The Grand Haven Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-0 Monday to uphold the city Planning Commission’s approval of the site plan for the controversial project.
The development at 218 S. Harbor Drive has been opposed by neighbors who say the structure does not fit the neighborhood character, and say the parking and building configurations threaten pedestrian safety.
Next-door neighbor Rick Grasman, who filed the appeal, has spearheaded a social media campaign against the development.
ZBA Chairwoman Mischelle Julien and board member Melanie Riekels voted reluctantly, sharing concerns that the development does not meet the intent of the city's Waterfront 2 district guidances.
Julien said the building’s close proximity to the sidewalk on South Harbor Drive would perpetuate safety issues on the site.
“It reduces the current unsafe conditions, but it only changes an unsafe condition to another unsafe condition,” she said.
Grand Haven Community Development Director Jennifer Howland instructed the board to chiefly consider the city’s Zoning Ordinance, which is codified law, rather than the city’s Master Plan and Strategic Plan, which contain guidances rather than law. She said the original project was modified to meet zoning requirements and reviewed by the Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.
“I forced them by law to move their building where it is,” Howland said. “I brought a fully compliant plan to the Planning Commission.”
Concerns such as ADA compliance are out of the hands of the ZBA and Planning Commission, Howland said, and will be considered during the building code review.
Zoning board members Field Reichardt and Jerry Klukos voiced support for the Planning Commission’s decision.
“I will not micromanage our Planning Commission, and I support our Planning Commission’s decision to approve a site plan,” Klukos said. “If they did it without any variances, they were doing their job.”
On the Planning Commission, Chairwoman Erin Von Tom was the lone vote against the project in March, citing guidances for the district that include limiting “monolithic developments.”
Grasman submitted documents to the ZBA minutes prior to Monday night's meeting. At the request of city attorney Ron Bultje, documents submitted after the board’s May public hearing are not included in the public record. He said the appellant has not claimed personal damages posed by the development, which he said would form the basis for a Circuit Court consideration.
The ZBA decision was postponed last month after the board could not reach a quorum due to Klukos being absent. ZBA members Ryan Cummins, Amy Kozaneck and Bill Hohmeyer recused themselves from the deliberation due to conflicts of interest.
The plans entail a three-story building that abuts the curb on Harbor Drive, while the building is set back 15 feet from Lafayette Avenue, where two service windows for the Dairy Treat will be located. Also off Lafayette will be a parking entrance for ice cream customers and residents of the four condo units above the shop.
Developer David Ten Cate last month called the campaign against the project “downright deceitful and false,” saying the plans conform to the city’s zoning rules. Developers told the Grand Haven Tribune last month that they expected a lawsuit if the project was upheld in the appeal process.
Delayed by the appeal process, construction is now expected to begin in the spring or fall of 2020. The Dairy Treat is open this summer for business.