MIKE CROSS outlined his plans involving 621 W. Oliver Street (the former Baker-Bentley Center/YWCA building) to utilize the property for his new venture with Retriever Software, Inc. His business located on E. M-21 in Caledonia Township, Say Computer, would also make the move, in combination with Retriever Software, into the historic Oliver Street building, if the city allows it to be rezoned from R-1 (single family residential) to OS-1 (office service district).
The building Cross and his business partner, Ed Kearney, are interested in is directly south of Central Elementary School in Owosso, situated between Oliver Street and the Shiawassee River, with a rear parking area that exits onto M-52. Calvin P. Bentley and his wife, Irma Brewer Bentley, constructed the residence in 1907.
An involved commentary process took place at the Monday, Oct. 2 meeting over the rezoning issue.
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
Public hearings were held in city chambers at the Owosso City Council meeting Monday, Oct. 2 to receive commentary about the request by Mike Cross, former owner of Say Computer on E. M-21, to rezone the property to house both Say Computer and Retriever Software, Inc.
Started in 1991, Retriever Software initially introduced touch screen sales to theaters and restaurants. Today, the company aids movie theaters with computer software systems/computer network design. Cross, along with his partners from Retriever Software, including business partner Ed Kearney, have expressed an interest in purchasing 621 W. Oliver St. (the former Baker-Bentley Center/YWCA building), to use as professional offices for these businesses. Currently, 621 W. Oliver St. is zoned as R-1 (single family residential). It would need to be changed to OS-1 (office service district).
The Owosso Planning Commission already recommended approval, and council discussed the issue on Tuesday, Sept. 5, establishing Monday, Oct. 2 to hold a public hearing.
Several residents came forward to express their thoughts on the rezoning. Ann Bentley, of Owosso, shared that the property has been a direct part of her family for 110 years, and that it has always been zoned R-1. She explained that for the previous 50 years, the property, controlled through the YWCA and Baker College, has been “under restricted deed,” and that the potential for “spot zoning” is not a good idea, since the Oliver Street property is enveloped by private residences.
Mike Erfourth, Owosso, requested that city council deny the rezoning because there is currently no OS-1 zoning in the neighborhood. Erfourth owns a nearby home and stated that he “would love to see it be a house again,” referring to the 621 W. Oliver St. property. Other individuals that voiced agreement with Bentley and Erfourth were Shaffer Fox, Roberto and Jennifer Larrivey, and others.
“This street is an important part of Owosso. It attracts visitors from outside the community as we saw in the recent Owosso Historical Homes Tour. The issue is really not about Say Computer. The issue is about the rezoning,” Piper Brewer, of Owosso, said. Brewer has lived her entire life on Oliver Street, and does not want to see the rezoning happen, since she would prefer to protect the historical significance of the neighborhood.
A number of questions/concerns regarding the historic property were brought to council, such as; if Say Computer/Retriever Software, Inc. closed, what would become of the rezoned property? Where would signage placement be acceptable? What about the driveway access on Oliver Street? What about night lighting in the rear parking lot? The ADA compliance issue was mentioned again, since the property is not ADA compliant in the southern side. It is compliant in the front, but that would all change with the possible removal of the front drive that would limit Oliver Street traffic in front of Central Elementary.
Some residents also voiced their agreement of the rezoning, including Carolyn O’Connell, who owns property just across M-52 from the Oliver Street property in question. Colin Rose, from DayStarr Communications, stated that he thinks the rezoning would be a great opportunity to bring in more jobs. SEDP President/CEO Justin Horvath said he thinks Say Computer/Retriever Software, Inc. will be even less intrusive than the previous businesses to utilize the building. Maurice Shattuck Jr. stated he believes Cross “will be a good corporate neighbor.”
After the council discussed the alternating viewpoints they were presented with, it was decided to table the rezoning motion until the next council meeting when William Brown, the city attorney, will have drawn-up the rezoning to further define the limits of the property, and it’s potential use for business. Council will meet in city chambers on Monday, Oct. 16.