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Ferrysburg rezones land for Gracious Grounds

Marie Havenga • Mar 7, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The Ferrysburg City Council on Monday night officially approved rezoning the land adjacent to City Hall, paving the way for a housing project for residents with disabilities.

The rezoning of 8 acres east of City Hall from medium- to high-density residential use will permit a housing project being planned by Gracious Grounds, a local non-profit, faith-based organization dedicated to providing housing for clients with disabilities. The property is currently owned by the city.

The city’s Planning Commission last month recommended the rezoning.

Sandy Baker, who is heading up the Gracious Grounds project, has a son who is disabled. She told City Council two years ago that there is a great need for housing for people with special needs.

Baker said they have not yet developed a site plan for the housing project.

“We wanted the high-density zoning to be in place before the purchase and closing date,” she said.

The agreement between Gracious Grounds and the city calls for the purchase to be finalized by April 30. The selling price is $40,000, according to Ferrysburg City Manager Craig Bessinger.

“They're going to take some time and develop a site plan, then they will bring it to the city for review and approval,” Bessinger said.

The site plan will require both the blessings of the city’s Planning Commission and City Council, according to Bessinger.

Baker said she does not know the cost of the project or how many people will be housed on the site.

“We are currently assessing the needs and dreaming about the possibilities on the property,” she said. “It is a fantastic location for the future of Gracious Grounds, close to the amenities that Ferrysburg, Grand Haven and Spring Lake have to offer. Access to public transportation, the community garden, the softball field and the potential for rentable space in the City Hall itself are assets, as well.”

Baker said her organization plans to launch a capital campaign, seek grants and create other fundraising opportunities to generate money for the project.

“The fundraising process may take 2-5 years, which will also give us the time to acquire residents and create a truly wonderful opportunity for the residents,” she said.

Several years ago, Baker had approached Ferrysburg City Council about converting some of the classrooms in the City Hall building to residential use, but zoning prohibited it, according to Bessinger.

In the past few years, Gracious Grounds has provided apartments for people with special needs on DeSpelder Street and Ohio Avenue in Grand Haven.

The city purchased the entire 14-acre parcel with the former school building that now houses City Hall for $950,000 in 2006. Bessinger said it has always been the intent to sell off the adjacent land. He said wetlands make up 2 of the 8 acres that Gracious Grounds is purchasing.

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