KCRC, Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Restaurant agree to work towards agreement in ongoing encroachment dispute

Both parties have agreed to better cooperation in finding a solution to the issue.
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 8:03 PM EDT|Updated: May. 10, 2023 at 7:24 PM EDT
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KEWEENAW COUNTY, Mich. (WLUC) - The Keweenaw County Road Commission (KCRC) board met on Tuesday for a public meeting in Mohawk.

The main topic concerned a dispute over a construction project at the Fitzgerald’s Hotel and Restaurant (the Fitz) on Front Street in Eagle River.

Ground was broken last June on an addition to the business, an enclosure for its smoker and a walk-in cooler.

Now, Fitzgerald’s owner Michael LaMotte says the KCRC is telling him he can’t continue with the process.

“We proceeded with construction, right about until the end of July when we were notified that there might be an issue with the Road Commission,” said LaMotte. “Which was kind of surprising for us because we had been under the impression that we had done our due diligence. We had talked to we had needed to talk to and got the permits that we needed.”

The road commission says the enclosure encroaches on the right of way of Front Street. This, LaMotte says, contradicts what a county zoning official told him, which was that there was plenty of room.

However, the road commission’s attorney, Andrew Spica, says the Fitz was missing one specific permit.

“There are permits required for anyone working within a right-of-way, with certain statutory exceptions,” said Spica. “That means any time you’re doing any kind of construction within a right of way, you have to come to the road commission in advance and seek that permit. Mr. LaMotte did not ever apply for and was never granted a right-of-way work permit in connection with this case.”

The Fitz’s attorney, Ryan Plecha, asserts that Fitzgerald’s had no reason to believe a permit from the road commission was necessary.

“The zoning administrator did inform the applicants that there was plenty of room from the road,” said Plecha. “Based on that, there was no need or inclination that they needed to go anyone at the road commission based on that representation, and the fact that the zoning permit was, in fact, granted.”

A stop work order was issued in August. Communications between both parties have been ongoing since but are confidential.

Three potential resolutions have been proposed by the Fitz’s legal team, but were considered not viable due to liability concerns.

Ultimately, the board agreed to table the topic pending further discussion between the parties. The road commission board also says it will work with the Fitz quickly toward an amicable solution.

“I totally understand that it is a hard position for them to be in,” added LaMotte. “But I hope that we can have a more productive back and forth from here on out.”

We will continue to update this story as it develops.