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Planning commission gets plans of anticipation, and mystery

 

Doug VanderLaan

Contributing Writer

Not everyone wanted to show their cards at Monday’s monthly meeting of the Hastings Planning Commission. The only one of three developers who did, Kevin Moore of Kendall Place, the Grand Rapids-based group planning a three-story, 45-unit housing project on vacant, city-owned property bordered by South Park, West Court and West State streets, sounded like he wanted to play an open hand.

“We’re looking forward to doing something good here, and that’s why we’re here tonight, to listen to your ideas and suggestions about this site plan as we move ahead,” Moore said. “We want to give you a quality building. And with your help and input, we can do that.”

Moore’s presentation Monday was listed on the agenda as an unofficial site plan review of what’s been called the Court Street Planned Unit Development ordinance. Planning commission members were able to provide input and offer suggestions but were not able to take any action on the Kendall Place plans. Though Moore indicated that additional planning commission input may be requested, ultimately, a final site plan would be recommended for approval by the planning commission to the Hastings City Council which would make a final resolution.

Kendall Place holds a $5,000 purchase option on the property and has until Dec. 31 to exercise the option and purchase the property at $77,000. The property that has been on the market for 10 years carries an assessed value of $200,000.

Moore, a partner in the Kendall Place group along with principal Nate Heyboer, owner of DHE Plumbing and Mechanical in Hudsonville, have been down this road before. A plan for a three-story, 41-unit apartment structure to be built on the former Moose Lodge property at 128 N. Michigan Ave. was turned down in August by the city council, which awarded the project o A.J. Veneklasen, also a Grand Rapids developer.

After a phone call from the city’s community development director, Dan King, the day after losing out on the project planned for 128 N. Michigan Ave., Moore and Heyboer returned to Hastings to consider the possibilities at the new site. Based on Moore’s comments Monday, the Kendall Place group may be feeling even happier with the current cards in its hand.

 “It’s going to be more costly,” Moore said of relocating the project, especially since hoped-for funding at the Michigan Avenue site from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority will not be possible at the new location, “but it’s going to be a way better site for what we want to do.”

Primarily, the new site will allow an increase of four additional housing units and room for parking, which was the failed linchpin in the plan rejected by the city council in August. Moore told planning commissioners Monday that project architects had come within three parking spaces of a 1:1 ratio between unit numbers and available parking spaces.

Asked by planning commission Chair David Hatfield about the possibility of public, onsite parking along the streets bordering the proposed development, King replied that such parking “would be subject to the [city’s] parking ordinance that states no parking between 3 and 6 a.m. There is parking allowed on all those streets outside of those hours.”

Moore also mentioned that Kendall Place planners had approached the county regarding availability of spaces in the lot of the Friend of the Court building on State Street and Broadway.

Commissioners also had questions regarding the site’s topography, asking for possible thoughts on leveling off the property at its high point on Court Street to the west end of the property. That discussion then transitioned into how the project would be visually presented to neighbors, including the possible use of brick wall fronting or screens of some type.

“I think what’s significant is how we transition from the commercial district on State Street to the residential neighborhoods bordering Court and Park streets,” Hatfield said. “I hope we can be open to some creativity in how that gets done.”

Following up on Hatfield’s subsequent observation of the irony in the unfortunate circumstances surrounding Kendall Place’s inability to access MSHDA funding but how its project meets MSHDA objectives for new housing having access to public services, Moore used it to buttress his contention that the Kendall Place needs planning commission input.

“What does that central business district look mean to you?” Moore asked.

Planning Commission member John Resseguie laid down the mandate: “Just make sure it looks good in our downtown.”

A local real estate investment group also may be making plans to dress up the area, but two principals of Par-Tee Real Estate LLC chose to keep their cards close to the vest Monday while requesting that the planning commission hold a public hearing on rezoning land adjacent to The Legacy at Hastings golf course on North Broadway.

Though attorney Nathan Tagg carried under his arm what appeared to be site plans and offered to take questions from commissioners, none were posed. Tagg and partner Tom Watson also deferred comment on possible future plans as they departed, citing the courtesy of meeting with neighbors first, “before they start reading about changes in the newspaper.”

Documents filed by Par-Tee Realty with the city requesting a zoning change from rural-suburban to rural-residential, specifically identifies a portion of land on the northeast section of the property, running north along the current access drive off North Broadway. Currently owned by Flexfab Horizons Inc., the property is identified in a $260,000 purchase agreement made between Par-Tee Real Estate and Flexfab Horizons and filed with the rezoning paperwork. The agreement is contingent upon Par-Tee receiving the rezoning request from THE City

As outlined by Tagg and Watson, the rural-residential rezoning would allow future hookup to city water and sewer. In making the request, Par-Tee also noticed that four nearby privately owned homes and parcels are also still zoned rural-suburban and also would benefit from the opportunity to hook up to city water and sewer if they were included in the rezoning request.

The planning commission scheduled a public hearing on the rezoning request as part of its next monthly meeting Feb. 3.

The final development team, represented by Mike Markey and Nicole Smith, also held their cards close in asking for a one-year extension of a site plan review originally made by the planning commission Feb. 4, 2019. Ravenna Holdings of Lansing had been planning townhome construction on property in the 600 block of East Woodlawn Avenue.

After the commission approved the request, Hatfield noted to local representatives Markey and Smith that the one-year extension is “the maximum we can approve. You need to understand that our hope is [the project] moves along expeditiously.”

In other business, the planning commission:

•      Held a public hearing, offered but heard no public comments, and approved on a 9-0 vote an amendment to the city code changing the number of zoning board of appeal members from six to five members. “After this, it goes to the city council for a first reading next Monday and a second reading on the last Monday in January,” Hatfield noted.

•      Made changes to planning commission bylaws described by Hatfield as primarily housekeeping. Among the changes approved was a directive to hold election of officers at the first meeting of the new year, which was conducted as Monday’s meeting concluded. By unanimous motion and approval, Hatfield was again appointed as chairperson and Tom Maurer as vice-chairperson. “I didn’t plan to accelerate consideration to omit anyone else interested in serving,” Hatfield said, noting the immediate action necessitated by the approval of the bylaw revisions moments earlier. “I thank you for your confidence. It’s something I certainly enjoy doing, and I look forward to serving you all again in the new year.”

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