Safety concerns about balcony delay plan for greek house

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Safety concerns over a 52-foot fenced balcony at a proposed fraternity or sorority house led the East Lansing City Council to reject the idea.

At a Oct. 8 meeting, GTW Investment Properties, LLC, representatives asked the council to approve the site plan and special-use permit for the four-story house at 215 and 217 River St. The 52 foot by 5 foot balcony was to be enclosed by a 42-inch fence. A door would access the balcony. 

house as shown in the meeting

Studio Intrigue Architects

The fraternity/sorority house as shown in the council meeting on Oct. 8. Featured are human models by the entrance, the balcony and the setback in the building on the third story.

Mayor Mark S. Meadows suggested replacing the door with a window so that access is not “clearly encouraged.”

Councilman Aaron Stephens agreed.

“For me, I feel like in these cases, they’re going to find a way. If that’s an outlying roof, they’re going to find a way to get on it regardless and I’d probably just rather have it be a safe space,” he said. He said a four-feet setback required for the third story, where the balcony would be, is a concern. specifically citing the four foot setback as a concern. Architect Ken Jones said the setback for the roof at that height is required by ordinance.

River Street House

Studio Intrigue Architects

An alternative view of the fraternity/sorority house as shown in the council meeting on Oct. 8.

Police Chief Larry Sparkes said the balcony “basically turns into a theater setting. Certain times of the year we have large crowds, we have people that are intoxicated at an elevated setting. It’s usually not a good thing. We’ve had people fall previously, been hurt pretty bad. We’ve also had objects thrown,” he said, asking the council to take this into consideration.

Councilwoman Shanna Draheim proposed eliminating the balcony altogether and leaving the setback in place. Stephens disagreed. 

“If we have any kind of setback there, whether there’s railing, not, four feet or nine feet, if you have any windows nearby it, they’re going to find a way onto it,” he said.

The council rejected the plan and asked for a re-design to eliminate the setback and balcony in the interest of public safety. 

The council also voted to allow Target to sell packaged wine, beer and spirits; and approved the site plan and special-use permit for the Northern United Brewing Company, LLC to establish a brewery, winery, distillery and artisan pizza restaurant at 218 Albert Ave.

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