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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.

Vineyard Ridge, Ken Schmidt
Vineyard Ridge Development | Jane Boursaw Photo

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 “anĀ 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.

Vineyard Ridge Development Open Space via Margaret Achorn
Vineyard Ridge Development Open Space via Margaret Achorn

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.

Vineyard Ridge, Ken Schmidt
Vineyard Ridge Development | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard Ridge, Ken Schmidt
Vineyard Ridge Development | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard Ridge, Ken Schmidt
Vineyard Ridge Development | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard Ridge, Ken Schmidt
Vineyard Ridge Development | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vineyard Ridge, Ken Schmidt
Vineyard Ridge Development | Jane Boursaw Photo

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

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15 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Jane, for all you do to keep the residents informed. There really does need to be a traffic study on the peninsula, especially on Swaney rd between Mission rd and Haserot beach. Not only the amount of traffic but the speed of the vehicles.

  2. Open space looks like what used to be called yards. How many square feet will homeowners actually own? Will the so called open space be taxed at a different rate?

    • Been like that since I was on the ZBA in late 80’s….three years is the “magic” number of years that the transplants live here before they go nuts about new development. Saw it time and time again. I feel for the current boards.

  3. That stretch of road is pretty darn busy, but if it’s allowed under the ordinance and MDOT doesn’t have any issues with it, not a lot that can be done. As Monnie mentioned, though, I’m not sure the developer’s definition of open space is the same as the definition in the ordinance.

  4. My family purchased our property in the sixties and built in 73. My parents picked this place because of the low density and farming community atmosphere. They felt safe raising their children here because the entire community looked out for us and they did not have to worry about us getting hit by a speeding car. I have life long friends that treasure the laid back lifestyle and value neighbors that don’t hesitate to help each other. We chose a longer drive to amenities because of this. My observation is that most of the people that want to approve large housing developments and commercial properties are the ones that benefit monetarily from it. Seriously, does it make me a bad person to resist changing the place we call Home into highly commercialized venue for visitors?

    • It does not make you a bad person. What you said about your parents feeling safe about raising their kids here and the community looking out for everyone else is so true. I think it’s still true today, for the most part, but of course, there are a lot more people on the Peninsula now, so we don’t know everyone like we did back then. But I do feel like neighbors look out for each other on the Peninsula. I think we’re all good people.

      But if we all just take a step back and look at the big picture – that as long as there’s available land out here that isn’t under a conservation easement (would love to see more of that), it will likely be developed at some point. But go back to the Master Plan and the Zoning Ordinance, and review and revise those documents to reflect our rural character on the Peninsula. I mean, if a developer can build 53 homes on an 81-acre parcel of land, where there’s bound to be a ton of grading of the land and tree removal … to me, that doesn’t seem like it fits our rural character. If the Zoning Ordinance allows that, then we need to re-think the Zoning Ordinance.

      At the meeting last night, someone brought up the idea of reviewing the taxing of that parcel if the lots were bigger, say 5 acres, or even 2 or 3 acres. Eighty-one acres divided by 5 would be 16 homes. If it was 81 acres divided by 3 acres, that would be 27 homes.

      That seems at least a little more acceptable than trying to cram in 53 homes on that parcel of pristine land and denuding it in the process.

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