Property gifted to the city in 2016 will be conditionally rezoned to make way for a condominium development on Jefferson Avenue, south of Masonic Boulevard.

Property gifted to the city in 2016 will be conditionally rezoned to make way for a condominium development on Jefferson Avenue, south of Masonic Boulevard.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

St. Clair Shores looks to market parcels for development

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published October 8, 2018


ST. CLAIR SHORES — City Council approved the conditional rezoning of five parcels of land south of Veterans Memorial Park at its Oct. 1 meeting, paving the way for development of the land into a lakefront condominium complex.

A charitable remainder trust that owned two of the parcels immediately south of the Lac Ste. Claire Villas signed the approximately 100-foot-wide by 550-foot-deep piece of property over to the city of St. Clair Shores in December of 2016 while forgiving all payments on the property, valued at around $1.5 million.

The agreement stated that the city could then sell the property to be developed as it sees fit and use the money to improve Veterans Memorial Park or Blossom Heath Park.

According to the memorandum of understanding signed in December 2016, the funds raised by the city from the sale of the property can be used for the construction of an activity pier extending from the eastern edge of Veterans Memorial Park, with a price tag of about $1 million, that had been designed six years ago, or to improve and expand the bathroom building at Blossom Heath Park into some sort of community center.

Since that time, the city approached the owners of the three parcels to the south of the donated parcels and came to an agreement with them to enter into a conditional rezoning of the properties from single-family lakeshore residential district to multiple-family residential district high rise. 

Adding additional property to the parcels gifted to the city wasn’t always the plan, City Manager Mike Smith said. 

“When we first got this parcel, there was some discussion about the best way to market that parcel, and the more research we did with regard to a development of a multi-housing site on that location, it became very clear that to really make the best of that, it would be better to widen the lot,” he said.

The rezoning approved by City Council Oct. 1 with a 6-0 vote (Councilwoman Candice Rusie was absent from the meeting, but excused) places the following conditions upon the rezoning:

• The properties are conditionally rezoned to RM-2.

• Only condominiums will be constructed on the properties.

• The owners shall have 12 months to commence a development project or submit complete construction documents to the Department of Community Development.

• The condominiums will have a maximum of three stories and a minimum of 1,100 square feet for a one-bedroom unit, 1,300 square feet for a two-bedroom unit and 1,500 square feet for a three-bedroom unit.

• All parcels must be included in the future development and will be combined to make a single parcel upon the sale of the properties.

• The properties will immediately revert back to their previous zoning classifications if the conditions aren’t met.

• The city will adopt a new zoning ordinance for the conditional rezoning.

Smith said that two of the three parcels included in the conditional rezoning have houses on them, while the third — which abuts the property gifted to the city — has a garage on it. The property with a garage is owned by the same person who gifted the property to the city, while the other two parcels have other owners. 

Smith said that the donor of the parcels to the city “had to make a donation because of some tax issues that he had. (It was) advantageous for him to do it that way instead of” selling his own property for development. 

When planning for taller structures such as the proposed three-story condominiums, further setbacks are required to take the height into account, Smith explained. So, to make the property attractive to developers, it was advantageous to try to increase the size of the property, he said. 

Smith said that the city had known that the property owners immediately south of the city’s parcel had explored development of their properties before, since the 50-foot width of each property doesn’t “really lend themselves to single-family homes.” But individually, there wasn’t much of a market for multiple-family homes on lots that are roughly 50 feet by 550 feet either, he said. 

He said there is no plan yet for how many units could be built on the land, as that would be dependent on the configuration put forward by the developer. All together, the land is nearly 300 feet wide by 550 feet deep, Smith said. 

“The city is going to have an opportunity to market to a developer a reasonably large parcel of property,” City Attorney Robert Ihrie said at the Oct. 1 City Council meeting. “That marketing will commence should the City Council agree to approve this conditional rezoning.”

He said that the project will come back before the Planning Commission and City Council before any development is approved.

In response to resident concerns about multiple-family uses continuing to creep down the coastline of Lake St. Clair, Smith said that the waterfront itself puts limits on that, as the lots further south are not as deep as the parcels being considered for redevelopment, so they would not lend themselves to multiple-family housing developments.

“The truth of the matter is, someone could have come and built a single-family home on that (site) that was two and a half stories tall, and it would have done the exact same thing to the views” of the lake, he said. “For the betterment of the community, this makes sense.”

Ihrie explained that the city isn’t beholden to the plans of the developer. 

“If it does not like the development, it does not have to sell the property,” he said. 

Councilman John Caron said that he believes a condo association would take great pride in making sure the property is as well-kept as possible.

“It’s going to be a great addition to the city, as well as providing multiple families views and access to the lake,” he said. 

Councilman Chris Vitale agreed.

“I’m hoping that this ends up becoming almost an architecture competition. I would really like to see something stunning on that corner, not just what we’re used to seeing in terms of condos,” he said. “I’m always in favor of things that help us add residents.”

How much money the property owners will get for their parcels, or how much of a percentage of the total price paid to the city by the developer will go to the other owners, will be finalized and reviewed by City Council as part of a marketing agreement between the city and the three property owners.

The requests for conditional rezoning of all five parcels were approved 6-0 at the Oct. 1 City Council meeting.