by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
A residential development concept that began last May when the Owosso Planning Commission held an initial hearing to review a rezoning request and culminating in a final site plan review during the Owosso City Council virtual meeting Monday, Jan. 4, has been now approved. The property, a 2.36-acre parcel, is located on N. Washington and Wesley streets along the north edge of Owosso.
The Owosso Planning Commission had set a number of recommendations prior to the Monday evening meeting regarding the site plan review. The property, planned to include 14 houses when developed, had been rezoned from RM-1 Multiple-Family Residential District-Low Rise to RM-1 Multiple-Family Residential District-Low Rise with Planned Unit Development (PUD) Overlay. Some of the recommendations included the planning commission granting waivers regarding front yard setbacks along Washington and Wesley streets, waivers for total lot coverage, waivers for minimum distance between buildings (at 10-feet), requirements for side entrances that must have fixed porches/stairs that are attached to the house, prohibiting chain link fencing and so forth.
One reoccurring issue regarding the project involved several discussions on garages compared to carports. The planning commission had decided requiring garages was not necessary. Some residents have expressed concerns regarding the aesthetic appearance of garages over carports in regards to how the new properties should be required to architecturally blend with adjoining properties. Timothy and Becky Atkinson, who own property on N. Water Street, shared concerns about the carport issue, with Becky expressing some concern for the possible disruption of deer living in a small wooded area on the property.
Mayor Chris Eveleth reached out to city council members who also have seats on the planning commission for their stances. Council member Dan Law said he had nothing to add, but council member Janae Fear explained the planning commission had talked about carports and garages extensively without making a unanimous decision, though ultimately deciding that garages did not need to be mandatory. She shared she thought the carport plans looked very nice and since the design includes storage (see graphic), she felt there should be little concern of property owners leaving “stuff to be hanging out.”
Fear also expressed her own concerns regarding the “density” of the development and the price point. She explained she is unsure of the affordability factor for the community, since the project has been promoted as allowing for attainable market rate home ownership. “It’s more of a label issue for me. No doubt these will be beautiful homes,” she said.
The suggested pricing has fluctuated in recent months – primarily due to the pandemic. The city of Owosso currently has a significant housing shortage and is need of housing for every income level. Tom Cook and Anna Owens, the property owners and project organizers, again shared it is their goal to make the cost as low as possible, recognizing that construction costs are on the rise, but remaining hopeful the economy might level out.
Owosso Mayor Pro Tem Sue Osika stated she is not a fan of carports and really prefers garages. Council member Nick Pidek thought council should be careful about “picking and choosing what we want,” in regards to any particular neighborhood.
Osika moved and council member Robert Teich seconded to adopt the site plan with the conditions established by the planning commission. The site plan was approved.