Hagan Realty made their case before City Council for the rezoning of seven plots on the 700 block of Grove Street during a public hearing at the Sept. 5 meeting. The area would be rezoned from R-2 (medium density single-family residential) to R-32 (center city multiple-family residential) with the goal of constructing denser housing in the area.
Council did not decide on the matter, seemingly wanting more time to consider the rezoning. It instead voted to delay a vote until its next meeting on Sept. 19.
At the June 26 Planning Commission meeting, the motion to recommend approval of the plan to Council failed after a 3-3 vote. The vote followed a lengthy May 10 public hearing that brought several city residents – particularly from the 600 block of Grove Street – to speak against the rezoning.
Hagan Realty says development will be good for the city.
Matt Hagan, representing his East Lansing family business, was direct about the proposal and the criticism it has received from residents of the area.
“I don’t tend to beat around the bushes,” Hagan said. “And I tell it how it is so some people like it, some people don’t. Our intention here is to develop three lots. If we could just rezone our three lots and not the rest of the block and do our development we would do that. It’s not really feasible with setbacks and how typical zoning is handled, so that is the reason for the increase of size of what the rezoning is being requested.
“There’s a lot of debate about whether or not this meets the use or the design of the future master plan,” he said. “To me, I think you’re kind of splitting hairs there, quite frankly. I mean, a city either grows and you get redevelopment and you get more tax base and more density or you don’t…This is not an area that is going to be reverted back to single-family homes. So, in our eyes this is a gamble…we think it’s a smart investment. We think this is an area that is right for redevelopment and it should be done. It would be a benefit to the city as a whole.”
Hagan also responded to worries from 600 block residents that this redevelopment would only increase the presence of college student renters.
“What type of people are going to rent it,” he said, “we cannot discriminate who rents our properties.”
600 block residents still have concerns and speak out against the rezoning and project.
Betty Brown of the 600 block of Grove Street did not have her fears assuaged, however.
“I have two young boys,” she said. “My husband and I love living so close to downtown and I feel very strongly that whatever happens, I really do want to keep the size of things scaled down. And ideally, I would like to see families benefit from this location. I know it’s ideal for college students as well, but having the library so close, the Hannah [Community] Center, the schools, it’s just such a perfect place for families to be.”
“We’ve actually relocated back to East Lansing from Detroit,” said Peter Farancy, who also spoke as a resident of the 600 block. “We’re excited about that move and we did that for a reason of, well, how I grew up here. I grew up in East Lansing. I loved it and I wanted my daughter to experience that same joy. One thing I’ve noticed wonderfully that the city has done is they’ve really kind of started to curtail the neighborhood in regards to how many people are living in the units in those areas and I think it’s wonderful. You can see a huge difference there.”
All Saints Episcopal rector speaks in favor of the development.
The Rev. Kit Carlson, rector of All Saints Episcopal Church at 800 Abbot Road, spoke as a neighbor to the proposed redevelopment to the north. One of the properties being considered, 765 Grove St., was formerly owned by the church and used as a home for its priests.
“The Hagans came to [our church] almost two years ago to talk about their vision for what they might do with these three properties if they were able to acquire them,” Carlson said. “We heard them out and were actually excited about what they were proposing. I’ve been rector of this church since 2007. My office space looks out on the 700 block of Grove Street. I lived myself in 765 Grove St. and three of my associate clergy have lived there subsequently since 2007.
“That block has changed and I believe I’m the only person here tonight who actually spends the bulk of her life on the 700 block of Grove Street,” Carlson said. “There are homes but they are not family homes. They have become student rentals. One of our [church] members lived in a rental house across the street when they first moved here and, when their one-year lease was up, they left because they were trying to raise small children in the middle of a block that is full of students doing studenty things. Our hope with the Hagans’ proposal is that the tenor of a block, which is student rentals and is going to be student rentals, especially with the two sororities at each end, and the fraternity there. The tenor of the block would be improved by a new development.
“We believe the kind of development that they are describing will reduce the kind of misbehavior that we’ve seen because apartments contain students in a way that the rental houses do not,” she said.
After public comment and just before Council considered delaying action until its next meeting, Councilmember Dana Watson asked if she could offer discussion.
“We know that this community is representative of homeowners and renters,” Watson said. “And I’m curious where the renters are and where they would stand with this. It is important that we take into consideration all people that this would impact.”
Disclaimer: This reporter is a member of All Saints Episcopal Church of which Rev. Dr. Kit Carlson is rector.
Correction: This story was updated at 1:57 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023, to clarify that Planning Commission’s motion to recommend approval of the plan to Council failed after a 3-3 vote.