GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Grand Rapids Planning Commission approved a developer's plan to demolish seven buildings, including some homes on Veto Street and Seward Avenue SW, as part of a plan for future development.
The owner, Jeff Boorsma, submitted his plan to the planning commission. He wants to tear down the seven houses he owns in the area west of the downtown Grand Rapids campus of Grand Valley State University.
All but one of those homes is vacant.
Boorsma said demolishing the homes will make the land easier to sell to a developer.
But many residents don't want a bunch of empty lots in their neighborhood and worry about the character and housing stock in the neighborhood.
"We're not out to get him. We feel he's out to get us," said neighbor Evelyn Bailey at the Thursday planning commission meeting.
But some were pleased with the idea of green space.
"For now, those houses are sitting vacant, and they're subject to all kinds of other undesirable things that might happen," said neighbor John Schowalter.
But part of the city's policy designed to preserve housing stock says without a plan to replace housing, it can't be demolished. That's what framed the debate at the public hearing.
"He wants to tear down another block. When it will be another block. When is this going to stop?" said Bailey.
In the end, a majority of planning commissioners sided with Boormsma.
Current zoning allows only single-family homes on sites, but Boorsma is optimistic a proposed change in zoning -- part of a bigger master plan for neighborhoods between GVSU and the John Ball Zoo -- will allow apartment and condos on his lots in the future.
The freshly-written "U to the Zoo Master Plan" is designed to help new development fit into the traditional westside. Many are hoping the plan held alleviate the friction between the old westside and those who want to make it the new westside.
"This property will be will be on the market and it will move forward," said Boorsma. "The westside moves slowly. Sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad. But it does move slowly. We're committed to the westside and we'll continue to work on the westside"
The public will get a chance to weigh in on the U to the Zoo Master Plans when it comes up before the planning commission on Sept. 17. If it is approved, it still needs to go before the city commission.
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