The East Lansing Planning Commission held three public hearings on Wednesday evening, one to discuss changing a Special Use Permit at 1100 Trowbridge Road and two others related to the proposed construction of a hotel at 3225 West Road, on the City’s northwest side.
Since all three items were public hearings, as is standard practice, no actions were taken and all three will come back at future meetings for the Planning Commission to decide then whether to recommend the proposals to City Council. Council will make the ultimate decisions.
The 1100 Trowbridge Road public hearing dealt with fencing materials amid a question of who owns the fence.
First on the business docket at the meeting was a public hearing to change a condition of approval on the Special Use Permit (SUP) for 1100 Trowbridge Road. The condition requires that the property owner construct a brick or concrete fence to connect two other fences that are made of a mix of brick and concrete.
As it turns out, the applicant and property owner — the Boji Group, which runs the SpringHill Suites on the property at 1100 Trowbridge Road — didn’t build a brick or concrete fence, but instead rebuilt a wood fence that had been connecting the two other walls made of masonry. This was despite the final site plan showing that a brick or concrete wall would be constructed.
Terri Fitzpatrick, speaking for the Boji Group, explained that after Council set that condition, an issue arose with the neighbors — Arbor Forest Apartments — about whose property the fence is on.
The survey included in the agenda packet shows it being on the SpringHill Suites/1100 Trowbridge parcel, and Fitzpatrick said on Wednesday that her company believes it to be about three feet onto the Boji Group’s property.
But Fitzpatrick also told the Planning Commission that there hasn’t been a resolution with Arbor Forest and their representatives — who Fitzpatrick said insist the fence is on their property.
In the interest of being good neighbors, Fitzpatrick said, the Boji Group and Arbor Forest agreed that the Boji Group should rebuild the wooden fence, like it was before. And they did, ignoring the condition put forth by City Council in 2017.
Now, the Boji Group is seeking to change that condition and keep the wooden fence, rather than trigger a potential legal quagmire with Arbor Forest. The matter will come back before the Planning Commission on July 14. Before then, it will go to the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance because the wooden fence is eight feet tall and the limit for the current zoning is six feet.
Neither Arbor Forest nor its lawyer came and spoke at Wednesday’s meeting. City Staff said they had been given proper notice.
Additionally, Planning Commission held two public hearings about a potential hotel development at 3225 West Road.
The first hearing was specifically about rezoning the lot in question from RA (Residential Agricultural District) to B5 (Retail Sales Business District), which would allow for the construction of the hotel.
Paul Duncan of Concord Hospitality, the company attempting to buy and develop this plot of land, spoke briefly during the first hearing to say the rezone fits with the C3 zoning that is expected to eventually come with the implementation of the City’s Master Plan.
Larry Dalman of Haslett called in to express his support for the project. He stated that he knew the person who currently owns the land, and that they have been trying to sell it for fifteen years. He said he supported the hotel, which he thinks is good for the area, but expressed his desire to see a Cracker Barrel there instead. He mused that it could be a later development in front of the hotel.
Additionally, an investor for the project, Paul Novak, spoke to share his support of the project. Novak said that, despite him calling in from Key Biscayne, Florida, he had Lansing roots and attended East Lansing schools before attending Michigan State University.
After the first public hearing, Planning Commissioner Chris Wolf stated that he doesn’t oppose the development, but worried about the potential impacts of placing a hotel in what would be C3 zoning.
Wolf first read aloud a portion of the description of C3 from the City’s Master Plan: “The intent of this land use category is to expand the City’s employment industry and provide a land use category flexible enough to accommodate employment clusters (geographic groupings of businesses that are in similar industries). One such example is information technology which might include businesses related to computer hardware or software design, engineering, manufacturing, wholesaling and other related ventures.”
“So, this is the one area where we have the most develop-able land and our hopes in the master plan were for some sort of integrated development that could take advantage of the big expanses of land there,” Wolf explained, “and this just illustrates, since we have not rezoned to that yet — we’re stuck with our old zoning — and there’s obviously demand for other types of development that’s basically the same as we already have.”
Wolf went on, “We have another hotel just a quarter mile or less down West Road from this. That’s going to be the kind of development we get and it does fit in our current zones. So again this is probably a good project, rezoning it is probably the right thing to do. [I am] just pointing out that, it means at least in this part of the proposed C3, we won’t be able to accomplish what we were hoping with that district.”
At the next public hearing — which was about the site plan for the hotel — Duncan, the developer’s representative, pushed back a little bit on Wolf’s concerns, noting the hotel proposed to be built there will be for extended stays.
As Duncan described it, the hotel there would fill a niche in providing affordable room rates for longer stays. He said this could be a place where construction workers, traveling nurses, or even tech workers might stay for a few weeks at a time when they’re in town for work.
Duncan said he sees “a strong need” for this in East Lansing.
Both the rezoning ordinance and site plan are expected to come back before the Planning Commission as business items at future meetings.