Developer seeks approval for new Okemos housing development

Development of land in northern Okemos was one of three main topics discussed by the Meridian Township Planning Commission Monday, Jan. 28.

Burton-Katzman Development Co., Inc. represented by Charles DiMaggio at Monday night’s Planning Commission meeting, is seeking recommendation from the Planning Commission to rezone Mobile Home Manor, located off of East Grand River Avenue. Provided the company gets approval, it plans to develop the rezoned land into a housing development called the Meridian 4 Seasons, creating new residential opportunities.

The commission also discussed the relocation of a transmission tower in wetlands located north of the Ponderosa subdivision, and construction of a proposed mixed-use development that would house commercial and residential structures north of Saginaw Highway.

Discussion over the mixed-use planning unit remained relatively calm, focusing largely on the written qualifications for the structure. Discussion regarding the transmission tower also stayed civil, the only disputes being whether or not a less disruptive route could be used to access the tower and the suggestion of rerouting the river rather than moving the tower.

Doug Gowan, a concerned citizen, suggested that since the river has moved since the first tower was built, it maybe prudent to alter the river back to its original path rather than moving the tower and risk disturbing the wetlands.

The rezoning request by Burton-Katzman Development Co., Inc., was the most discussed issue of the night.

Over the course of the meeting, several locals expressed unfavorable sentiments regarding a rezoning of the area. Six Okemos area residents, along with members of the Planning Commission board, voiced concerns over what the development of the Meridian 4 Seasons would mean for the community.

The main concerns of residents were disruptive behavior from full-time college students moving into the rentable units, the complications of a new access road to Grand River Avenue, and the overall quality of the neighborhood.

The 9.94 acres in question is currently zoned either as commercial or duplex space. Should the company’s rezoning request be approved, the area will be rezoned as a Multiple Family-Medium Density area, creating space that would appeal largely to college students. Many residents are uncomfortable with the idea of a potentially younger and disruptive group of individuals moving into the area.

Molly Wingrove, spoke about the Dewitt 4 Seasons’ disruptive history to support her concerns regarding the proposed development.

“Records indicate that 346 police calls were received from this complex over that 12 month period, ranging from 911 hang-up calls, loud noise, party, malicious destruction of property and trespassing.” Wingrove said, regarding a Dewitt police report she sent to the Planning Commission prior to the meeting.

DiMaggio said full-time college students would not be allowed to reside in the housing units. In response, Lynn Ochberg, a board member of the Meridian Planning Commission, read aloud documents regarding the qualifications for prospective residents in Meridian 4 Seasons, reading that a full-time student would be allowed to live there, provided the student was living with a part-time or non-student.

Ochberg then spoke on how the township’s community goals could be rearranged to be seen from any perspective, comparing it to ordering from a Chinese menu, emphasizing that perspective determines whether or not something would be good for the Township. “Our master plan and township goals are like a Chinese menu,” Ochberg said. “You can find from Column A and Column B to support whatever you want.”

Community members also had issues with traffic complications that could result from building the new structure. Several individuals expressed concerns with the danger of turning eastbound on Grand River Avenue from the current location of Mobile Home Manor, and asked what the new rezoning will do to fix that. DiMaggio offered the assurance of a new road making travel easier.

The road will be constructed with the cooperation of neighboring businesses, who DiMaggio says have provided verbal compliance but has yet to make any written agreements which need to be presented before the Planning Commission. Others worry that such a road would create traffic problems within the community from people using it to cut through the area.

The matter regarding the Meridian 4 Seasons was only in discussion Monday night and will be explored further at future meetings of the Meridian Planning Commission. Planning Commission meetings take place on the second and fourth Monday of every month.

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