Traverse City News and Events

Hickory Rezoning, Oleson Apartments on Garfield Township Agenda

By Beth Milligan | April 12, 2023

Garfield Township planning commissioners will hold a public hearing tonight (Wednesday) on rezoning Hickory Meadows and a new 76-acre parcel called Hickory Forest so that the properties are all designated parkland – an effort to create consistency across the 179 acres as well as Hickory Hills, which is already zoned parkland. Planning commissioners will also discuss a proposal tonight to convert office space into apartments in the Oleson’s complex at the corner of North Long Lake and Cedar Run roads.

Hickory Forest/Meadows
With the City of Traverse City and Garfield Township Joint Recreational Authority about to close on 76 acres next to Hickory Hills for a new public park called Hickory Forest, Rec Authority members are seeking to rezone the parcel and Hickory Meadows to P-R (Park and Recreation district) so that the entire Hickory area is designated parkland. Hickory Forest is currently zoned agricultural, while the three parcels that make up Hickory Meadows are zoned R-1 one-family residential.

The change would ensure Hickory Meadows, Forest, and Hills – the last of which is already zoned P-R – would sharing consistent rules and zoning, with all three managed by the Rec Authority. The change would also make it easier for planned trails and a trailhead to be developed on Hickory Forest, as those uses would be allowed by right under P-R zoning and could be handled under a simple staff review, Deputy Planning Director Stephen Hannon recently told planning commissioners. While the township’s future land use map doesn’t call for the Hickory Forest property to be P-R, Hannon noted the master plan supports the preservation of land and that voters approved a joint millage request in 2020 to allow the Rec Authority to purchase Hickory Forest for recreational use.

A Rec Authority timeline calls for trail planning, vegetation inspections, a public open house to inform residents of property plans, and then trail/trailhead construction to take place this spring and summer at Hickory Forest. The goal is to open the park for public use by fall. Rec Authority Executive Director Matt Cowall noted grant funds are being used to develop a wayfinding signage plan across all three Hickory properties. That will help park users know where they are, when they cross property lines, and who to contact when trees are down or other trail maintenance is needed, Cowall said. “It’ll be coordinated and will make sense to users of the sites, and you won’t have to wrestle with the fact that you’re crossing invisible property lines if you’re on a hike,” he said.

Planning commissioners previously asked about two privately owned “landlocked” properties that exist between Hickory Hills and Hickory Meadows. Cowall said it’s a Rec Authority and city goal to “finally acquire those pieces and make them part of one parkland or another,” noting they would offer “nice trail connections” across the site. However, he cautioned the parcels have a “pretty tortured history” going back decades in which the property owners have consistently declined to sell and tried to obtain a court order allowing them to use the surrounding city parkland to provide egress/ingress to the properties. The court rejected the request, essentially making the parcels undevelopable since there’s no access to them. “So there they sit,” Cowall said. He expressed hope the properties might be acquired at some point in the future.

If planning commissioners support the rezoning request tonight, they can direct staff to prepare a findings of fact report, which will return for review at a future meeting. Planning commissioners could then vote to approve the rezoning request. When Hickory Forest opens to the public, over 300 acres of connected recreational property will be in place between Hickory Forest, Hickory Hills, and Hickory Meadows.

Oleson Apartments
Planning commissioners tonight will also review a request from Brad Oleson of Oleson’s Food Stores to convert 6,960 square feet of second-floor office space into six apartments in the Oleson’s complex at the corner of North Long Lake and Cedar Run roads. The plans call for the construction of five three-bedroom units – each 1,106 square feet – and one two-bedroom unit that will be 900 square feet. All units will have two bathrooms.

“As you know, with COVID behind us and more people working from home, the demand for office space is very low,” Oleson wrote. “We are seeing many office spaces vacant and no one to fill them. On the other hand, apartments are in extremely high demand and with close proximity to town, grocery stores, and restaurants, we feel this would be a great addition.” Oleson said the transition to residential “will not affect any exterior of the building, neighbors, and minimal to downstairs commercial renters. We have ample parking, with two entrances to the apartments, and all is ADA (accessible) with an elevator at one end.”

The Oleson complex is covered by a planned unit development (PUD), which must be amended to allow residential uses. Amending the PUD will require a public hearing – which planning commissioners can consider scheduling tonight for May 10 – followed by planning commission and then township board approval.

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