Guest Commentary: Growth in Boyne City not the only option

letters to editor, opinion, column, editorial, guest commentary

BY BOYNE CITY RESIDENT FRANK CARLETON

An opinion on the proposed 30-Acre Rezoning and Ensuing Development

Intro: A local developer (Ted Macksey) is asking for a change in zoning for a 30-acre parcel on Jefferson Street near Vogel from Rural Estate District to Multi Family Residential District, bypassing the less dense step of Single Family Residential. If granted, this parcel could be covered with up to 300 apartments.

 

Many of the opinions expressed in the public meetings regarding this issue have been based on common sense. For example:

• Won’t this hurt my property values?

• Won’t this put a LOT of traffic on what is a fairly rural road?

• Aren’t transient occupied properties typically poorly maintained?

• Do we really want something like Bear Creek apartments in Petoskey to come to Boyne City?

• What about flooding of adjacent homes due to the increase in impermeable cover?

• Don’t the city commissioners have any obligation to protect the existing residents’ quality of life?

• Is growth the only metric by which we can gauge success in our town?

While these are all great questions, it is my observation that they really don’t matter.

The fact is that a developer has legally purchased this property. He has the right to request a zoning change. The city commissioners have a legal obligation to consider his request.

What has been overlooked in the public comments are the criteria (section 2.50) which our city commission must, by law, consider when evaluating this request.

And it is my observation that the commission’s consideration of these criteria has been unfairly based on a desire to achieve an outcome rather than on a fair judgment.

The following statements of criteria and response are from the minutes of the Oct. 17, Boyne City Planning Commission meeting.

Criteria 1:
“The proposed zoning district is more appropriate than any other zoning district, or more appropriate than adding the desired use as a conditional land use in the existing zoning district.” The “answer” was that “the board felt that there was no other area left within the city for a possible development of this size to provide working family / work force housing.”

Carleton’s response:
This ‘answer’ does not address the criteria. Please consider, is it not “more appropriate” to situate residential or rural estate style development in the midst of other residential and rural estate zoned properties, than to bring in high density multifamily housing?
Criteria 2:
“The property cannot be reasonably used as zoned, and the applicant cannot receive a reasonable return on investment through developing the property (as zoned). The answer: “Board members feel that it is not economically feasible to build 75-125 housing units that are affordable.”

Carleton’s response:
Again, this ‘answer’ does not address the criteria. It presupposes that Boyne City must build affordable housing on this parcel.
There are obviously other potential uses for the land that might be economically viable. It is currently being done right next door.

Criteria 3:
“The proposed zone change is supported by and consistent with the goals, policies, and future land use map of the adopted City Comprehensive Plan … if conditions have changed since the Comprehensive Plan was adopted, the consistency with recent development trends in the area shall be considered.” Answer: “The adopted city goals and other meetings have shown that there is a shortage of affordable housing.”

Carleton’s response:
This ‘answer’ does not address the criteria. This proposed zoning change is not mentioned in the City Comprehensive Plan.
Further, it is entirely inconsistent with development trends in the area. This is an area of single family and rural estate development, not apartments. Once again, there is a pre-determined insistence that affordable housing be built on the land.

Criteria 4:
“The proposed zone change is compatible with the established land use pattern, surrounding uses and surrounding zoning in terms of land suitability, impacts on the environment, density, nature of use, traffic impacts, aesthetics, infrastructure and potential influence on property values, and is consistent with the needs of the community.” Answer: “At the time of the site plan review, all of these impacts will be addressed with the Planning Commission and various impact studies can be requested”

Carleton’s response:
This ‘answer’ completely dodges the question. High density multifamily housing is completely at odds with the ‘nature of use’ of the area, and will have devastating effects on property values.
Once this zoning change is granted, the genie is out of the bottle.
The compatibility of this zoning change must be considered before it is granted, not after the fact. We don’t need to “pass it to see what’s in it.” That has been tried.
Criteria 6:
“The change would not severely impact traffic, public facilities, utilities and the natural characteristics of the area, or significantly change population density.” Answer: “Because these 30-acre properties have been vacant, no matter what type of development gets built there will be an impact on the area.”

Carleton’s response:
This answer is almost comical in its non-applicability. Putting up 300 apartments is totally and unquestionably going to severely impact the natural characteristics of the area and will by definition significantly change the population density. Again, the desire to build affordable housing is over-whelming any sense of impartiality or fairness.

In closing:
The next board meeting that will address this issue is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2017.
I urge the public to attend and ask your city commissioners if they are rendering an impartial opinion based on the criteria that they must consider. To the city commissioners, please consider if there is not a better way to keep Boyne City a small happy town. Growth is not the only answer, and you have an obligation to all the citizens of Boyne City, not just the business owners.