Commission tables rezoning for township veterans facility

By David Fleet
Atlas Twp. — On Wednesday night the Atlas Township Planning Commission voted 5-2 to table a consideration to rezone a parcel of land at 11280 Hegel Road from Residential Agricultural District to the Special Housing District. Planning commission members James Lusty and June Amman voted no. A public hearing will be set in April.
The request on behalf of My Brothers Keeper, is to use the 6,500 square feet home set on 10 acres for multi-family/veteran’s transitional housing.
The vote by the planning commission to table the decision was due to new conditions relating to the property offered by the applicant March 6. The conditions now include, the veteran transitional housing shall be limited to 12 or less individuals; the property shall have 24/7 surveillance; on site staffing 24/7; food services and transportation available for residents; no individual with a criminal sexual conduct conviction will be allowed as a resident; all individuals that reside on the property are screened by the Veteran’s Administration and all individuals must meet DD-214, honorable or acceptable discharge.
“The reason we are tabling this is so when we make a decision, we are making a decision on their final request,” said Michael Rembor, planning commission chair. “If they are not happy and go to court, they can’t say the township cut us short (or) they did not give us a chance to tell the whole story.”
David Lattie, township attorney agreed.
“The (applicants) are following their legal remedies,” said Lattie. “Allow them to give thought to their conditions, thought to the agreement and how it would play out. I want to have the tools available to me if we do end up in court to carry out the will of the township board.”
About 40 individuals addressed the planning commission board on Wednesday with their concerns, only three supported the rezoning. In addition, several letters were received by the township and the opposition outnumbered the support 3 to 1.
If the request to rezone is approved, the applicant would have to come back with a site plan for approval.
My Brothers Keeper intends to operate a 10 bedroom home for veterans discharged from medical facilities. They will provide supportive services and therapies for up to 180 days to prepare the resident to move to another setting. The current Residential Agriculture does not allow for 10 unrelated adults to reside in one dwelling.
The intent of the Special Housing district per section 12B.00 of the Zoning Ordinance, is to “encourage the development of a variety of nontraditional housing types not ordinarily found in conventional single-family residential districts so as to provide opportunities for all persons wishing to reside in the community.” There are currently no parcels zoned Special Housing District in Atlas Township.
Supporters say this is not a medical facility or homeless shelter, rather a home to transition temporarily. The project is fully funded by national and state grants, and local donations. At least one neighbor stated it’s a great idea to convert the property into a home for veterans in need.
Opponents say the higher intensity residential and non-residential uses allowed by the SH District are generally not consistent with the planned agricultural character of the area. Also, the site is not presently served by public water or sewer facilities and the facility could generate traffic volumes beyond the capacity of Hegel Road to accommodate. In addition the community has no grocery stores, access to widespread work, transportation, or other amenities.
The Planning Commission is charged with holding the Public Hearing and making a recommendation to the Township Board to consider in the approval or denial of the rezoning request. The Township Board has the ultimate authority to approve or deny all rezoning requests

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