Traverse City News and Events

Senior Living Facility, Housing Zoning on East Bay Agenda

By Beth Milligan | Nov. 30, 2023

A new 84-unit senior assisted living facility is proposed to be built on Hammond Road just east of the Oleson’s Plaza in East Bay Township. Township planning commissioners will discuss the project Tuesday, when they will also discuss zoning changes that could allow more multi-family housing.

Senior Assisted Living
Build Senior Living – a development group that specializes in assisted living facilities, with over 40 projects listed on the company’s website in Michigan and across the U.S. – hopes to build a new facility on 8.41 acres of land on Hammond Road (pictured, rendering).

Applicant Zohaib Syed, representing Build Senior Living, is on Tuesday’s planning commission agenda for a sketch plan review. Such a review gives a developer an opportunity to talk through any questions or concerns with planning commissioners before returning with a formal application.

The proposed facility would consist of 84 units, including a mix of studio, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom units, according to project documents. The property is currently being used as a single-family residence, which will be demolished to make way for the facility. The property is zoned East Bay Corners (EBC), which “has design standards in place that facilitate high-quality developments and civic spaces,” according to Township Director of Planning & Zoning Claire Karner. Some of those standards – which will be discussed at the planning commission – include recommended sidewalk connections, street trees, and parking and ground-floor window requirements.

The purpose of the EBC district “is to form a community core by providing for higher density residential uses, commercial use serving the local area, and appropriate public and semi-public activities,” Karner notes. She says the township’s master plan “highlights the need for senior living accommodations and amenities.” In a memo to planning commissioners, she wrote: “A focus group was conducted with members of the senior community in East Bay Township in 2021 to discuss desired amenities and priorities for this growing age demographic. Attendees prioritized affordable housing options that connect residents with bus service, nonmotorized trails, and recreational opportunities.”

Many of those amenities are adjacent to the site. Karner flagged some potential discussion topics for commissioners to consider, including working with BATA to identify a bus stop location for facility residents. She noted the facility “will likely require fewer parking spaces than what is required in the zoning ordinance since many of the residents likely do not have a personal automobile.” Developers should also explore whether there’s an opportunity to install a pedestrian connection to the grocery store next door, Karner said. Finally, she noted the proposed facility is “located significantly further back off Hammond Road compared with Oleson’s. Placing buildings closer to the road supports placemaking goals and has the effect of slowing traffic and improving safety. There appears to be wetland soils near Hammond Road, but perhaps there is some opportunity to move the buildings closer to Hammond Road.”

Karner said Syed is targeting a January public hearing on the project.

Housing Zoning
Township planning commissioners will review two zoning requests Tuesday that could allow for more multi-family housing.

The first requested amendment would increase the maximum dwelling units per acre in the moderate density residential (MDR) zoning district from five to eight units. The applicant requesting the change, Liv Communities, has a purchase agreement on a site near the corner of Four Mile and Hammond roads and is “interested in developing a market-rate multifamily community that includes some combination of garden-style, townhome, and single-family rental product types,” according to the application.

Karner noted that the township’s recently adopted master plan supports densities of up to eight dwellings per acre, and that the township’s zoning ordinance – which is being rewritten – includes allowances for eight dwelling units per acre in its most recent draft. Planning commissioners will hold a public hearing on the change Tuesday and could vote to recommend approval or denial to the township board, which has final approval.

Planning commissioners will also have discussion only Tuesday – taking no action – on a request from development group Innovo to rezone six parcels from low density residential (LDR) to MDR. The parcels are located between Four Mile Road and Five Mile Road, with access to both, and make up a total of over 220 acres. Karner said the existing LDR standards would allow 660 single-family homes on the site. Under changes to LDR standards proposed in the township’s zoning rewrite, 1,100 units could be constructed – including a mix of single-family homes, multiplexes, and townhomes. One step further, under the proposed changes to the MDR district, "up to 1,760 multi-family units could be constructed on this site, if it was eventually rezoned,” Karner wrote.

In its application, Innovo wrote that it hopes to build a “combination of for-rent, single-family residential, and multi-family residential in a community setting and moderate density and proximity to each other. A large percentage of the property would remain low density, open space with trails and opportunities for connecting with local trail networks and the conservancy.” In order to provide “workforce attainable housing at price points that will be affordable to people making between 80-120 percent of the area median income, a certain amount of density is required to build at scale in order to make the numbers work,” Innovo wrote.

Karner pointed out that the parcels represent some of the “limited remaining areas of the township that are within the growth boundary with access to water and sewer, do not include sensitive environmental areas such as wetlands, streams or floodplains and are outside of the Mitchell and Baker Creek protection district, (and are) located outside of protected lands such as Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy properties, Holiday Woodlands Natural Area, and other public or private properties protected in perpetuity.” That could make the parcels attractive for residential development. However, given that the properties are “completely surrounded by LDR-zoned parcels,” they would not be good candidates for rezoning unless the township modifies its future land use map, Karner said.

Planning commissioners will discuss whether that map should be updated – Karner indicated there are factors worth considering that may warrant such a move – but doing so would not automatically rezone the properties up for review, she noted.

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