Sale of lot for parking in St. Clair Shores denied, for now

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published November 30, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — A plan to construct a parking lot on an empty residential lot has rankled nearby neighbors.

“The express purpose that the property is being sold is to have a parking lot made out of it. I’ve been looking at that for six years. A parking lot there with a wall ... is right outside of our bedroom and bathroom windows,” said Vicki Krinke, a resident on Centennial Street, west of Harper Avenue.

The Community Development and Inspection Department was before the City Council Nov. 19 to recommend the sale of the vacant lot at 21408 Centennial St. to the neighboring business owned by Ventimiglia Harper Properties, contingent on the rezoning of the property and the vacation of the alley between the lot and the commercial property for $26,000. The property would be turned into a parking lot to allow the owner of the commercial building to have a wider tenant pool for future occupants of the building.

Community Development and Inspection Director Chris Rayes said that the house that was on the property was demolished in 2010 after a pipe burst and it became filled with mold. The former homeowner had deeded the property to the city.

Rayes said that he spoke with the potential buyer, the neighboring owner of the commercial property, to see if he would like to acquire the land, contingent on rezoning.

Councilwoman Candice Rusie said that she didn’t understand why the property was not listed for sale for any developer to purchase, just offered to a neighboring business owner.

“What disturbs me about this is, going back to the discussion (about a master plan), once you encapsulate an idea into a master plan, administration takes it as carte blanche to pursue separate activities ... wasting the business owner’s time if this doesn’t go forward,” she said.

Rusie said that a “nice big house” could instead be erected on the 60-foot lot, like on other empty lots in the city.

“I would prefer to see this listed for a potential developer to put a nice house on,” she said. “These lots have been hopping. We’ve been getting multiple offers. If no one comes a-knocking three months from now, maybe we can discuss (the parking lot).”

Nearby residents agreed. Mickey Drozdowicz, who lives down the street, said that hardly anyone uses the parking lot that is currently adjacent to the business, so he doesn’t see a need for more parking.

“That doesn’t help our street,” he said. “There’s a vacant parking lot now to the east of where you want to put this in. I would like to see a home go up. I’m not seeing the benefit of putting a parking lot there.”

But Councilman Chris Vitale said that allowing the business owner to expand his parking lot could lead to a more successful business in that location.

“We have a lot of obsolete retail space on Harper,” he said. “This is probably one of those parcels.

“I think what was behind this was that if they were able to expand their lot size, (they could) possibly redevelop this parcel into something that was more competitive and less obsolete.”

Vitale and other council members said they would like to work with the neighbors to find a compromise that would benefit the neighborhood and the business owner, perhaps including a greenbelt between the new parking lot and the neighborhood.

The City Council voted unanimously to deny the sale of the property in the hopes that a potential compromise could be discussed.

“Harper is becoming obsolete,” Councilman Peter Rubino said. “This would be a good opportunity to create an environment for a new business, maybe some new buildings.

“If there’s anything that the residents could accept that might enhance that property but make (residents) happy too,” that compromise should be found.

Councilman Ron Frederick said that if no compromise can be found, then the city could try to market the lot for sale for new development of a house.