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Public hearing for Kendall Place draws questions, requests

Savanah Kaechele

Contributing Writer

Three public hearings, all regarding final site plan reviews for property additions and improvements, were conducted during the Hastings City Planning Commission’s meeting Monday.

Drawing the most discussion was Kendall Place, the 45-unit housing project proposed as a planned unit development on property bordered by State, Park and Court streets. Kevin Moore attended the meeting to represent developer Nate Heyboer, owner of DHE Plumbing and Mechanical in Hudsonville. Moore referred to the project as one of their first attempts to address the need for housing.

“That’s one of the first things that was said to us when we came into town about a year and a half ago, and I don’t think that’s changed, and I think this is just our first step in addressing some of those needs,” he said.

Moore went over some highlights about the structure with the planning commission, including the benefit of having one of the highest walking scores in the Hastings.

“Within three to five blocks in any direction, the residents of Kendall Place will be able to reach virtually every service the city has to offer,” he said.

After Moore presented information on the project, city consultant Rebecca Harvey commented on the density, set-backs and parking aspects of the final site plan.

“This particular project does not meet your current PUD standards with respect to those three design elements,” she told commissioners. “However, because it is a PUD, you have an overarching provision that allows you to modify any of your standards where you feel the design is appropriate to the site.”

Along with Harvey, resident Dennis James and board member Tom Maurer shared concerns regarding parking.

Having requested information that confirms average parking use data from the K and G Management Company, the national management company that oversees the property, Moore said they decided to go with a 1:1 ratio for parking spaces per unit.

“We reached out to both the national management company and just to make sure that they were correct, we reached out to the Dwelling Place, which is one of the largest developers of this state, and the 1:1 site ratio is what they experience in their developments,” Moore said.

“Let me just ask a hypothetical question. Say you need one and a half [parking spaces] per unit. You’re asking for our direction and our approval tonight, and there’s no real backup plan,” Maurer said. “So, what happens if you don’t have enough parking for the residents there?”

“I don’t know how to answer that question as to what the crystal ball is going to look like. I will say that the management of the units would be in the position to say ‘We have an issue’, so that they would go about solving that issue,” Moore said.

Maurer asked what would be stated in the lease regarding parking availability. Moore said residents would be entitled to one space per unit, which would be listed in the lease.

“I’m at least comfortable with you saying it’s written into the lease because now that puts ownership back on you guys. You have to resolve that if there is a problem; it’s not a city problem,” Maurer said.

Moore said he couldn’t speculate on why it would be a city problem.

“We tried very, very hard to balance the profitability of the project,” Moore said. “Consequently, this was the best measurement or the best balance between getting the proper economics that we have to have with the proper parking spaces.”

Chairman Dave Hatfield concluded comments from commissioners.

“Well I want to thank you for providing the data you provided, I mean we’ve made exceptions before for parking requirements when people have been able to supply us with data that seems to support less than what our requirement may be,” he said.

During public comment, Dr. Robert Schirmer, a retired public health director with the Barry-Eaton District Health Department, expressed concern for health issues regarding the building.

“I’m before the planning commission with two burning public health issues,” Schirmer said. “The first is the burning of tobacco and marijuana, and the second is the burning of fossil fuels.”

He asked the planning commission and developers to consider protections for public health by making Kendall Place a smoke-free housing development. He also suggested using renewable energy sources in place of fossil fuels.

“It’s not allowed in the building, but I don’t think we are allowed to restrict it on the entire site,” Kara Harrison-Gates, a tax credit consultant for the Kendall Place project, said regarding smoking. “We will look into that.”

Agreeing with the suggestion of using renewable energy sources was resident Linnea Stifler, priest at Emmanuel Episcopal Church.

“I want to make the request that renewable energy be considered in not just this building, but other buildings that are in the works for providing greater housing in the community,” Stifler said.

Harrison-Gates explained that although renewable energy is cost-prohibitive, it is still being considered.

Shannon Nagy, senior warden at the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, commented on the design of the building. 

“We have a lot of historic buildings downtown, and to me it doesn’t quite fit,” she said. “I would love to hear more about the materials.”

“We see this as a gateway project into the downtown area,” Moore said, “to try to make it something that honors the past by incorporating the brick. But also this is the first new building in quite some time so instead of it being just another brick building like every other brick building in town, it was requested of us to look outside that and bring a touch of modern into the next era of what Hastings is going to be like.”

The final site plan was approved, noting the three findings that Harvey referred, and will be sent on to the city council.

“Some [of the public comments] are pertaining to this property in particular; others are a much bigger issue,” Hatfield said. “And if nothing else, you have reminded us that as we are looking at our building codes and the master plan perhaps should necessitate further work on our part how we will address those issues.”

In other business, the planning commission:

-Reviewed questions raised by Harvey, regarding pedestrian elements, outdoor lighting and landscaping in the site plan of the properties at 400 W. State St. and 410 W. State St. Eric Butler, of EWB Properties LLC of Grand Rapids, and Jim Ramie, the architect representing Butler, both attended the public hearing. Ramie went through and addressed the questions by proposing a sidewalk addition, giving information on the down-shielded light fixtures, and offering extra signage and paint striping to help guide traffic in regard to the landscape issue.

Hatfield asked if the use of the new structure has been determined.

“No, it’s professional office at this point. I think he’s in the process of looking for tenants, but we don’t have anyone identified at this point,” Ramie said.

“We are really heavily going towards a physician or a doctor’s office of some sort,” Butler added.

The site plan was approved, with specific reference to the issues raised by Harvey.

-Received an update on the master plan from Harvey, who reported that the business growth strategy section is complete, leaving the preliminary plan to be completed in April.

-Approved a request from Todd Porritt regarding a one-year extension on a site-plan approval for property at 133 E. State S. The extension will allow Porritt to open his business, which he estimates will happen by the Barry-Roubaix bicycle race in April.

-Approved and referred the 2020 capital improvement plan to the city council. The plan included the prioritization of structures and improvements on which the commission will be taking action.

“These are the projects that are on there right now,” City Manager Jerry Czarnecki said. “The biggest one being the water and wastewater, with our right around 9.5-million-dollar upgrade that’s going to be happening, so we will be seeing some work on that starting here in the spring.”

The next planning commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 6, in the council chambers at the city hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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