Permits issued, condo development underway in Elmwood Twp.

LEELANAU COUNTY – When asked what he thinks his new development will bring to the community, local developer Paul Starner had a quick answer.

In addition to increasing the township revenue and tax base with a showcase development, Starner said, "it will show other developers that you can deal with highly sensitive (zoning) issues in Elmwood Township."

After a two-year permit and approval process was completed late last fall, the Sapphire Shore development on Crain Hill Rd. off M-22 is going fast. Earth-moving equipment has moved a lot of dirt and many trees have been cut to make way for a clustered condominium development with views of West Grand Traverse Bay.

Starner has been in real estate in northwest Michigan for 30 years, primarily creating and selling land for development.

"I'm a dirt guy, a land guy," he said. "I have never built condominiums."

But when he sat on top of the hill on this 16-acre piece of land, he saw something different.

"The terrain dictated the development," Starner said, and so he has decided to custom place and engineer condos into the hilly landscape. There will be 40 units in total, currently 16 duplexes and 8 stand-alone homes. They are all ranch designs with a walkout lower level.

"I've been fortunate that I can look at raw land and see the end result," said Starner.

Each of the homes will have views of the bay, and the development will have a private dock and 340 feet of frontage. There will also be a common park area and a hiking path encompassing the residential community.

The condos will start at $339,900, which includes a 1,500-square-foot main level floor plan and an unfinished 1,000-square foot lower level plan. For an extra $30K, the lower level can be finished and there are other upgrades available.

The condos have been described as "affordable," and when asked about the price and how they compare with others in the market, Starner referred to the market research.

"It's within reach of those who chose to live on the water," said Starner. In fact, the starting prices are "substantially below the appraised value of $410,000," he added.

The project architect and general contractor is David Whiteford. Whiteford Associates, Inc. of Traverse City has done several projects around town, including the Eagle's Landing development on Old Mission Peninsula, and brings a lot of experience in hillside design, according to Starner.

Starner is a co-partner in Crain Hill L.L.C. with Gary Vandenberg, a real estate broker in Grand Rapids.

"The market for waterfront is still strong and there has been an explosion of condo development in Grand Traverse County," said Starner.

From those same market studies, Starner estimates that 60 percent of buyers will be baby boomers buying their second or third homes. He predicts it will be a mix of local and seasonal residents. A model unit is scheduled for completion in October.

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