It was standing room only at Monday’s planning commission meeting for Lowell Charter Township. While the agenda included several items, residents crowded into the Township Hall for one reason only: to express their displeasure over the proposed Kissing Rock Estates development.
During a roughly two-hour public hearing, resident after resident stood to share their concerns about traffic, drainage, property values and more. However, the planning commission’s hands could be tied when it comes to making a decision on the development.
Proposal for Kissing Rock Estates Development
Developer David Rapp and engineer Donald De Groot were on-hand to review their plans for Kissing Rock Estates and answer questions.
As proposed, the 66-acre development will include 16 sites. The five parcels along Kissing Rock Road are being created under the township’s land split process, which allows for the division of property without a site plan review or public hearing. The remaining 11 parcels were the subject of Monday’s public hearing and must be approved by the planning commission.
“We think we have a project that meets the requirements of your ordinance, and we are seeking your approval,” said De Groot in his opening remarks to the commission.
The 11 parcels would be serviced by a private road, and each property would have its own well and drain field for a septic tank. While the developer would prefer the properties be supplied by natural gas, it hasn’t been confirmed yet whether service can be run to the land. The size and value of the homes has yet to be determined. However, it is expected the price each lot will be $60,000 or more.
Condominiums, Public Notice Causes Confusion
Once De Groot finished his presentation and planning commission members had asked their questions, the floor was opened to the public.
The use of the term “condominium site” to describe the plan was something residents asked about repeatedly in their comments. De Groot acknowledged the term was confusing and could lead people to assume the site will house multi-family dwellings. However, in this case, the word condominium is a legal term used to describe the manner in which the land is being split. If approved, the parcels at Kissing Rock Estates would be single family homes that are owned and maintained by their residents.
The public notice process for the development was another point of confusion. Many of those in attendance only knew about the proposal because someone had made copies of the public notice and distributed it to other residents. Several people questioned why the development was not more widely publicized and why notices weren’t sent directly from the township to more residents.
Planning commission members deferred those concerns to the Township Board, stating they would be the ones who could change how public notices are posted. They also mentioned state law dictates notices be mailed to property owners within 300 feet of a proposed development. However, given the rural nature of the area, only a few properties are located within that distance. That meant few people were notified directly by the township.
Traffic, Drainage and Quality of Life Concerns Raised
Traffic and drainage were two other major concerns raised during the meeting. Adjoining property owners asked how the hilly property would be drained, and while De Groot said a water management plan would be put into place, he didn’t have any details to share.
Residents also repeatedly cautioned against adding more traffic to Kissing Rock Road. Designated a Natural Beauty Road, Kissing Rock is narrow and only partially paved. One person noted a section of the road at the bottom of a hill starts to wash out after heavy rain.
“If it’s already washing out, then it needs to be addressed,” said commission member Mark Batchelor. He added the Kent County Road Commission would be the appropriate entity to call with that concern, and they would also be responsible for determining whether any improvements should be made to the road.
While some of those who spoke seemed to want improvements made to Kissing Rock Road, others were concerned doing so might change the character of the community. For many of those in attendance, maintaining the rural nature of the area was their main reason for opposing the Kissing Rock Estates development.
“We moved out here for the peace and quiet,” said Rob Bergman during his public comments. “Grand River [Drive] already sounds like the expressway. It’s deafening.” He and others encouraged the planning commission to reject any proposal that would add more residents and cars to their section of the township.
What’s Next for Kissing Rock Estates
After the public hearing, the crowd dispersed while the planning commission mulled over how best to proceed. As was noted during the public hearing, the commission must approve a site plan that meets the local ordinances. Failure to do so could result in legal action by a developer against the township.
However, the proposal isn’t a done deal yet. Planning commission members noted the site plan presented on Monday was missing important aspects such as lighting, drainage and other features. The development also has to undergo a second public hearing for the private road that is being proposed.
The Lowell Charter Township Planning Commission voted unanimously to table the issue until its March 13th meeting, at which time the public hearing on the road will be held and an updated site plan reviewed.