East Lansing residents met once again on the evening of Tuesday July 20 hoping to conclude the debate over a proposed development at 1525 West Lake Lansing Road.
The East Lansing City Council meeting lasted about six hours, two of which were wholly devoted to discussing Ordinance No. 1240. Countless residents of Coolidge Road stepped forward to discuss the proposed development, with most speaking in opposition.
“The idea of any form of retail operations at the location that is now being discussed would be unacceptable,” said East Lansing resident J. Morris Hickman. “We believe that further retail operations in that area are neither necessary nor desirable. To sum it up, we’ve had enough.”
During previous meetings, CADDIS Development applied for conditional rezoning of the property, requesting a change from B-4 office development to B-2 commercial and retail development. During the July 20 meeting, however, CADDIS changed their request from B-2 to B-5, which is under the community retail sales business district.
“I thought it was in the best interest of trying to keep this thing alive and a viable project, because I think everybody agrees something should be done there,” said Kevin McGraw, President of CADDIS Development. “I’m trying to meet everybody halfway, and the best I could do was to try to offer this to go from B-2 to B-5.”
With the change to B-5 would come numerous restrictions on land use: It would prohibit the construction of any gas stations, car washes, fast food restaurants (with or without a drive-through) and would prohibit any proposed pharmacy from having operating hours past midnight.
Many residents also expressed concerns about noise from the development and a potential for increased traffic in the area. In order to combat these concerns, McGraw came up with a solution of his own.
“I am concerned about traffic,” McGraw said. “That’s why we hired a professional traffic engineer. They unanimously concluded that there was not a detrimental impact from our development.”
However, McGraw’s reassurance did not seem to increase the confidence of residents.
“While the traffic report doesn’t indicate any significant traffic increase, why would we bother with this development if we don’t expect any new business?” said East Lansing resident Maureen Power. “We have all chosen to live in East Lansing for a reason. Compromising our neighborhoods is not one of those reasons.”
Although McGraw has stated that he requested the change to B-5 zoning in order to â€œbe responsive to neighborhood concerns,” many residents saw McGraw’s request as an unfair, strategic move.
“If the developer wants to do it again, let him re-submit it,” said East Lansing resident Don Power. “We are still willing to support our city, but we’re not going to have our backs put up against the wall by a developer.”
One local business appeared at the meeting to show support for the proposed development.
“I think some of the perceived problems are being overstated,” said Steve Montanye, owner of the Spartan Hall of Fame CafÃ© on West Lake Lansing Road. “The building [at 1525 West Lake Lansing Road] has been vacant for three years. It’s pretty well maintained considering it’s vacant. But it is vacant, and it’s not the same facility it was several years ago. And a big part of me says if this doesn’t go through, what will follow?”
Jason Kildea, East Lansing resident and employee of Lansing-based development company, the Gillespie Group, expressed similar sentiments.
“To my understanding, there has not been any solidified offer up until Kevin [McGraw’s] interest in the property,” Kildea said. “You’re going to have to do something with this property, and if not this, what will it be? What do we want to see there? Because I think hopes and dreams may not match up to reality.”
Mayor Loomis expressed concerns about questionable language regarding the rules of conditional rezoning. Council Member Nathan Triplett echoed the Mayor’s concerns regarding the language, as well as the proposed changes by CADDIS Development.
“I don’t think any of us have made it a secret from the beginning of the discussion that these conditional rezoning agreements are a complicated thing to manage,” Triplett said. “I think the truth of the matter is that it is our job as the legislative body for the community to struggle with them, and that means that we need to put a process in place that we think will best accomplish providing opportunities for citizen employment, and to have a thorough review process to come to a conclusion.”
Triplett was one of several council members who supported accepting CADDISâ€™ proposed amendments to the application.
I don’t think that the applicant’s proposal this evening is a game,” Triplett said. “I think it’s an attempt, whether or not the neighbors perceive it as such, to make a good faith effort to address some of those concerns. I think procedurally the best way to move forward is for us to amend the ordinance that’s before us to incorporate the proposed changes and then to go back to the planning commission so that they can give it a full vetting.”
CADDIS Development’s request to amend Ordinance No. 1240 was approved by the city council, however a final decision on the proposed development has yet to be reached. The application will return to the East Lansing Planning Commission on September 21 for further review.