TRAVERSE CITY — Mayor Michael Estes said “no” and about 70 people sat in silence as they began to grapple with the realization they had won.
Estes and city Commissioner Ross Richardson flipped on their previous support for a rezoning in the Slabtown Neighborhood and voted against the project. Richardson had explained earlier in Monday’s meeting he would switch his vote due to neighborhood opposition.
“I did not get elected to inflict something on the neighborhood that you are so opposed to,” Richardson told the overflow crowd fighting the rezoning.
Estes, who had said just three days earlier it would be tough to switch a vote, had given no indication during the meeting he had reconsidered until he cast his vote. Together with Richardson and Commissioner Jeanine Easterday the three “no” votes left the rezoning request one vote short of gaining the super majority required for approval.
“It didn’t cost the city anything to do what the public wanted and that was the bottom line,” Estes said after the vote.
Developer Kemal Cinaroglu requested to rezone the property on the corner of West Front and Madison streets to allow four residential homes with garages in the rear and a shared alley that exits onto Madison Street. Current zoning would allow Cinaroglu to construct three larger homes with garages and driveways onto West Front Street.
Neighbors vowed to collect signatures and put the rezoning to the voters if passed by the city commission. Several residents criticized commissioners personally and one threatened a recall.
Increased density and traffic from the extra house and the lack of continuity with the larger homes and larger lots were common criticisms of the project, but the most often cited issue was a change of the zoning from residential to commercial with conditions. Commercial zoning would reduce setback requirements to allow four houses but includes a contract that requires the property remain used for four homes of a specific style. It also granted an easement to allow the city to move the sidewalk back from the road.