Planning Agenda: 2024-02-22

The municipal agenda for the Planning Commission meeting on 2024-02-22 is πŸ‘‰hereπŸ‘ˆ

UPDATE 2024-02-22: The Special Land Use request for 540 Cherry St SE was withdrawn from the agenda by the applicant.

425 Pleasant St. / 535 Church Pl. SW

Full disclosure, the first two developments are in one of my favorite areas of the city - The Triangle District - the area centered on the CSX / Grand Elk (Norfolk Southern) triangle. This is an area which is still comprised of truly deeply mixed uses; and I hope is able to develop, going forward, as an unapologetically urban neighborhood. Also, nowhere in the city is the damage inflicted by MDOT's racist car sewer more stark; the interstate is loud, dirty, out of place, and in the way; while providing no benefit.

This is a request to create a Planned Redevelopment District (PRD) to facilitate the construction of ten (10) duplexes and the reuse of an existing building for mixed uses included childcare, preschool, and office. The development will include a forty eight (48) space surface parking lot.

Why duplexes? It seems odd. Well, since you asked, from the Grandville Avenue Area Specific Plan of 2017:

Housing within this area is scaled to match the existing pattern of single-family detached homes, while also promoting appropriately scaled duplex homes and carriage houses. Front porches, stoops, garden walls, decorative fences, and verdant landscapes define the physical form of this area. . . .  the detached residential land use designation corresponds to the LDR zoning district, with the exception that only duplex would be permitted as an attached dwelling type. Multi-family should not be permitted. Park and civic uses are anticipated. Commercial uses would not be permitted including surface parking lots to support adjacent retail uses

Yikes! πŸ‘Ž Very sad, but it is what it is. This is a good example of why it is critical to pay attention when your city, area, or neighborhood is developing plans as we will all suffer from bad plans. At least this bad plan calls out surface parking lots . . but they are permitted for non-retail uses, as is included in this development.

A detail not clear in either the maps or the views is that the north perimeter of this site is a thirty (30) foot drop down to the railroad right-of-way. This does make the transition from the urban form of the lower elevation to the north and the more Norman Rockwellian form of the proposed development feel less abrupt. Although low height structures on the site do squander the opportunity for some magnificent views and skyline interest. πŸ™

The duplex development of twenty units is substantially less than the density allowed by the existing LDR (Single Family) zoning. The development also provides sufficient off-street parking to satisfy the arbitrary requirements of the current zoning ordinance.

The existing building, previously a public school, at 425 Pleasant St will be converted to mixed office and childcare/preschool use. Some other existing accessory structures on 425 Pleasant St and 535 Church Place will be removed. The church which occupied 535 Church Place was demolished in 2017. Habitat Kent has been using the former school building as an office since 2009.


444 Pleasant St S

This development, also Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, requires a Special Land Use (SLU) in order to construct a five (5) unit townhome building ans a single duplex in the existing TN-LDR (Traditional Single Family) zoning. Construction of attached housing [townhouses] or even a duplex requires Special Land Use in the LDR zone.

This development is explicitly contrary to the Grandville Area Specific Plan of 2017 which states:

the detached residential land use designation corresponds to the LDR zoning district, with the exception that only duplex would be permitted as an attached dwelling type. Multi-family should not be permitted. 

However, the Master Plan's "Future Land Use Map" of 2002 outlines the area for low to medium density, and the "Great Neighborhoods" document specifies a goal of new housing products of a range of types. Confusing? Yes. Doesn't the prohibition of a specific plan win? No. [ or, it doesn't if a well connected and resourced developer is asking. . . ]. When there is a conflict like this, and the developer is someone with the hutzpah to push issue, the Planning Directory gets to decide which parameters control the development. In this case, despite the text of the ASP the Planning Department has determined the intent of the ASP was not to prohibit attached single-family housing. I am pleased a denser form of housing is approved, and at the same time this is a textbook case of the arbitrary, and potentially capricious, nature of modern American zoning.

What does a Planning Director consider when resolving a conflict? Any one or more of the following:

  • Greater consistency with the goals and objectives contained within the Master Plan;
  • Better support for the purposes of the Zoning Ordinance as described in Section 5.1.03. Purpose and Intent, and in the applicable purposes of the conflicting provisions;
  • Increased compatibility with adjacent development and surrounding community character;
  • Enhanced environmental quality and protection of natural resources;
  • Greater protection and preservation of historic and cultural resources; or -Higher quality of building form, design and/or architecture.

Subjective? Arbitrary? Yes, and yes. This illustrates the need for clear, concise, and simpler land-use regulation. The promise made by Zoning is predictability. The currant ordinance, and stack of related plans, do not deliver on the promise. It does not deliver predictability to investors, developers, or residents. One man's "discretion" to another is bias and preference.

The development is well below the maximum density of the sites single-family (LDR) zoning, it also meets the existing lot width requirements for multi-family development - although townhouses are technically not multi-family development. The site meets the current ordinance's arbitrary parking requirements exactly; fourteen (14) parking spaces required, two (2) per units, and fourteen (14) parking spaces are provided.

425 - 427 Eastern Ave SE

This is a Special Land Use (SLU) request to operate a transitional residential facility in an existing dwelling for up to twelve (12) women. The existing property is a ~3,600 detached single unit structure and a surface parking lot. The existing structure was the originally the parish house for Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, relocated from a previous site in 1999.

The current ordinances arbitrary requirement of four (4) parking spaces is exceeded, the site currently has five (5) off-street parking spaces.

Two bedrooms will be added to the basement of the existing structure which will require the installation of egress windows. After renovation the structure will have a total of seven bedrooms; six to be shared by residents and one for the on-site house manager. The operator of the facility is Guiding Light Mission, Inc.

The property is within the walk-shed of both the Rapid #4 and Rapid #5 routes.

Mayoral candidate David LaGrand has submitted a letter to the record in support of the project.

662 Leonard St NW

JugoWest Inc. is requesting both a parking waiver and approval for on-site consumption of alcohol.

The owner intends to operate an indoor pcikleball and virtual golf venue; three (3) pickleball courts, four (4) golf simulators, two (2) lounge areas, a retail space, and restrooms including a shower. All activities will take place indoors and renovations will include acoustic treatment to mitigate sound.

The proposed hours of operation are:

  • 6:00am - 10:00pm, Monday - Tuesday
  • 6:00am - midnight, Wednesday - Friday
  • 7:00am - midnight, Saturday
  • 7:00am - 10:00pm, Sunday

The Building Department has determined the existing structure is unsound and has issued orders that it be either repaired or demolished. The current structure is a one story brick building which occupies the entire parcel. Significant renovation of the facility will be required including facade improvements to comply with city requirements.

The ~6,427sq/ft facility requires sixteen (16) parking spaces; 2.5 spaces per 1,000sq/ft. No on-site parking is available as the site is located in a traditional urban corridor, our predecessors were far too sensible to have had such absurd requirement when this site was constructed. A full (100%) parking waiver is being requested. The site is within the walk-shed of the Rapid #6 and the DASH v3.0; proximity to transit allows a 50% waiver of the arbitrary requirement. Street parking is provided [unfortunately] on both sides of Leonard St, as well as their being an eighteen (18) space municipal parking lot at the intersection of Leonard St and Muskegon Ave.

The West Grand Neighborhood Association has submitted a letter in support of the use.


70 Ionia Ave SW

This request is located in the City Center zone, and thus it has no parking requirements. πŸ™‚ The operator Short Game Projects LLC is seeking approval for on-site alcohol consumption at an indoor nine (9) hole mini-golf course. Bars and lounges require Special Land Use (SLU), even in City Center zones. An indoor mini-golf course is classified as Live Entertainment which is a permitted used in the zone.

Intended hours of operation:

  • 11:00am - 11:00pm, Sunday - Thursday
  • 11:00am - 1:00am, Friday - Saturday

The existing facade of the building will not be changed.


540 Cherry St SE

Withdrawn from agenda

Family Promise of West Michigan is seeking a Special Land Use (SLU) to use an existing residential structure as emergency housing for up to five (5) families. In addition to the emergency residential use the site will also be used to provide a day center for up to six (6) families not in residence. This use is categorized as a "social service facility" and requires Special Land Use in the Neighborhood Office Service (NOS) zone, which is the zone of the property in question.

The site has twenty three (23) onsite parking spaces, and is within the walk-shed of the Rapid #4 and Rapid #5 routes. The parking is super-sufficient for the current ordinance's arbitrary requirements.