MCC Board Member Questions New Lakefront Development Plan’s Level of Public Access

Andrew Trzaska | February 26, 2013

AMuskegon Community College board trustee and local TV personality questioned Muskegon’s city commission Tuesday about how closely a recently-approved new housing development along the city’s lakefront would comply with a 2008 plan for the parcel of land.

John Rooks is the owner of Parkland Development Corporation, which is working on the Highpoint Flats development on Western Avenue, owns the Shoreline Inn and plans to build on Terrace Point property in question.  Rooks presented the plan to build a plan for 70 new houses in a small-lot, waterfront development sandwiched between the Shoreline Inn and the Grand Valley State University MAREC center.

The property could house around 70 families, or 300 people.

“Our goal is to bring as many people downtown as possible,” said Rooks.

The property in question has been targeted for redevelopment since the Lakey Foundry closed in the 1970s.  The first steps toward redevelopment happened in 1989, when a Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the Terrace Point property included a hotel, restaurant, condos and more. The condos were the only part not completed from that PUD. The new development Rooks presented Tuesday will reside on the 10.75 acre plot of land that was planned for the condos.

The city’s usual regulations require 50-foot lots, but the PUD as defined allows for 35-foot lots, which Rooks and his company plan to make. Up to 70 houses will be built on the property, with 28 lots the water and another 42 residing off the water but up a hill where lake views are still possible.  Houses would range from $150,000 to $300,000 apiece.

The plan’s evolution has already been shaped by city thus far. A wider right of way for utilities, wider sidewalks, more fire hydrants and more green space have come out of city input.

Mullally’s opposition to the plan rests on details laid our in a plan dated November 2008 that calls for significantly more public access than Rooks’ plan presents.

View the 2008 redevelopment plan here.

The plan suggests encouragement of non-motorized transportation (page 20), a public swimming beach (page 20), “walkable” “pedestrian linkages” to the downtown and lakeshore (pages 18, 20), and minimal blocks of public view of the water (pages 12, 44). The plan also warns against a “lack of civic space” (page 58). Mullally believes the plan does not comply with many of these recommendations.

While Mullally acknowledged a public beach need not be added to the PUD in his view, adding the 2008 plan for a pedestrian path to the Terrace Point development would be a compromise between the developer’s plans and the goals of the 2008 city plan.

City commissioner Lea Markowski asked questions bearing some similarities to Mullally’s concerns. She specifically asked about the minimal sidewalks in a development that may attract families with children, its attractiveness to pedestrian, and Parkland Development’s ability to fill all of the properties.

Pre-empting concerns about the property being shut off from those not living there, Rooks emphasized it would not be a gated community.

“These will be public roads with public sidewalks,” said Rooks.

The PUD received unanimous approval from the commission in a 7-0 vote.

The timeline for development of the land puts completion of some houses by the end of 2013, with most completed in 2014.

Commissioner Spataro saw the move as a way to bring the 1989 PUD full circle, helping the city’s tax base:

“I think this will help with our revenue issues, the community college’s revenue issues… it’s time the third owner of this property follow through with the original intent.”

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst