MERIDIAN TOWNSHIP- The Lodges Phase II Development was approved at the June 19th Township Board Meeting. The meeting lasted over five hours and required additional seating in the lobby to accommodate the large number of residents who came out to speak and listen to the discussion. There was a great amount of opposition to the development by residents of the neighboring community, Indian Lakes Estates. However, there was not much feedback from the township as a whole whether they were for or against the project or not.
The Lodges Phase II Development is for student housing apartments located on Hannah Boulevard. There is already Phase 1 of the Lodges of East Lansing developed. This is an expansion of that project.
In order for the development to begin construction it has to have three items approved by the Board. These items include the Mixed Use Plan Unit Development Permit, Wetland Permit, and Special Use Permit. At the meeting two of the three items were approved. The Mixed Use Plan Unit Development Permit was approved along with the Wetland Permit which permits discharge of runoff into a wetland litigation area. The third approval needed is for the Special Use permit for permission to construct over 25,000 square feet. Currently the development is 146,000 square feet. At the meeting, the board voted 3 yes and 4 no to this permit. Currently, construction on the development can not begin because it still needs the majority vote for the approval of the Special Use permit. According to John Veenstra, Township Trustee, he does not think that the Project Developers will change the square feet in order to gain approval. He said, “I hope that motion will be reconsidered at the next board meeting and voted on again. Hopefully it will be passed at that meeting. Because the project can not go forward without approval of all three permits.”
Indian Lakes Estates Opposition
Right away, it was clear that this is a complex decision and has brought up many issues. Starting with the flooding in Indian Lakes Estates. Residents there are worried about the new development affecting them negatively because they are already experiencing flooding and an increased water table in their backyards. The neighborhood is already surrounded by a forested floodplain and about 30 percent of the neighborhood is in the 100 year flood plain, according to Ingham County Drain Commissioner, Pat Lindemann. Therefore, some residents are already paying for flood insurance. They have been noticing over the past two years that the water table has been rising in their backyards.
Red Cedar Log Jam
At the Township Board meeting on May 15th, many residents of the neighborhood came to the meeting to express what has been going on in their backyards. It was at that meeting that Lindemann brought attention to one of the root problems, which was a log jam in the Red Cedar River. He said that he would make sure that these logs were removed. After these logs are removed, the water table should lower by 2-3 feet. This will decrease the problem in the neighborhood.
Effects of Red Cedar Log Jam
This jam in the river has been caused by construction and a number of other factors. It is not natural, Lindemann clearly stated that this change in the ecosystem is happening prematurely not naturally. The trees in the actual jam fell over because of a loosening in the banks of the river. They could not stand and eventually fell. The trees kept falling until it created a jam which led to many other problems like the increase in the water in the neighborhood.
This increase in the water table is causing the trees in the neighborhood to become over saturated and fall over as well. The trees are still alive and should not be falling over. Therefore, this increase in the water table is causing the ecosystem to change prematurely. This change is also affecting wildlife. Since the ecosystem is changing it is causing an increase of deer in the neighborhood. Austin Chapman, a resident of Indian Lakes Estates said, “Two years ago we never saw any deer in this neighborhood. Now at night we have to put our brights on because we might be hitting a deer.”
In addition, some trees are falling over onto homes. One resident spoke at the May 15th board meeting said she had over $80,000 of damage to her home when a tree fell onto it as she and three others were playing cards in her living room. Furthermore, another woman did not have to buy flood insurance when she first bought her home. Now, her house has been inspected and she receives a bill for an extra $2,000 a year she has to pay in insurance. These residents are also worried about their property value of their homes decreasing which would affect future selling.
At the meeting on June 19th, residents expressed other concerns in addition to flooding. Residents of Indian Lakes expressed concern over not wanting to live next to student housing. Township Trustee Veenstra said, “They need to expect to have students live in their community because it is next to a university. A majority of residents are employed by the university and you cannot have a university without students.
Construction is expected to begin on the student housing apartments, the Lodges Phase II located off of Hannah Boulevard in late August or early September. However, preparations for the site will begin before that. The logs in the log jam are expected to be removed in July. The third approval of the Special Use Permit required for the project will be voted on again at the next Township Board meeting on July 3rd, 2012.
The full interview with Indian Lakes Resident Austin Chapman is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDlMdE8XlCA&feature=youtu.be.
Part one of two interviews with Ingham County Drain Commissioner Pat Lindemann in the backyard of an Indian Lakes Estate home is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwx9wBsXkLs&feature=plcp
and the second part of the interview taken place at the site of the Red Cedar Log Jam is available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TDlEVrcC1c&feature=plcp