TRAVERSE CITY — An affordable housing nonprofit is reconsidering its plans for a Traverse City lot after neighbors objected and city planners showed little support for rezoning the land.
HomeStretch Executive Director Jon Stimson said he’ll ask board members to consider building a smaller project at 1027 Fern Street than current plans.
That’s where the organization hopes to build six single-family homes he dubbed “micro-flats.”
This would require rezoning the property, which is restricted to two single-family homes, city Planner Russ Soyring said. He asked planning commissioners for feedback before HomeStretch formally applied, and most weren’t keen on the idea.
Planning Commissioner Brian McGillivary said he had issues with rezoning one lot amid single-family homes.
“I understand there’s a desire for more density in the city, but I have a difficult time with it being in the middle of the block”, he said
Other planning board members agreed, and neighbors weren’t happy about the idea, either.
Andrea Anderson, who owns the house next door to the property, said she gathered 18 signatures from nearby residents and business owners who opposed the plan for fear it could affect their property values.
Jackie Anderson said her daughter lives in another home on the block. She relayed her daughter’s concerns that HomeStretch’s plans would be a tight fit for the lot and taller than surrounding homes.
“In terms of more density in that neighborhood, yeah, but maybe this isn’t exactly the right one,” Jackie Anderson said.
Planning commissioners Anna Dituri and Tyler Bevier said they supported HomeStretch’s idea, and Bevier said a few neighborhood residents he contacted were favorable as well.
Stimson said afterward that he thought many of the criticisms came from misunderstandings of the nonprofit’s plans.
HomeStretch could consider building four units on the property, or a duplex, Stimson said. The latter would be allowed under current zoning, and he doubted he could find support to rezone the lot to allow four.
“That’s the problem with affordable housing, is that we all want it, but where should we put it,” he said.
Commissioner Janet Fleshman said rezoning the lot sounded like the definition of spot zoning.
Spot zoning is acceptable as long as it’s in line with the city’s master plan, which calls for housing choices in neighborhoods, Soyring said. Rezoning every residential lot in that block of Fern Street would be better, he added — commissioners agreed.
Planners could also take a broader approach elsewhere in the city, wide swaths of which is zoned for single-family homes, Soyring said. He suggested reviewing the city’s zoning map to find spots that lend themselves to more density and new housing.
“I think that would be a lot better than just kind of an ad hoc-type of basis looking at individual sites, to be able to think more comprehensively,” he said.