area including a boat launch and a marina.

WELLS TOWNSHIP — Local leaders were updated Friday on a concept to develop vacant shoreline property in Wells Township into businesses, housing and recreational areas being considered by the landowner — the Hannahville Indian Community.

The update included a walking tour of the site in conjunction with a joint governmental meeting which began at Escanaba City Hall.

According to Dave Anthony, representative of the Hannahville Indian Community, the tribe owns about 60 acres along Little Bay de Noc that members are interested in developing into condos and individual housing units to sell with the added attraction of a public recreational area including a marina and a boat launch.

The land is the former site of an old sawmill, a county road commission garage, a log home factory, and U.S. Air Force property, which housed tanks of jet fuel that was pumped to the former K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Gwinn.

A pier, constructed of rock and gravel, which was used as a deep water port to ship the jet fuel to Wells Township, also remains on the property.

Jenny Lancour | Daily Press Dave Anthony, at right, representing the Hannahville Indian Community, speaks to local leaders during a walking tour Friday. Pictured from left are, Delta County Sheriff Ed Oswald, DNR U.P. Regional Coordinator Stacey Welling-Haughey, Waterfront Terrace Bay Hotel co-owner Jen Drown, CUPPAD representatives Peter Van Steen and Richard Smith, Bark River Township Supervisor Gregg Johnson, Escanaba Mayor Marc Tall, Delta County Administrator Ryan Bergman, Escanaba City Manager Patrick Jordan, and Anthony.

The Air Force has cleaned the tank farm property to environmental standards and continues to monitor the land, but the remains of the old sawmill structure, the road commission garage, and the log home business need to be removed, noted Anthony.

He also explained the land would not be put in trust to be held by the federal government but would be used for the development of businesses that would help grow the economy in the area.

For the past decade, the tribe has been looking into financing the construction of water and sewer lines on the property to connect to Escanaba via a proposed bridge across the Escanaba River that could also serve as a bike trail, said Anthony, estimating the project to cost about $1 million.

Hannahville’s infrastructure plan would be committed to working with Wells Township to seek funding to include water and sewer lines for township residents, he added.

“The key has always been… the financial resources are available to areas with the least economic base,” he said.

The creation of the land into housing and recreational areas is currently a general concept that a developer would create into a more detailed plan, said Anthony, adding, “This is going to sell itself. It’s a beautiful piece of property.”

He also explained the development plan would include a bike trail that would connect, in cooperation with the Waterfront Terrace Bay Hotel, to the new non-motorized trail recently constructed between Gladstone and Escanaba.

The land proposal does not include a casino, noted Anthony. The law does not allow for a casino to be built there because the property has not been owned by the tribe since the 1980s, a requirement of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

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Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net