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  • Robert Lathers

Proposed Senior Housing Development Moves Forward Despite Some Vocal Opposition

The Portland City Council, following a lively public hearing, at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday approved the Portland City Planning Commission recommendation to amend the Rindelhaven Planned Unit Development (PUD) to Remove a 10 Acre Parcel from the original Overall PUD. This will allow the development of a 42-Unit Senior Housing Facility by The Brook to now move forward.

The Brook, which is headquartered in Gaylord, and has numerous Senior Housing Facilities throughout Michigan, provided City Council and all those in attendance with a slide show overview of the proposed project.

Mayor Jim Barnes then facilitated a public hearing in a room full of residents, Brook Administrators, and local business owners.

Rindelhaven is a 152-Acre development that sits North of Grand River between Rowe Ave. and Culver Road. It has been in development since the early 2000’s but has far less utilization than originally planned. Approximately 20 homes have been built there since it began. Originally, a large Senior Living Center of over 100+ units were approved to be developed at the rear of the property near Culver Road. It was part of the original Rindlehaven “Planned Unit Development” (PUD). That Senior development never came to be. So, when The Brook approached the City with a request to build a smaller 42-unit facility (20 Independent Living & 22 Assisted Living apartments) on the other side of Rindlehaven near Rowe Ave., it legally required an amendment to the original Planned Unit Development.

The Portland City Planning Commission gathered information from its City Planning consultant and its contracted engineering firm, Fleis and VandenBrink Engineering of Grand Rapids, as well as information from Portland’s city water and electric staff. Following a rigorous vetting and analysis of the proposed Brook project the Planning Commission unanimously recommended to move forward with approval of a revised PUD to remove a 10-acre parcel for rezoning. This would allow The Brook to develop its 42-Unity Facility at the front of Rindelhaven off of Rowe Ave.

However, Patrice Weber, Owner/Administrator of Portland Assisted Living and Memory Center, which is located nearby on Charlotte Hwy. and Bridge St., brought forward concerns about the project including increased traffic congestion as well as infrastructure concerns and increased demand on city services like police and ambulance. It was simultaneously discovered by City Manager Tutt Gorman, that due to a clerical error, a few of the current resident homeowners in Rindelhaven did not receive adequate notice about the proposed project. The City of Portland then decided to review and extend the process. Additional hearings were scheduled at the Planning Commission and then at the City Council meeting on Monday.

Patrice Weber was the first to address the Council with her concerns and challenged the Council to slow down and address the potential traffic issues that she believes will occur. “We don’t need to rush it through”, she stated. Ms. Weber asked the Council to conduct an updated “Traffic impact study” before it approved an amendment to the current PUD. Ms. Weber tenaciously addressed the Council on three separate occasions during the hearing. At one point she asked why the decision could not wait for an updated traffic impact study. Mayor Jim Barnes responded that the City Council did not want to fall prey to the practice of what he called, “Analysis Paralysis”. A traffic impact study had previously been done with the original and much larger Rindelhaven project several years ago. City Manager Gorman assured those in attendance that the City will continue to monitor traffic utilization patterns and act accordingly.

Karen Sutberry and her husband Dan who live in Rindelhaven also addressed the Council. Ms. Sutberry stated emphatically that they were “entirely in support” of the Brook proposal. Mr. Sutberry followed up with a couple of clarifying questions to the Council.

Kathy Parsons, a local business owner, gave a passionate testimony supporting the project citing that economic growth and competition makes the City stronger and concluded, “Towns, like businesses that do not move forward, die a slow death!”

Mayor Barnes graciously requested additional public comments from anyone wishing to address the issue. Receiving none, the Hearing was closed. Mayor Barnes thanked the Planning Commission for their work and the Council then voted unanimously to approve.

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