East Bay Township Approves Elmbrook Rezoning, Three Mile Trail & Housing Resolutions
By Beth Milligan | Aug. 12, 2021
East Bay Township trustees approved a developer’s request this week to rezone the Elmbrook Golf Course property, a move that will pave the way for a mix of rental and for-sale housing to be developed on the 228-acre site in the coming years. The golf course is slated to remain open to the public for at least a few more years while the housing plans are developed. Township trustees this week also approved a proposed route for extending the Three Mile Trail from South Airport to Hammond Road, and passed a resolution of support for a regional housing campaign.
After trying since at least 2018 to purchase and redevelop the Elmbrook Golf Course, developer Joe Locricchio received a green light from East Bay Township this week to rezone the property, allowing him to move forward with purchasing and building housing on the site.
Trustees voted 6-1 – with Matt Cook opposed – to rezone the 228-acre property from low-density residential to a mix of medium and high-density residential. Township Director of Planning and Zoning Claire Karner explained that the rezoning would not change the overall number of units that could be built on the sprawling property – up to 912 units – but instead allow Locricchio to build a mix of housing on the site, rather than just the single-family homes allowed on low-density residential property. “This is not an effort to achieve higher density than what could be built there today,” Locricchio echoed. “We are looking for a variety of housing types.” The developer said that building only single-family homes instead of offering a mix of those homes along with rental apartments and other types of units would be a “missed opportunity to help meet the housing needs of the township.”
Locricchio offered several conditions as part of the rezoning request, including agreeing to use buffers and transitions in intensity of housing on parts of the property closest to surrounding residential neighborhoods. Locricchio met with representatives of those neighborhoods in an attempt to address their concerns about the redevelopment of the golf course, with an attorney for the residents later sending a letter to township officials saying they were satisfied with Locricchio’s conditions.
Trustee Mindy Walters, who also sits on the township’s planning commission, said that when the planning commission held a public hearing in July on the rezoning request – eventually voting to recommend its approval to the township board – some residents still expressed concerns with the project. But those concerns were either related to not wanting the public golf course to close or wanting to see a detailed site plan outlining exactly where different types of housing would be built. Most citizens did not object to the rezoning request itself, she said, but rather “were objecting to what might be in their backyard” specifically. Walters said she herself thought the project would be “good for the community,” and that based on the conditions attached to the request she believed “most people were happy with the outcome that we have here.”
For residents worried about the disappearance of Elmbrook Golf Course, Locricchio stressed the golf course – which is open now – is planning to operate in 2022 and likely will be open at least another year or two after that. The rezoning request was passed with an effective date of November 2022, after which point the developer will have three years to make significant progress on housing construction on the site. If he fails to do so by 2025, he will need to seek an extension or else the rezoning will expire.
Once the rezoning goes into effect next year, Elmbrook Golf Course will become a legal non-confirming use on the property. That means the golf course can temporarily continue to operate and be open to the public, but cannot expand or make any significant changes. After housing construction is underway and the rezoning is made permanent, the golf course would no longer be an allowed use and would have to close. The developer can offer a private golf amenity for residents on the property, but it “wouldn’t be open to the public for use,” Karner said. Locricchio said the owners of Elmbrook have been looking to sell for years, noting that golf has become an “incredibly challenging industry” and that the family members are looking to move on to other opportunities.
For residents seeking details on the type of housing coming to the property, there’s not yet a site plan for the project, meaning Locricchio hasn’t yet finalized what type of units will be built or where or in what numbers. He told trustees this week he intends to construct a “blend of market-rate rental and for-sale housing.” The developer will be working with the Grand Traverse County Road Commission to improve Townline Road between Hammond Road and the golf course service drive in the next year or two, and a sewer line is being extended to provide municipal water and sewer to the development. Karner also said she foresaw opportunities to add nonmotorized connections to the property in conjunction with Safe Routes to School work happening elsewhere in the corridor. More details on what's expected to be a multi-year, multi-phase development – including specifics on housing designs/layout and the internal circulation plan for the neighborhood – will be unveiled when the project comes back in the future to the planning commission for a site plan review.
Also at this week’s meeting…
> Township trustees unanimously approved a conceptual route for a planned new Three Mile Trail extension from South Airport Road to Hammond Road. The township, TART Trails, Norte, and Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy (GTRLC) are partners in the project, which will make use of GTRLC’s recent acquisition of the Mitchell Creek Golf Course property to route the trail through a planned new nature preserve on the site. Township trustees, planning commissioners, and parks and recreation commissioners have all now signed off on the conceptual plan. Next steps in the project will include working with property owners along the route to secure easements, moving into design and engineering, and fundraising for the project, which is anticipated to cost upwards of $12 million.
> Township trustees passed a resolution of support for Housing North’s Homes for Our Future campaign, an initiative focused on driving action and providing resources to residents and communities to address regional housing issues. As part of the resolution, the township agreed to participate in Housing North’s Housing Ready Checklist, which includes reviewing planning, zoning, and funding practices to identify strengths and opportunities when it comes to encouraging housing growth. East Bay Township is one of many local municipalities Housing North has either already approached or plans to approach to obtain support for the housing campaign and to engage in the Housing Ready Checklist process.Comment