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Grand Rapids’ west side looks at zoning changes

Posted at 5:39 PM, Mar 24, 2017

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- City Commissioners and officials changed the proposed zoning maps for Grand Rapids after many west side residents expressed concern with the height of developments potentially allowed with the lack of affordable housing.

It’s been a point of contention between city officials and west side residents, many of whom are worried renters and homeowners would be priced out of their neighborhoods.

The proposal change released Friday shows city officials broke the “City Center Downtown Height Overlay District” into three zones instead of two. Now the zones are listed as DH-1 and DH-2(a) and DH-2(b).

The zones would have a building height minimum of three stories but reduced the height of possible buildings in DH-2(b) on the west side: the area running roughly from Summer Ave NW to Seward Ave NW, then from Fulton St. W to Second St. NW would now allow seven-story buildings that could build to 12-stories if affordable housing was added, instead of 10 to 16-story buildings initially proposed.

“Ultimately what we see is that for the west side we want to respect the tradition that’s there, but also understand as our city grows, and as we grow, that we’ve seen growth north, south, and east and there’s going to be some growth west,” said Dave Shaffer, Grand Rapids first ward city commissioner.

Shaffer is one of the city officials who adjusted the rezoning proposal after attending the packed Feb. 28 meeting at the West Grand Neighborhood Association. About 40 residents expressed concerns at this meeting about ongoing development and potential displacement of west side families.

“Some are paying anywhere from 50 to 80 percent of their income just so they can be in a house,” said Annette Vandenberg, West Grand Neighborhood Association executive director.

“I don’t think it’s a one size fits all thing for the affordable housing crisis that we’re currently going through.”

Initially Vandenberg says residents didn’t have much time to digest the first rezoning proposal, emailed the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, but she says the latest draft is an improvement.

“They listened to our community, which was my ultimate goal, which was to get the community out here to be able to talk about these issues and to talk about why zoning up to 16 stories up to Seward was not necessarily a good idea for some of the residents that live over here,” said Vandenberg.

The city commission will consider the new zoning map in their meeting on March 28; Shaffer says he believes the commission will vote yes then.