Planners OK condo variance despite residential backlash

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

STEVENSVILLE — A planned unit development variance recommended for approval Monday may lead to a large condominium development in Lincoln Township.

Greg Fenner, owner and developer of Fenner Homes, applied for the PUD variance with the Lincoln Township Planning Commission to build condominiums along Maiden Lane. The project would be between Lincoln Avenue and Hollywood Road, a little ways east of Upton Middle School and south of Maiden Lane. The project is called Maiden Lane Cottages. It includes 78 condos in 39 buildings.

The variance was met with opposition at Monday’s public hearing, as more than 40 residents were in attendance with questions concerning the site’s drainage, traffic access to Maiden Lane, and whether neighboring property values would be affected.

Fenner and the project’s engineer said the condo development would include a private road with an entrance and exit flowing into Maiden Lane. Site plans called for each building to have a two-car attached garage. The condos would face the private drive, circling a man-made pond in the center of the 19-acre property.

The condos – varying in size from about 1,200 to 1,600 square feet – would be raised at the front to allow water to drain toward the 10- to 15-foot deep pond.

Residents insisted neighboring houses will still get water drainage from the backside of the condos.

Commissioners agreed, but said the houses would get excess water with or without the condos being built. Planning Commission Chairman Mike Freehling made the observation that if the condos are built, there would be less water flowing out, with the majority draining inward toward the pond.

Fenner said the plan was to include the pond for aesthetic reasons and for drainage issues. The pond does not call for a fence around it.

“It’s a low area (in the middle),” he said after the meeting. “With the pond being lower, you drain everything into it, so it can overflow into the county drain.”

Fenner showed a short video at the beginning of the public hearing to show what the condos would look like. He told residents who were worried about short-term renting, that the condos are only for sale.

“The condos are not for rent,” he said. “I am willing to put something in the bylaws with the condominium association that would prevent anyone from buying a condo and renting it later.”

The condos would be available to all ages and not just senior citizens, Fenner said. The exterior maintenance of the property – including snow shoveling and lawn care – is expected to be handled by the local condominium association.

Fenner said this project comes after he initially approached the township 10-15 years ago with the idea of building a 156-unit apartment complex in the same area.

However, the property was not properly zoned then.

“Over the years, I’ve built a lot of houses. Now people want their house downsized because the kids are gone,” Fenner said. “The zoning for this land has changed. I feel this is exactly the type of project the township needs.”

If approved by the Board of Trustees, the site will be rezoned from Neighborhood Residential district to Planned Unit Development. Upon board approval, Fenner said construction could begin by June. The Board will also hold a public hearing before taking a vote.

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on March 1, 2016)

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