Council Majority Grants Rental Restriction to Portion of Shaw Estates

Thursday, June 20, 2019, 7:00 am
By: 
Mark Meyer

Shaw Estates homeowner Jorge Ramos expresses his support for Ordinance 1456 as it applies to a Residential Rental Restriction Overlay District in his neighborhood north of Saginaw Street and west of Harrison Road. (Photo by Alice Dreger)

Claiming a responsibility to “respect the will of the people” when it comes to self-governance of the properties in their neighborhood, East Lansing City Council member Erik Altmann joined Mark Meadows and Ruth Beier Tuesday night in approving a Residential Rental Restriction Overlay District that covers approximately half of the homes in the Shaw Estates neighborhood.

Following a steady pattern of 3-2 votes, Shanna Draheim and Aaron Stephens voted against. They expressed concerns about the impact of more rental overlays on the housing needs of renters, especially those with children.

The adoption of Ordinance 1456 and the accompanying R-0-1 overlay effectively prevents almost all rentals of houses in the designated zone of Shaw Estates, marking yet another section of East Lansing where it can be difficult — or next to impossible — to rent a single-family house.

Eighteen overlay districts currently exist in parts of Brookfield, Lantern Hill, Old Whitehills, Whitehills, Harrison Meadows, Bailey, Chesterfield Hills, Red Cedar, Southeast Marble, Walnut Heights, Glencairn, Pinecrest, Hawk Nest, Hawthorn, and Oakwood.

Councilmember Shanna Draheim listens to Shaw Estates resident Jill Young during the public hearing session of Tuesday's City Council meeting. Draheim and Councilmember Erik Altmann (left) had differing opinions over Ordinance 1456. (Photo by Alice Dreger)

“I think we need to be frank when we’re talking about the difference between renters and renting,” Draheim said. “We have university-adjacent neighborhoods populated by student renters … often with high volume and high turnover each year. In this case, we had one rental license application. I don’t see that as an inordinate amount of pressure on this neighborhood.

“We have a need for rental housing in this city and in this region for people who are not students, families in particular. Someone mentioned that there are apartments right across the street [from Shaw Estates]. Well, there are people, raising kids, who don’t want to live in an apartment. There are families and couples who want to rent so that they can have a yard and a garden, and things like that.”

But Meadows said it is important for him to allow neighborhoods to self-determine their future.

“This is what you want in your neighborhood. I don’t think it is discriminatory,” he said.

Beier said she understood the position of those who might think a rental restriction overlay district in Shaw Estates discriminates against those who cannot afford to purchase a home in the neighborhood but who could afford to rent. However, she said, “that is not my position, because even that is not my purview when such a large majority want it to be this way.”

Neighborhood support coalesced quickly

Jill Young, who lives at 804 Longfellow Drive, led the petition drive this spring to prevent any of the 54 properties in the affected area (outlined in red below) from becoming rentals.

In response to a rental application filed by property owner Bradley Holt last November, Young and her neighbors gathered 39 signatures (68 percent) of homeowners whose properties are within 300 feet of 1158 Bryant Drive indicating opposition to the owner’s intent to rent his property.

The rental overlay law in East Lansing requires a minimum of two-thirds (about 67 percent) support in order to have an overlay district petition considered by Council.

According to Young, six homeowners declined to sign the petition and nine others were unable to be contacted in time to submit the petition.

The law that governs rental restriction overlays in East Lansing states that such overlay districts may be imposed in order to “preserve the attractiveness, desirability, and privacy of residential neighborhoods by precluding all or certain types of rental properties and thereby preclude the deleterious effects rental properties can have on a neighborhood with regard to property deterioration, increased density, congestion, noise and traffic levels and reduction of property values.”

Jorge Ramos, who lives at 824 Longfellow Drive, spoke on behalf of the petitioners at last month’s Planning Commission hearing and reiterated his concern Tuesday that his neighbors be allowed “to protect the essence of our community.”

Dave Childs, who lives at 1137 Prescott Drive, said he has been on both sides of the lessee-lessor relationship and appreciates both sides of the discussion. However, he said, a rental property is often not given the care and attention it needs and can result in “weeds, peeling paint and broken fence posts.”

The property at 1158 Bryant Drive (pictured above) has been sold and a closing is scheduled for mid-July, according to agent Mike Shulsky of Berkshire Hathaway Tomie Raines. (Photo by Alice Dreger)

At Tuesday's meeting, Draheim and Altmann (who are both running for re-election in November) had strongly divergent views on the subject.

Altmann said it would be "unconscionable" not to honor what the neighborhood majority wanted, whereas Draheim said that it was Council's job to consider "the whole of the city" and what another overlay in another family-friendly neighborhood means in that context.

 

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