Township upholds PC denial of rezoning for veterans facility

By David Fleet
Atlas Twp. — On Monday night, the Atlas Township Board of Trustees passed a motion to support the planning commission’s recommendation to not approve a conditional rezoning request for property located at 11280 Hegel Road from Residential Agricultural to Special Housing District.
The applicant was seeking to use the property for multifamily/veterans’ transitional housing to be operated by My Brothers Keeper. They did not attend the meeting, however, did contact Township Attorney David Lattie and confirmed they were aware of the meeting but declined.
“This not an anti-veterans ordinance, it’s not anti-minority (or) anti-anybody ordinance,” said David Lattie, township attorney prior to the vote. “It analyzes land use, that’s it. And, however worthy these folks feel about their request, you don’t have the flexibility to pick and choose individuals who buy property in Atlas Township and what to use it for something different. You are bound by your ordinances that have been adopted and bound by the master plan.”
My Brothers Keeper intended 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.
Dan Bernard, attorney for My Brothers Keeper stated that if the township board does not approve the request, he will take the request to the Court of Appeals for a final determination.
“I’m a veteran,” said Jim Busch, interim township supervisor. “And I understand the needs for veterans. But this is not a veteran question. This is a zoning question. It this zoning change appropriate for Atlas Township? That’s how I look at it.”
“I’m dead-set against spot zoning,” “Spot zoning down the road will create problems for us, it will create problems for the PC (planning commission). Where do you stop when you start doing that?”
The conditions included, 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.
On April 17, five of seven township planning commissioners voted 5-0 to deny, during a meeting at Goodrich Middle School Cafeteria. Approximately 110 people attended the public meeting to observe and/or participate. During the hearing 32 people spoke to the planning commission, 24 speakers opposed the rezoning and eight supported the request. The PC meeting followed a March 13, planning commission public hearing and discussion where the rezoning request was tabled. On March 13 by the planning commission tabled the decision was due to new conditions relating to the property offered by the applicant on March 6.

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