By Scott Sullivan
Should residential uses be banned on the west side of Water Street south of Francis Street? A public hearing Thursday, March 21, at 7 p.m. in Saugatuck City Hall will offer a chance to voice your views either way.
The planning commission has worked since 2014 on a zoning change to address concerns that new residential dwellings there, if allowed, would block the public’s view of the Kalamazoo Riverfront.
Planners also want to make sure the boardwalk along the river is kept open to the public.
The proposed C-2 Water Street south zone would forbid single and multiple-family residences, including second- and third-floor apartments, as well as residential condominiums. Home occupations and short-term rentals on upper floors would also be forbidden.
The two residential structures now in the district would be permitted to remain as non-conforming uses.
“That waterfront property is important to the vibrancy of the community,” city councilman Bill Hess, also a planning commission member, said at a Dec. 10 council meeting about the proposed ordinance amendment.
Not everyone in the audience that night favored the move. Removing those uses reduces the property value of Coral Gables, 220 Water St., said attorney Owen Ramey of Lewis, Reed and Allen PC of Kalamazoo, who represents the downtown business.
“At first look, it could constitute a taking,” Ramey said, meaning the move could deprive the property owner of economic uses that could lead to legal action.
Ramey was concerned his client received no notification of the possible move before that night’s meeting, an issue echoed by others among the half-dozen people who spoke against the proposed amendment.
Zoning administrator Cindy Osman replied the city does not have to notify each property owner individually in the district because the move is not a rezoning. The changes were listed in a local newspaper as required by law.
Two public hearings were held at the planning commission level, Hess said.
Council members told residents they would discuss the proposal further in a workshop, then send concerns back to planners to be addressed.
Copies of the proposed amendment as now stands are available at city hall during normal business hours weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.