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Planning Commission recommends approval of latest Reserve at Rivertown rezoning proposal

WYOMING - At the conclusion of a somewhat contentious public ... (to) add a lot of single-family homes," said Tom Worsfold, a resident of Yukon Drive. "This plan is much, much, much more attractive for a lot of different reasons, mostly because it adds ...

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By Logan THansen WYOMING - At the conclusion of a somewhat contentious public hearing this week, the city's Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the latest rezoning proposal concerning the Reserve at Rivertown. With the commission's recommendation at that meeting on Tuesday, Feb20, the proposal, which would see the rezoning of 98.4 acres southeast of the 56th Street and Wilson Avenue intersection, will go before City Council for a first reading on Monday, March 5. If City Council approves the rezoning measures in early April, properties at 3928, 3950 and 3952 56th StSW, and 5700, 5850, 5950, 5972, 5988, 6002, 6010 and 6030 Wilson AveSW, would be rezoned to PUD-1, a low-density planned unit development. Currently, 66.9 acres of the land are zoned as ER (Estate Residential), while 15.7 acres are zoned as B-1 (Local Business), 9.5 acres as B-2 (General Business) and 6.3 acres as RO-1 (Restricted Office), according to city documents. The developer, Granger Group, has based this latest rezoning proposal on an overall development plan dated Dec29, 2017, which dictates that the 11 properties listed above would be combined with the adjoining Rivertown Valley Planned Unit Development to create a total PUD area of around 187 acres. "This is the third time in the recent past that we've had a rezoning development proposal for this property," said City Planner Timothy Cochran"This latest rendition came forward to the Planning Commission in January, and our staff had significant concerns about the way the project was laid out." RELATED: Granger Group rescinds rezoning request for 'The Reserve at Rivertown' Cochran said the proposal came forward so quickly that neither the Planning Commission nor the general public truly had a chance to decipher what was being proposed. For that reason, commission members decided not to vote on the matter in January but to instead defer their decision until this month. The city's Development Review Team, which includes Cochran, Assistant City Manager Megan Sall and Director of Community Services Rebecca Rynbrandt, among others, had an issue with the layout of the condominium/rowhouse-style units being proposed, Cochran said, and with the way a certain street was aligned within the developmentThose concerns have since been addressed, Cochran said. "What we're looking at now is a total of 175 new single-family lots, 288 apartment units and 150 senior rowhouse unitsOur staff evaluated the proposal (and) we believe that it meets our ordinance requirements," he said. The proposed density of the Reserve development has been a hot-button issue throughout the planning processCochran said the density guidelines for the PUD dictate that there must be less than four units per acre; the current plan comes in at 3.97 units per acre. The proposed development meets the threshold of a minimum of 35 percent of its units being designated as single-family lots, Cochran said, and the developer has met the open space requirement of at least 15 percent, coming in at "a little better than 16 percent." Ryan Granger, representing Granger Group at Tuesday's meeting, said he had spoken with residents living in Rivertown Valley who will be affected should the rezoning measure go through. "As the iterations of the plan developed, we had more opportunities for insight, more opportunities for reaching out with residents and the community," Granger said"And through these interactions, a lot of people were able to share their concerns. "We're very excited to continue to work with the community and get their insight as to what different playground structures they want to look at, what different types of tennis courts they want to look atThere's plenty of opportunity for the residents to continue to engage with us and have their insight and their voices heard," he said. Some area residents, however, were still not convinced the development is a good ideaA host of individuals stepped up to the microphone to share their displeasure with the latest proposal. A few people focused on the renting versus owning debate, saying Granger Group would erroneously be investing too much stock in the former. "As a corporation, I think we all feel Granger has every right to maximize the value of its development, to put the land to its highest and best use," said Kevin Garcia, a resident of Penny Lane"However, they also have a corporate responsibility to their neighbors, to their fellow Wyoming citizens, to preserve the value of the investments we've all made in this wonderful community. "This project should have been approved in August of 2017 when (Granger) had the chance to take a fraction of their rentals off the table in order to get that plan approved," Garcia said"Instead, they keep upping the ante -- they went from 372 rentals in 2017 to 438 now in 2018 ..(while) people in Wyoming still want to own rather than rent." Others said the developer was basing its demand statistics for certain types of housing on outdated data. Ruth VanderHeide, a resident of Del-Mar Village Drive, cited a couple of MLive articles -- Grand Rapids millennials lead U.Sin homeownership and Grand Rapids ranked No3 for first-time home buyers -- as evidence that more rental units was not the way to go. Issues involving the proposed plan's layout and whether or not existing homeowners should be forced into a homeowner's association were brought up by other residents. Not everyone who took part in the public hearing had negative things to say, howeverThe main argument in favor of the latest plan was that it would serve the community better than the 2001 plan and that Granger Group had satisfied all requirements in accordance with Wyoming's zoning ordinance, thus the development should move forward. "Granger's asking to have a comprehensive development, not to have something done piecemeal, (to) add a lot of single-family homes," said Tom Worsfold, a resident of Yukon Drive"This plan is much, much, much more attractive for a lot of different reasons, mostly because it adds 175 single-family homes." The Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning proposal and the December 2017 overall development plan, with caveats concerning the approval of facades and similar treatments of the condominium/rowhouse-style units; City Council's approval of the rezoning measure; the developer's establishment of a home owner's association including all current and future parcels; and the inclusion of paved walking paths linking Danube Drive west to the apartments and commercial area and south to the open space and Reserve Drive. 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