Public crowds planning commission meeting to protest Walnut Hills development

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The town hall room at Meridian Municipal Building was filled nearly to capacity for Feb. 27’s Meridian Township planning commission meeting. During the meeting’s allotted time for public remarks, nineteen citizens spoke out against Rezoning #16060, the petition that would rezone the land currently occupied by East Lansing’s Walnut Hills Golf Club, 2874 E. Lake Lansing Rd., to allow the new owners to put more residences in a possible housing development there.

The rezoning petition would move the land from a Rural Residential zoning district to a Single Family, Low Density zoning district. According to Steve Schafer, who represented the owners of the Walnut Hills property, Summer Park Realty, LLC, at the meeting, the rezoning would allow the course area to fit nearly 400 residential units. This is nearly double the number that would be allowed under the current zoning, according to a recording of the meeting.

East Lansing resident Sheila Flynn lives in one of the houses bordering the golf course property. She said the new development would place 60 residential units adjacent to the first nine houses on her block south of Lake Lansing Road.

“(The golf course) has been sold, so (the housing) probably will be built, but the difference in the zoning proposal is to make it so much more dense that it’s really going to change the whole flavor of the neighborhood,” Flynn said.

One of the main complaints raised by local residents was the increased traffic that this proposal would cause. The Walnut Hills land is just a mile away from the Park Lake Rd. location where a new Costco will cause increased traffic starting later in 2017, and the potential new housing development would be located across the street from Donley Elementary School.

Traffic will already be tight on Park Lake Rd. and Lake Lansing Rd. near the potential housing development and the upcoming Costco location, but according to a recording of the meeting, planning commissioner Brett DeGroff said the current tentative plan calls for only two entrances and exits onto major streets from the new property.

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“If my kids were going to school right now, and they put in homes, with those two entrances, I’d be so concerned about my kids crossing the street, whether there was a light there, or whether there was no light,” East Lansing resident Rick Gouthro said.

The Meridian Township planning commissioners also explained concerns about the potential rezoning. The petition will be discussed again at the committee’s next meeting Mar. 13, though the planning commission’s straw poll that will deliver their final recommendation to the township board will be delayed until at least the next meeting after that.

“When you rezone a property, people can put anything that that zoning district allows,” said Dante Ianni, Chair of the Meridian Township planning commission. “We just want more information, so we have a better idea of how it’s going to impact our community.”

The final decision on the zoning petition is not coming for at least four weeks, but whether it passes or fails, that is only the first step for the new housing development, according to Meridian Township assistant planner Peter Menser.

“They submit a project…it goes through a similar process to what they went through, public hearing, comments, recommendation by our planning commission, final approval by our township board, and then that’s it. And then, it goes through tight…review, where we really get into the nitty gritty, this drive’s going here…”
In all, Menser said he estimates the process would take until about August if Summer Park Realty, LLC does follow through on its development plans for the Walnut Hills plan.

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