Greenville Planning Commission tables Forest View PUD request

By Curtis Wildfong • Last Updated 11:01 am on Friday, November 15, 2013

GREENVILLE — The Greenville Planning Commission tabled a decision Thursday on a request to rezone an area that is part of a planned use development (PUD) district to residential while commissioners look into potential impact on the zone’s residents and obtain a legal review.

The commission received a rezoning request from Mark Lehman, who is a Greenville City Council member, on a 25-acre piece of land part of Forest View condominium development along Greenville West Drive he purchased in a tax sale.

The parcel is part of a 57-acre zone designated in as the Forest View PUD in 2004 as part of an agreement between the city and a developer for a condominium neighborhood. The plan in 2004, according to city planning consultant Tim Johnson, was set up to develop up to more than 300 units, including apartments, condos, duplexes, four- and six-unit houses and single family homes. Since that time, only a small percentage has been built and much of the land was auctioned at tax sale.


Time to move on from “failed” plan?

Lehman purchased around 30 acres of the PUD land, five of which he said he has an agreement with a Realtor to market and fill seven duplexes (14 housing units) as originally planned in the 2004 development agreement. Those five acres, as well as the remaining approximately 28 acres not auctioned, would remain in the PUD, Johnson said.

The portion of land included in the rezoning request was originally planned to house around 119 residential units of all different types, including apartments and townhouses.

Lehman said he does not have specific longterm plans for the plot, other than the building of one single-family home.

“I do have the intention to build a house, but over time I’m sure there will be additional houses,” Lehman said.

He submitted a request to the planning commission to remove the 25 acres from the PUD and rezone it Residential-1, which allows for single-family housing. The PUD currently in place allows for single-family homes, but only on lots specifically designated for them.

Lehman told The Daily News on Thursday it was time for the city to move on from the original plan, which he referred to as a “decade-old failed plan,” and allow for something new.

“I think this is the best way to move forward,” he told the commission.


Forest View residents oppose plan

Several Forest View residents contested Lehman’s proposal, mostly arguing the change would depreciate values of their homes and deviate from the type of neighborhood they bought into. Seven residents spoke during Thursday’s public hearing, saying they chose to purchase homes in Forest View because they liked the idea of a condominium-style neighborhood and were convinced it would be developed as just that.

“I paid for a condominium neighborhood, not R-1 housing,” said resident Jo Anne Gordon-Anderson.

Nancy Hadley, who said she was the first to purchase a home in the development, said the rezoning would be contrary to everything she had been sold on when investing in her home and felt Lehman was getting special treatment.

“We’re trying to keep this place the nice place that we purchased into and we want to live,” Hadley said. “We would welcome a reputable developer to come in and finish the project. We want homes that are consistent with the look and quality of our condos. We feel this would be in the best interest of the city.

“I don’t understand why we would change a PUD for one person and one house,” she said. “I don’t understand why you would do that, except for perhaps because that person is on City Council.”

The association even had legal counsel present at the public hearing in the form of attorney Earl Erland, who said there are legal hurdles the city must overcome to even consider rezoning a PUD. The hurdles, he said, are too high.

“It would seem to me to be improper on the city’s part in having gone through the development process in detail that resulted in this PUD and resulted in the 2004 agreement to now attempt to wash its hands free of that,” Erland said. “There is probably over a $1.5 million of private investments sitting right here today, investments that were made in good faith in reliance of what the city had done when it approved the planned unit development. And now they’re being told sorry, we made a mistake? There has to be a better response than that.”

Erland said it is his opinion the association and residents of Forest View are third-party beneficiaries of the PUD contract and through Michigan law would be able to litigate in order to enforce agreements in the contract. He said the association is prepared to do so.


Possible legal ramifications

One legal hitch the planning commission hopes to sort out are rules and guidelines which the property falls under, not only as part of a PUD, but also because the condominium neighborhood, including the land purchased by Lehman, is overseen by a homeowners association and is regulated by a master deed and a declaration of covenant, restrictions and conditions, which addresses allowable uses.

Greenville city attorney Kenneth Lane said if the rezoning was approved, the PUD requirements on the development would not apply to the R-1 zone, but it would be subject to the property’s deed and the declaration of covenant, restrictions and conditions.

“Mr. Lehman and any successor owners of any portion of his property must become homeowner association members and they’d be bound by the requirements of the bylaws and the documents that are running with that property,” including dues and road and utility maintenance, according to Lane.

The commission tabled any decision — the commission would make a recommendation to the city council, who would have final say on any rezoning — until Lane, along with Johnson, could conduct a complete review of all agreements.

Planning Commission Chairman David Ralph told residents in attendance they would be notified when the commission plans to next discuss the proposal, which will likely be in January.

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