Okemos Concerns Over College Residents

The prospect of more Michigan State University students moving into the Okemos area have some local residents concerned about the disruptions that would follow.

At the Meridian Township’s Planning Commission Jan. 28 meeting, Burton-Katzman Development Co., Inc. represented by Charles DiMaggio, reintroduced the idea for the Meridian 4 Seasons housing complex which had been refused earlier the previous year. People from the community showed their opposition to the proposal once again, coming out to state their disapproval.

The proposed land development in northern Okemos would require the existing property to be rezoned, creating housing opportunities well suited for students. Some local residents, however, feel that this would bring in groups of students, who would then bring in low-property values and disruptive behavior to the community.

“The primary concern is it creating disharmony within the neighborhood,” said Lynn Ochberg, a board member for the Meridian Township Planning Commission.

Molly Wingrove, a local resident, spoke to the Township Planning Commission about the Dewitt 4 Seasons and the surrounding neighborhood’s descent in quality. Before the commission had met, Wingrove sent a copy of a police report which she later quoted in her public comments.

“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.

Wingrove continued, reading off online reviews of the Dewitt 4 Seasons. “Overall I wouldn’t even give this place a star unless you’re a repo man. I like to call it the ghetto of Dewitt,” read one such rating.

DiMaggio said that despite it being impossible to ensure the apartments would be reserved for current Meridian residents, he said that full-time students would not be able to reside at the Meridian 4 Seasons.

Ochberg, however, later pointed out that the written qualifications for who would be allowed admittance to the building didn’t restrict full-time students provided they lived with a part-time or non-student.

“The main concern with students is that they like to party,” Ochberg said. Ochberg went on to say that the main demographics concerned with disruptive, student behavior were senior citizens in the area along with families with younger children.

Kelsi Franckowiak, an applied engineering sophomore at Michigan State who will be moving off-campus next year into a house off of Hagadorn, gave her views on anti-student sentiments in off-campus neighborhoods.

“I would hope most students would have the sense to not behave too out of control,” Franckowiak said. “There’s a difference between being respectful and out of line.”

Were it to gain approval, the Meridian 4 Seasons complex would be built at the current site of Mobile Home Manor, off of East Grand River Avenue. Okemos residents who attended the meeting were also concerned with the general disharmony the development would produce in the neighborhood, the traffic congestion it would create in the neighborhood, and the already existing difficulties with turning left onto East Grand River Avenue from streets within the community.

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