Public Hearing Coming on Sorority House Proposed to Replace Historic District Houses

Tuesday, April 11, 2017, 7:42 am
By: 
Jessy Gregg

Above: Artist's rendering of the proposed new sorority house.

A proposal to demolish four older rental houses in the Collegeville Historic District and replace them with a new sorority will come for public hearing at this week’s Planning Commission meeting, Wednesday, April 12. This project had gone previously to East Lansing’s Historic District Commission but was sent back to the developer because, according to East Lansing’s Historic Preservation Code, it has to first be reviewed by Planning Commission and City Council before being reviewed by the Historic District Commission.

Next Generation Investment Properties, LLC, is proposing to build a three-story-tall sorority house at the southeast corner of Harrison Road and Grand River Avenue. The four Historic District houses that would be demolished are owned and managed by Community Resource Management. These four houses are currently licensed for rental to a combined total of 20 people. The proposed sorority house would have accommodations for up to 41, with parking behind the building for 24 cars accessed by driveways off Grand River Avenue and Harrison Road.

Above: Three of the four Historic District houses that would be demolished under the proposal.

According to the staff report prepared for Wednesday’s meeting, the three-story-tall, multi-tenant building is consistent with East Lansing’s Comprehensive Plan as well as current zoning regulations in the area. The properties are zoned RM32, which is “predominantly the multiple-family district for student dwellings and apartments. It is commonly used as a buffer between higher intensity uses and single family uses.”

The proposed development site is bordered to the east by an MSU Student Housing Co-op and to the south by the newly renovated and enlarged Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. There are several other sorority and fraternity buildings nearby, including on two of the other corners of this intersection. The property is across Grand River Avenue from the Ardson Heights section of the Glencairn Neighborhood, which consists of older owner-occupied houses (photo below).

Because the proposal is for a sorority, East Lansing building codes dictate that, even though the building is consistent with zoning requirements, it would require a special use permit for the proposal to go ahead. In order to qualify for that permit, the developers must demonstrate that “The proposed use shall not adversely affect the use and enjoyment of adjacent properties by generating excessive noise, vibration, light, glare, odors or any other form of pollution or nuisances.”

This staff report indicates that “Historically, sororities in East Lansing are dry houses (no alcohol), which eliminate several types of unwanted nuisances that come along with alcohol. However, there are no guarantees that sometime in the distant future it could also be a fraternity.”

Additionally, sororities and fraternities are expected to provide a parking management arrangement “sufficient to serve the parking and access demands associated with chapter meetings, formal and informal social activities, or other on-site events which include the attendance of persons other than those who reside on the property.” These arrangements may include additional onsite parking, private parking off-premises, public parking in municipal lots, or carpooling. There is no space for additional onsite parking on the proposed site.

A traffic study will also be needed before the application can be considered complete, and the developer will need to receive a code variance for the site since the proposal as drawn increases the ground coverage from 46.92% to 65%.

It is unclear whether Next Generation Investment Properties has a specific tenant in mind for this development or if it is being built on speculation.

If the proposal obtains “all necessary planning and zoning approvals, financing, and environmental clearances,” it will then, according to the Historic Preservation Code, come for review by the Historic District Commission. In order for structures to be demolished in a Historical District, it must be shown that “the resource [to be demolished] is a deterrent to a major improvement program that will be of substantial benefit to the community.”

Residents who want to weigh in on the proposed development can speak at the Planning Commission public hearing on Wednesday. (See agenda.) Written communications can be sent to Planning Commission by emailing Director of Planning Tim Dempsey. Indicate in your message that you want it conveyed to the Planning Commission.

 

Check out our story today on an historic commercial building just one block east of this proposal's location.