City leaders have developed a new ordinance they hope will give property owners more flexibility to develop downtown property.
At Monday's meeting, Saline City Council passed a motion that amends to city's ordinance to create two Downtown Form Based Code districts. While passing the motion, city council directed planning commission to review the zoning for the 100 block of West Michigan Avenue.
The code encourages more mixed-use, higher-intensity development designed to create a compact, walkable environment that creates opportunities for investment while protecting the historic attributes and character of the area. There new ordinance provides for two types of zoning downtown: D-1, Downtown Core; and D-2 Edge. This new zoning is laid on top of existing downtown zoning designations, including commercial 1 and 2, industrial (at the old R&B), professional business and residential. The D-1 area calls for continuation of “street wall” of adjacent block buildings in the downtown core. That means zero-lot line and two and three-story buildings. The D-2 area is designed to provide a softer transition from downtown and the rest of Saline. That means set backs and one and two-story buildings.
The city's planning commission voted to recommend the motion to city council at the Nov. 13 meeting. Council adopted the ordinance but asked planning commission to review the zoning of 147 W. Michigan Ave. The new ordinance zones the property as D-2. Councillor David Rhoads has said on several occasions that the property is best suited for D-1 zoning. D-1 zoning also allows developers exemptions on rules that require space for parking.
“I would like to request we ask the planning commission to consider a zoning split so the block of 100 West Michigan would have a zoning more compatible with the rest of our downtown block,” Rhoads told council. “Going from D-2 to D-1 would eliminate a couple of road blocks that potential developers see in that zoning.”
Councillor Jim Peters supported Rhoads' recommendation.
Councillor Linda TerHaar noted that city council has asked the planning commission to rezone 147 W. Michigan Ave. in the past.
“I wonder if members of the planning commission can expand on why the suggestion to rezone the property wasn't acted upon earlier,” TerHaar said.
Mayor Brian Marl the planning commission has discussed the issue casually.
“I think the feeling was that it wasn't appropriate to make the change along with some of the minor housekeeping adjustments,” Marl said.
Marl supported Rhoads' amendment.
“Redeveloping the 100 West Michigan block is in the community's vital interest. We want to see development flourish and prosper. There are a number of market factors already inhibiting development,” Marl said. “I want to make sure there's nothing we have in place, in terms of a policy, that adds to that burden.”
Councillor Dean Girbach, who serves on planning commission, agreed that 147 W. Michigan Ave. should be zoned D-1.
“This change would give us more options on the property. There are considerations regarding parking, but there are alternatives that can be used,” Girbach said. “The way it is now, it's too restricted. Most of the community wants to see that property move forward and be a productive revenue generator for the city.”