A proposal to rezone a property being sold by Heritage Presbyterian Church on Jefferson Avenue was approved by City Council July 15.

A proposal to rezone a property being sold by Heritage Presbyterian Church on Jefferson Avenue was approved by City Council July 15.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske


Zoning change paves way for condominium development in St. Clair Shores

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published July 19, 2019

 The property currently occupied by a church and soccer field is planned to be redeveloped as a 20-unit condominium complex.

The property currently occupied by a church and soccer field is planned to be redeveloped as a 20-unit condominium complex.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

 Council also approved a site plan for the property, which includes this soccer field.

Council also approved a site plan for the property, which includes this soccer field.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — City Council members voted to rezone a parcel of property that currently holds a church to make way for a 20-unit condominium development south of Nine Mile Road and west of Jefferson Avenue.

A representative from MHB Companies in Grosse Pointe, Ron Latiff, was before City Council July 15 asking for the rezoning of 23415 Jefferson Ave. from single-family residential to multiple-family low-rise zoning because his company was interested in purchasing the land occupied by Heritage Presbyterian Church, which has since closed.

The condominiums would be constructed in six buildings, with two, three or four units in each building.

City planners pointed out that the site plan brought forward by MHB Companies called for the construction of 20 condominiums. If a single-family subdivision was constructed on the same piece of land, about 20 houses would fit on the property, meaning that the condominium complex wouldn’t be any more densely populated than a single-family neighborhood.

Resident Susan Tocco said that, while she thinks the development is “a great thing for the property,” her house is on the corner of the development and condo residents will be able to see into her entire yard and rooms of her house.

“Nobody wants a wall. That would just be horrible, but we need something for our privacy, preferably a green space,” she said. “We’re losing all our privacy.”

Other residents expressed concerns to the Planning Commission that they purchased their properties because of the fact that they backed up to a soccer field and that the neighborhood was very quiet, qualities that they thought would change with the construction of a multi-family complex.

City Council members asked if owners would be restricted from renting the units so that it didn’t become a defacto apartment building. Latiff said that, while restrictions may be imposed by the homeowners association, none of that had been decided at that time.

“Without a commitment (to restrict the number of rentals), I can’t vote to make that zoning change,” Councilman Chris Vitale said.

Councilman Ron Frederick said that he appreciates the project and that his concern would be with “snowbirds” renting out their home for months at a time while they go down south for the winter.

Latiff said that, even if owners were allowed to lease out their units to someone else, “we would definitely restrict those rentals to at least a year so you couldn’t rent seasonally.”

City Attorney Robert Ihrie said there is no zoning regulation restricting the maximum number of units that can be rented, so “we will not be able to impose that upon this developer if, indeed, the rezoning passes.”

Councilman Peter Rubino said that he didn’t think, at the proposed price point of $250,000-$300,000 per condo, that people would be buying the units just to turn them into rental properties. LaTiff agreed.

“I don’t think it’s going to be problematic,” Latiff said, adding that the development would likely “have a very low turnover and, when there are units available, I think they will be absorbed very quickly.”

“A lot of empty nesters in St. Clair Shores, bordering St. Clair Shores, are very eager to buy there.”

And Councilwoman Candice Rusie said that, even if the lot was developed with 20 single family homes, there would be nothing preventing those residents from renting out their homes either.

She made a motion, supported by Rubino, to approve the rezoning. It passed 6-1, with Vitale opposed.

According to the site plan, the units would be approximately 1,500 square feet and each have a two-car garage, Latiff explained. They would primarily be one-story units with the option for a loft on a second floor to add an additional bedroom. He said that two-story units would be paired in the same building to maintain symmetry.

He explained that he and the other developers would also prefer a greenery border as opposed to a masonry wall, which is called for by city zoning ordinance.

“I’m glad to hear that you want to work with residents with regard to greenscape,” Rubino said.

He made a motion, supported by Councilman Peter Accica, to approve the site plan for the project. It passed 6-1, with Vitale opposed.

Latiff said that they would like to begin construction as soon as possible, and hoped to break ground by fall.

“I know there’s a lot of questions, but I think we’re all excited,” Mayor Kip Walby said. “You took a church there that’s been vacant and you’re going to make it quite appealing.”

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