For the second time in two weeks, a proposal to allow an affordable housing development in South Haven ended in a tie vote, jeopardizing the project’s ability to move past the drawing board stage.
Chicago-based Habitat Co. has spent the past year finalizing plans to build a 144-unit apartment and townhouse development on 5.74 acres of property once occupied by the former factory. ‘Overton.
The South Haven Planning Commission blocked a 4-4 vote on February 16 to recommend Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval for the project. The tie vote put the matter before the city council to decide.
However, last Monday city council members were split 3-3 (with one member absent) on setting up a public hearing on March 7 for the project, meaning the proposal will not go ahead at this stage.
Council members who voted against the proposal expressed concern about the number of proposed housing units, the proximity of the proposed buildings to sidewalks and the company’s request to forego paying for an impact study environment for the site.
“We have planners split on approving this, City Council split, it’s too important for us to come to a conclusion at this point,” Mayor Scott Smith said.
Smith, however, said the city isn’t ready to drop Habitat’s proposal.
“The staff will come back to them and let them know of our concerns,” he said. “We still have some concerns, but not enough information. We hope this will be done at a later date. »
Several other board members have also expressed interest in continuing to work with Habitat Co.
“I hope we can find a way to move forward with Overton’s development,” said Board Member Wendi Onuki. “The community needs affordable housing. I look forward to finding solutions.
Council member George Sleeper expressed similar thoughts.
“Hopefully we can get through this,” he said. “There are a lot of good things with this development.”
A study and a waiver
Sleeper, who voted against the proposal, said his biggest concern was the developer’s waiver request for performing an EIS.
Environmental Impact Studies analyze the impact a proposed development would have on a municipality’s utility systems, fire, police, school services, solid waste disposal, soil, air , groundwater, floodplains, wetlands, noise levels and additional traffic.
Habitat officials said the city, which owns the Overton property, already has much of this information, and conducting a study on its own would cost up to $20,000 and take about two months.
They had hoped city council approval of the project would allow them to apply for tax credits from the Michigan Housing Development Authority by April 1 to help fund the first phase of the project.
In reviewing Habitat’s request for the EIA exemption, city staff agreed that the information was already available.
“The city council acquired this property through a tax foreclosure in 2015, obtained environmental due diligence reports, prepared and implemented an environmental protection plan, demolished an abandoned factory on the site and examined the impacts of a large development on the site. since the 2018 master planning process and developer’s RFP,” Deputy City Manager Griffin Graham wrote in a memo to the planning commission earlier this month.
However, Sleeper and several other dissenting board members believe Habitat should still undertake the study itself since the company is offering to develop the site.
“I don’t see any benefit to forgoing EIS,” Sleeper said. “It’s important to make sure the proposal fits in (for the surrounding neighborhood).”