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OneSweetWorld

Mixed-use development planned for Byron Twp

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Found this is the Community Closeup on Mlive: Van Singel Farms residents criticize, praise Merestone Group's plan for development

This reminded me of the mixed-use development at Knapp and the Beltline. Here's a few highlights from the article:

The Merestone Group, of Hudsonville, plans the township's first mixed-use planned-unit development with four-story buildings with retail on the first floor, offices on the second and condominium units on the third, plus eight condominium building with five units each....The 25-acre Valley Vista Center could also include a bank, restaurant, and other retail buildings....With more than 20 acres and 32 percent open space, the plan meets all the guidelines in the township's next mixed-use planned-unit development ordinance, said Tom Burgess, a Merestone principal.

It also mentioned possibilities of underground parking and LEED certification. :thumbsup:

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Found this is the Community Closeup on Mlive: Van Singel Farms residents criticize, praise Merestone Group's plan for development

This reminded me of the mixed-use development at Knapp and the Beltline. Here's a few highlights from the article:

The Merestone Group, of Hudsonville, plans the township's first mixed-use planned-unit development with four-story buildings with retail on the first floor, offices on the second and condominium units on the third, plus eight condominium building with five units each....The 25-acre Valley Vista Center could also include a bank, restaurant, and other retail buildings....With more than 20 acres and 32 percent open space, the plan meets all the guidelines in the township's next mixed-use planned-unit development ordinance, said Tom Burgess, a Merestone principal.

It also mentioned possibilities of underground parking and LEED certification. :thumbsup:

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It's something I would never want to mention in an actual planning commission meeting, but I look at comments like "worried about... letting his five children play outside near tall condos." and "they don't want condominiums next door" as being less about the development and more about whom the opponents think the development will attract. To me it's just one more example of an exclusionary zoning mentality that wants to keep the "undesirables" out. Maybe I'm reading too much into it.

There's so often an artificial lowering of zoning densities in suburban communities. Developers wouldn't suggest higher densities if they didn't have good reason to believe that there is a market for them.

I'm also having a tough time with the argument "I moved out of Grand Rapids so I could see stars", especially in light of the earlier comments of wanting "single family homes there". There are always a number of benefits with higher densities that I think developers fail to mention at these meetings such as the new services that will be within walking distance.

Anyway, it sounds like a decent proposal. I would love to seem some details, especially in light of some of the comments from proponents. I have cousins who live in Byron Center and it would be refreshing to get off the highway and see something like this out in the townships.

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...I'm also having a tough time with the argument "I moved out of Grand Rapids so I could see stars", especially in light of the earlier comments of wanting "single family homes there". There are always a number of benefits with higher densities that I think developers fail to mention at these meetings such as the new services that will be within walking distance.

...

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I'm also having a tough time with the argument "I moved out of Grand Rapids so I could see stars", especially in light of the earlier comments of wanting "single family homes there". There are always a number of benefits with higher densities that I think developers fail to mention at these meetings such as the new services that will be within walking distance.

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When someone says "condo" it typically immediately conjurs negative images from a majority of people, especially in low-density monocultures such as this area. I think this is for good reason, especially when you look at the kind of condos that have been built in these outlying areas, particularly in the late 80's and 90's.

But a condo is simply a form of ownership and is independent of building type. A condo can be any kind of building type you want. We have done projects that have had condos that are physically single-family detached homes.

The negative reaction from many people's viewpoint is one of misinformation or misunderstanding as they think a condo is a building type, when it is definately not.

I am certainly not defending or opposing this project, especially when it appears that there is not a whole lot of detail regarding it. So it remains to be seen what it really looks like.

All of that said, this is a typical BANANA or NIMBY reaction based on yet more misunderstanding about where they live. Their perception is that they live in the country. They do not. They live in the far-flung low-density suburbs of Grand Rapids. Country living is not the two-acre lots these people live on in VanSingel Farms.

So what did they really expect? They live in not the country, but an abstraction of the country. And now my guess is somebody wants to install an abstraction of the city right next to them. And since they live in an area that is neither city nor country, then I guess that is what you would expect.

Read some of the clips, they are all abstractions:

"The backs of buildings will be designed to look as nice as the fronts", he said. The fronts will look like the backs? Just what we need, more confusion. Hint, in most cases buildings have a front, two sides and a back. There is a clear distinction. When you lose that distinction you get confusion of the place. An abstraction. And besides, how "nice" will the fronts look? How is that quantified in the township masterplan? All buildings should look like all other buildings....only different?

"We're trying to make this look as good as possible for everyone in the area and for the development," Burgess said. As good as possible? What does that mean and what is possible? Can it be anymore abstract? What is Tom's version of "good as possible?" How about the guy that lives in the VanSingle Farms snout house? You think he has a good handle on "good as possible".

Hypothetically in regards to the kind of abstractions we are dealing with here: When these folks ask for more open space or more green space, because "all they are going to see is buildings" and then the planning commission asks for more green space or more open space, the developer will ultimately give them more green space or open space. But what the hell does green space or open space look like? Who is going to qualify it? Is it going to be an orchard? A grassy knoll? A retention pond? Some left over weeds behind a few tract houses?

The residents need to better articulate what they want. Unfortunately they don't really know what they want, except to see the stars and let their five kids play in some field. Oh yes, and to live in the country away from all that city nonsense.

Then these gems:

The developers said they plan retention ponds and rain gardens to absorb and purify water before it flows into the lake.

"We will try to filter all the water," Burgess said. Try to filter the water? How hard will you try?

Underground parking would eliminate the need for excessive asphalt, and buildings will incorporate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, including high-efficiency windows, reflective roofing and energy-efficient lights,

Underground parking!? What kind of density are we talking about here? How are those numbers going to work out? How much underground parking are we doing in the urban neighborhoods, let alone out in Byron Township!?

Anyway it must be OK, it is going to "incorporate" LEED standards. Not neccessarily be LEED certified.

There all going to get what they deserve.

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"The backs of buildings will be designed to look as nice as the fronts", he said. The fronts will look like the backs? Just what we need, more confusion. Hint, in most cases buildings have a front, two sides and a back. There is a clear distinction. When you lose that distinction you get confusion of the place. An abstraction. And besides, how "nice" will the fronts look? How is that quantified in the township masterplan? All buildings should look like all other buildings....only different?

....

Underground parking would eliminate the need for excessive asphalt, and buildings will incorporate Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards, including high-efficiency windows, reflective roofing and energy-efficient lights,

Underground parking!? What kind of density are we talking about here? How are those numbers going to work out? How much underground parking are we doing in the urban neighborhoods, let alone out in Byron Township!?

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The developer did not say the backs will look like the fronts. He said they will look as nice as the fronts. I read that as meaning they will use nicer materials and a more finished design. The "nice" part is definitely an abstraction. But, they probably don't even know exactly what it's going to look like yet, so perhaps he couldn't have been more specific even if he wanted to be.

Also, when I read underground parking, I picture something like this riverfront condo development in Omaha:

2236235030_c018cab61f_b.jpg

http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotoman311/22...0/in/datetaken/

http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&...1&encType=1

And it seemed like the goal with the underground parking was to open up the space for landscaping and "rain gardens" and such.

Again, I guess we'll have to see more detail before we can really pass judgment on what they are trying to do.

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Just to point it out - those two quotes came from separate people. I can't tell if you are implying they came from the same source.

Quotes about "playing outside next to tall condos" seem strange, and maybe you can read something into them about keeping undesirables out, but I see what he's saying. You don't quite get the same feeling of "playing outside" amongst a backdrop of tall urban buildings as you would romping around a bunch of single-family houses with picket fences, treehouses, and mown lawns. Not that I think one's necessarily better, but this guy seems to have had one in mind, and moved to a place that (he thought) would accommodate that.

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The objections of the majority of residents on this project are not driven by NIMBYISM or "I moved out to the country and I want it to stay that way". Their objections stem from the fact that this is a classic Bait and Switch by the developer (VanSingel), and the residents don't trust him to honor his new promises any more than he honored his old ones. The residents bought lots and built in that neighborhood with the promise (from the developer) that there would be an additional phase of single family residential behind them, buffering them from commercial development sure to take place on 64th St. Indeed it is zoned by the Township as a PUD with that design. Now with the collapse of the residential market, and errors in original site planning (by the developer's engineer) the developer has all kinds of excuses for why he can't afford (or doesn't want to) complete the residential phase, and instead make it a mixed-use commerical phase. The result would be 4-story buildings backing up to single family homes.

In addition to the radical change in use, density and building height from the original development plan, the developer has a 7-year history of promising lots of nice, classy things to the residents, and then implementing the cheapest, quickest solution instead. No matter how nice the Architectural renderings of this new development look, the residents don't trust that it will ever be built that way. The developer needs to go to the Township Planning Commission, and then to the full Township Board, to get the PUD changed. Not cooincidentally, the developer just got himself elected to the Township Board, and now is attempting to bypass the Planning Commission hearings where the public can have input, and go straight to the full board (his new buddies).

So before you say "they deserve whatever they get", think about what are the obligations of a developer to follow through on plans they get approved, the obligations of the Local Unit of Government to make them follow through, and if the developer of your neighborhood pulled a switch like this, would you be happy?

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The objections of the majority of residents on this project are not driven by NIMBYISM or "I moved out to the country and I want it to stay that way". Their objections stem from the fact that this is a classic Bait and Switch by the developer (VanSingel), and the residents don't trust him to honor his new promises any more than he honored his old ones. The residents bought lots and built in that neighborhood with the promise (from the developer) that there would be an additional phase of single family residential behind them, buffering them from commercial development sure to take place on 64th St. Indeed it is zoned by the Township as a PUD with that design. Now with the collapse of the residential market, and errors in original site planning (by the developer's engineer) the developer has all kinds of excuses for why he can't afford (or doesn't want to) complete the residential phase, and instead make it a mixed-use commerical phase. The result would be 4-story buildings backing up to single family homes.

In addition to the radical change in use, density and building height from the original development plan, the developer has a 7-year history of promising lots of nice, classy things to the residents, and then implementing the cheapest, quickest solution instead. No matter how nice the Architectural renderings of this new development look, the residents don't trust that it will ever be built that way. The developer needs to go to the Township Planning Commission, and then to the full Township Board, to get the PUD changed. Not cooincidentally, the developer just got himself elected to the Township Board, and now is attempting to bypass the Planning Commission hearings where the public can have input, and go straight to the full board (his new buddies).

So before you say "they deserve whatever they get", think about what are the obligations of a developer to follow through on plans they get approved, the obligations of the Local Unit of Government to make them follow through, and if the developer of your neighborhood pulled a switch like this, would you be happy?

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I think Bennie43 has a very good point. It's not unreasonable to expect that you're buying a plot that will be surrounded by homes when the developer tells you you're buying a plot that will be surrounded by homes.

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