June 7, 2023 Follow Up To Portage Planning Commission Meeting

City Personnel: Peter Dame, Chief Development Officer; Eric Feldt, Senior City Planner

Citizens: Rick and Mari Wielopolski; 8836 East Shore Dr.

Re: Proposed Austin Landings Development

  • What is the process when a parcel is purchased as a specified zone?
    • A developer has the legal right in MI to request a zoning change from the municipality, irrespective of how the parcel was zoned at time of purchase.
    • The municipality is required to respond; “we don’t wish to change” is not legally acceptable.
  • What is Portage’s process once a request has been made? Please indicate timeline for each step and status of Austin Landings
    • Developer provides a tentative plan which includes narrative and preliminary drawings. Austin Landings plan was received by the City in March 2023.
      • Portage planning office reviews for compliance and responds to developer, typically 3-4 mo. City replied to Austin Landings developer in May with a 6-page document. (Developer is aware of June 6, 2023 City Council actions & meeting and has not commented. The City has recommended developer meet with neighbors.)
      • Developer revises plans to comply; re-submits.
      • Staff reviews and reports to Planning Commission, with or without additional conditions for code compliance. Planning Commission votes for or against, with or without conditions. Public welcome.
      • If the Planning Commission approves, it is presented to the City Council which can state this is a “first reading” and call for a Public Hearing on x date (typically 2 weeks later) at which time City Council would vote yea/nay on approval, including re-zoning.
    • If approved, Developer creates final plan which includes fully engineered site plan; several months.
      • That plan is submitted to the Planning Commission which conducts business as in part a iii, the standard process.
      • If Planning Commission approves, it goes to City Council for final vote.
  • Understanding the Master Plan Strategy yet there are issues and impacts
    • Presented each of the 5 points made to Planning Commission on 5/18
      • 3x traffic, major safety problem
      • Wetland elimination, referenced 2018 flooding, a key issue (this may be the key to reducing the number of single-family homes proposed in Ph 1)
      • Infrastructure concerns (water, police, fire, schools)
      • 5’ access every 5-10 homes; non-negotiable (see pt 4)
      • Home values affected with unilateral zoning change after decades of being marketed as single family only
  • What additional info is there re: easement/access to Austin Lake between homes?
    • City is hiring an attorney so these are Pete’s thoughts, not legal advice
      • 2 different types of “access” normally exist: a) platted; b) public access
      • Platted can be seen on GIS; we reviewed Highland Plat I. These 5’ areas are not owned by the city nor are taxes paid by the 2 homeowners adjacent to the access. It is “owned” by the plat and typically intended for plat users.
      • Any public access has yet to be examined.
  • Communications
    • May 18 Planning Commission meeting gave the appearance of “greasing the skids” for this extremely large project: reduce to 20’ vs 30’ between apartment buildings? Change in review process?
    • At end of May 18 meeting and in writing afterwards, we were told the only communication on Austin Landings would be to neighbors within 300’ and through The Kalamazoo Gazette. This may be consistent with the letter of the law; we’d argue it is not consistent with the intent of the law: let all citizens know what is happening in their community. We are glad the mayor has established this task force; yet, that affects communications on only these two projects. What about all other projects?
    • Would the City consider posting on the website all the projects that are under consideration, denoting what phase they’re in so there is more transparency and a more enlightened citizen base.
Speak up Portage