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Grand Haven Twp. group wants zoning changes brought to vote

Alex Doty • Mar 30, 2016 at 10:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — Grand Haven Township officials approved the planning amendment this week that clears the way for a controversial medical center development, and now a group of township residents wants to see some changes to an ordinance that was changed during the Health Pointe review process.

Township resident Hillary Burns is heading up the Township Citizens’ Voice group, which is conducting a petition drive aimed at putting that ordinance change to a public vote.

“There’s about 32 of us now,” Burns said, “and that group is growing.”

The group wants to overturn recent amendments to the Township Zoning Ordinance regulating commercial planned unit developments and PUDs in the Robbins Road Sub-Area. Burns said the zoning changes the Township Board approved should apply to the entire township and not just one particular area.

Burns said the ordinance change makes it appear that the Spectrum Health/Holland Hospital joint venture called Health Pointe was getting special treatment from the township as a result of the process.

The Zoning Ordinance amendments approved by the Township Board on March 14 include changes to the following sections of the Zoning Ordinance:

— Base regulations: applicable to all township PUDs.

— Permitted uses: applicable only to commercial PUDs.

— Special land uses: applicable only to commercial PUDs.

— Structure height: applicable only to commercial PUDs located within the Robbins Road Sub-Area boundaries, which also includes a map of the sub-area.

“What they did was they zoned just that particular area for medical use, and it wasn’t medical use,” Burns said, adding that the Robbins Road Sub-Area is also allowed taller buildings, while the rest of the township is limited to the standard 35 feet.

Burns’ petition process is allowed under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, Ottawa County Elections Coordinator Steve Daitch said.

“Essentially, zoning ordinances can be placed on the ballot if someone who lives in the jurisdiction files petitions with their local city or township clerk,” Daitch explained. “In order to place the ordinance on the ballot, the petition must be signed by a number of voters that equals 15 percent of the votes cast for the office of governor in the last general election (within the jurisdiction).”

Grand Haven Township officials say 5,093 township residents cast ballots in the November 2014 election, so that means 764 signatures are required.

Burns said people have so far been happy to sign the petition.

“From the date it was filed in the paper (March 19), we have 30 days,” she said. “We will have all of our signatures by April 15.”

According to Daitch, once a petitioner has the proper number of signatures and submits those signatures to the township, it’s up to the Township Board to come up with the ballot language for the ballot and send that to the county.

The deadline for the petition to be filed with the township is April 20, and the deadline for the Township Board to submit ballot language to the county to get it on the August primary election ballot is May 12. 

Township officials say if the issue goes to the voters and they “deny” the zoning amendments, it won’t have a direct impact on the Health Pointe PUD decision made Monday night.

“The zoning amendments approved by the board on March 14 that may be subject to a referendum were not a basis for the approval of the Health Pointe PUD amendment,” Township Manager Bill Cargo said. “It will have no impact on the Health Pointe PUD amendment decision because the Health Pointe decision was based upon the current zoning rules.”

According to Cargo, the Health Pointe project revealed “ambiguities within the Zoning Ordinance and inconsistency with the 2009 Master Plan amendments,” which resulted in the changes to the Zoning Ordinance.

“Therefore, the board instructed the Planning Commission to address these issues,” he said. “Those ambiguities were resolved by the ordinance amendments that were approved by the board on March 14.”

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