At the Planning Commission meeting on July 18, 2016, a public hearing was held regarding the Vineyard Ridge development, owned by local realtor Ken Schmidt.
The 27.87-acre parcel is located at 6867 Center Road (the perennially-vacant land on the left side of Center Road before you get to Mathison Road as you’re heading out of Traverse City). According to the Special Use Permit application, the land is zoned R-1C, Suburban Single and Two-Family Residential District, which allows for Planned Unit Developments as a use permitted by Special Use Permit.
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The 2011 Future Land Use Map identifies the location as an area designated for moderate residential use, with one dwelling unit per half-acre, served by public utilities.
Dustin Christensen of Mansfield Land Use Consultants gave a presentation of the project, which includes a 47-unit condominium subdivision to be accessed by a proposed private road. Vineyard Ridge Drive will connect Center Road to Mathison Road with a secondary loop to the north, known as Vineyard Hill Court. Sixteen residential units will front Vineyard Ridge Drive, with the remaining 31 units fronting Vineyard Hill Court.
The development will include a community pool, hot tub and pool house located at the southern loop intersection of Vineyard Ridge Drive and Vineyard Hill Court.
Here are a few comments from the public hearing:
A resident of Underwood Ridge asked if there are old growth trees on the property that can’t be replaced. She also asked what type of units the homes will be. Christensen replied that most of the trees are first generation growth from the past 20 or 30 years. The units are all single-family, detached homes, with no duplexes.
Laura Serocki questioned the use of the development’s open space, much of which occurs in strips of land between the homes. “If that’s open space, that means everybody can traverse through there at any point of the day, and it also means that a homeowner cannot place anything in that area, like a patio or lawn furniture,” she noted. “Homeowners would have no rights to that property between the homes.” She also wondered how the Township would monitor the use of that open space.
Christensen noted that Peninsula Township’s Zoning Ordinance designates areas outside of the building lots as open space. “So yes, the intent of this development is to preserve that area as open space, and yes, everybody can use it and walk through it,” he said. “The Zoning Ordinance allows us to use areas outside of building envelopes as open space, regardless of whether they’re part of a single lot.”
Commissioner Monnie Peters said the development’s designation of open space is a major concern for her, as well, noting that the Zoning Ordinance specifies open space as “an area that is open to the sky exclusive of roads, parking lots and building.” “I don’t see that this meets our definition of open space,” she said.
Brit Eaton brought up the issue of traffic, noting that he followed 13 cars on Center Road on his way out from Traverse City today. Developments such as Vineyard Ridge and The 81 would put a lot more cars on Peninsula Township roads. “The Master Plan says that we should enjoy the environment that we have,” he noted. “The fact remains that this highway is going to be measured and widened for the traffic that you’re about to approve to go on it.”
John Fisher also expressed concern about the traffic and is perplexed that no traffic study has been mentioned, in light of recent developments such as Vineyard Ridge and The 81 putting upwards of 600 additional cars on Peninsula Township roads every day. “I can tell you right now that [traffic] is godawful on Center Road outside of my house,” he said, adding that at some point, MDOT would have no choice but to approach the Town Board with bump-outs, flashing lights and other elements to accommodate Old Mission Peninsula traffic.
Christensen noted that the Vineyard Ridge development has been run by MDOT, and they’ve ok’d it with no need to improve the highway. He also said the development is being marketed towards an older population, which will likely result in less traffic. “I think it would be unfair to request a traffic study for this project,” he said.
Commissioner Penny Rosi said it’s time to ask for a traffic study. Michelle Reardon, Director of Zoning and Planning, suggested that the Planning Commission request a traffic study, among other things.
Rebecca McMullen said she travels on Mathison Road every day and expressed concern over the traffic and possible increase in accidents for cars turning left onto Mathison from Center Road. “I see more near-miss accidents than should occur on our peninsula,” she said, “and having 47 more homes isn’t going to help Center Road … I don’t know how approving this plan is going to make our community safer or better.”
Margaret Achorn handed out a copy of the development with the open spaces blacked out. “Is this what the residents envisioned when they voted to preserve open space?” she asked, adding that using the area between the homes as open space will set a precedent for future developments.
Brad Bickle asked what homework the Planning Commission needs to do to measure the threshold that MDOT has before they decide it’s time to widen M-37.
Ray Weigel commended the Planning Commission for keeping Peninsula Township residents informed via the township website. “As far as the project is concerned … my feeling is that if they follow the rules and do what they’re supposed to do … our peninsula is going to be developed. it’s a beautiful place, but it is what it is,” he said, adding that he’d rather see something with some areas of open space.
No decisions regarding Vineyard Ridge were made at this public hearing. The Planning Commission is tentatively looking at August 22 for another public hearing. Here are a few more photos of the land on which Vineyard Ridge is proposed.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb