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Farms residents: No condos at Tennis House site

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published May 19, 2016

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GROSSE POINTE FARMS — No formal plans have been unveiled yet, but already residents are saying an emphatic “no” to a possible condo development at 360 Moselle Place, better known to residents as the “Tennis House.”

ANK Enterprises Inc. is looking at turning what is now a small private club into a multifamily condominium that would preserve the historically significant building while changing its use. Residents who live nearby are alarmed by the possible change, and dozens packed Farms City Council chambers for a meeting May 9 to protest the potential condo development.

Saying that it was too early for public comment on this matter, city leaders said there wasn’t really anything to discuss yet; the May 9 meeting was simply to set a public hearing date for the proposal.

Mayor James Farquhar asked residents to hold their comments, questions and concerns until that public hearing, which is slated to take place at 7 p.m. July 11.

“We (as a council) haven’t seen any plans yet,” Farquhar told residents. “Let us see the plans (first) … and then we’ll meet in July and you can express your concerns (then).”

City Councilman Peter Waldmeir agreed that the time for public comment on the development will be during the public hearing this summer. It’s possible that whatever proposal is submitted to the city might address some of the issues that residents are worried about.

“Some of the concerns may be obviated by what’s submitted in July,” Waldmeir said.

Chip Berschback, the attorney representing ANK Enterprises, said they were “asking simply for a public hearing” to be scheduled regarding the development. 

During the public hearing in July, the council is expected to consider changing the zoning from community recreational, as it is now, to multiple family residential; using a planned unit development overlay to redevelop the parcel for the new use; and granting an exception to the city’s PUD ordinance requirement that such developments be limited to parcels of 2 acres or more, Berschback explained in a letter to city leaders. Berschback said the property is roughly 1.514 acres. 

ANK Enterprises is looking at converting the tennis building to a 12-unit condominium. Berschback said in the letter that the eastern portion of the parcel would be divided into four additional lots for the purpose of building four detached, single-family condos as well, using architectural style and detail that would “complement the existing Tennis House structure.” 

The Tennis House sits next to two community service parcels — Brownell Middle School and First Church of Christ Scientist — and is flanked by residential property on its remaining two sides, Berschback said in the letter.

Rezoning the property to multifamily residential “is an appropriate transitional use between such districts, as called for in the (city’s) master plan, and would act as an excellent buffer between the (community service) districts and the existing single-family homes on Belanger and Moselle,” Berschback wrote.

Nearby residents don’t agree with that assessment.

In an email to city leaders, Brian Vladu — who lives with his family on Belanger Avenue, adjacent to the Tennis House — said he is “extremely upset” about the potential redevelopment.

“My wife and I purchased our house on Belanger Ave. specifically because we liked the idea of the Tennis House as our backyard neighbors,” he wrote. “Part of the charm of Grosse Pointe Farms is that it does not change and become pre-fab like every other community.”

If the Tennis House were to close, Vladu suggested that the city keep the property as a recreational area, possibly with a soccer field, fitness center, movie theater or indoor hockey arena.

“We as a city need more places for our kids to play and grow up in a safe environment,” he wrote. “The Tennis House location would be a great place to continue that tradition.”

Kristin Kozlowski, who lives just a block away from the Tennis House on Calvin Road, voiced her concerns in an email to city officials. She wrote that she and her family know most of their neighbors and enjoy this quiet, peaceful area where they can safely walk and bike.

“A multifamily dwelling is completely inappropriate for this location,” she wrote. “It would take away from the charm of neighborhoods that bring many families, including ourselves, to the Farms. It would significantly increase traffic to the area, which would be a huge concern for our young family, as well as the hundreds of schoolchildren who walk and bike from this area to Brownell and Kerby (Elementary School) each day.”

Kozlowski pointed out that because Grosse Pointe public schools don’t offer bus transportation, the safety of young pedestrians is of particular concern.

As of the May 9 meeting, Farquhar said the city had gotten about 20 written comments about the possible development. He said concerns expressed by residents included worries about traffic flow and congestion, property values, property mix, structural and property density, and Grosse Pointe history, among others.

“We respect them all and we hear them all,” Farquhar said.

City Councilman Louis Theros said any proposed development goes through a particular process before the council votes.

“There’s been as many proposals that have failed as have succeeded,” he told residents. “We’re guided by our ordinances and by what the people want (us) to do.”

Theros said residents will be notified about upcoming public meetings on the proposal, as is required. Farquhar said the city could suggest changes to any proposal submitted by the developer.

“Your concerns are our concerns,” Waldmeir said to residents.

The Farms City Council voted unanimously May 9 in favor of setting a public hearing on the proposal for July 11. For future council agendas or more information, visit the city’s website at www.grossepointefarms.org.