Disability apartments may be on tap for Ferrysburg City Hall land

Marie Havenga • Oct 17, 2016 at 8:00 AM

FERRYSBURG – The City of Ferrysburg has an interested taker in the land east of City Hall.

The city recently had requested proposals from developers who would be interested in developing the 5.5-acre property.

Gracious Grounds submitted the only proposal. The non-profit, faith-based organization would like to build an apartment building to house residents with unique abilities (disabilities), according to Gracious Grounds director Sandra Baker.

Gracious Grounds recently purchased a building on Despelder Avenue in Grand Haven that houses five residents and will soon open an 18-resident building north of Grand Landing.

“We are excited about the possibility of building on the property adjacent to Ferrysburg City Hall,” Baker said, adding that the idea is still in its infancy. “The location is wonderful – on public transportation, close to amenities, in a neighborhood setting, in a safe area, next to a community garden and softball field. We are merely at the 'dream' stage at this moment.”

But she said that “dream” parallels the dreams of the disabled residents who would live there. They want variety in housing options, she said, just like all people do.

“Gracious Grounds would like to offer a variety of opportunities for its residents,” she said. “Small homes, large homes, duplexes, apartments...All of these are viable options, based on the needs and comfort of each individual.”

Baker approached City Council several years ago about leasing former classrooms in City Hall, but zoning prohibited that.

Baker said clients are self-sufficient, take care of their own needs and hold jobs in the community.

City Manager Craig Bessinger said the next step is more meetings with Baker and developing more firm plans.

“City Council indicated their support for further discussion,” Bessinger said. “I think we'll get together with Gracious Grounds and discuss how much property they're looking at and what the timetable is. We'll brainstorm some plans on how the property would look when it's developed.”

The property is currently zoned medium-density residential.

“We'll look at the zoning or if the zoning has to be changed,” Bessinger said. “I'm not sure if what they're proposing would qualify or if it would have to be rezoned.”

Several council members spoke in favor of the project.

“I love what they're trying to do,” said councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy. “I think it's wonderful for them as well as the community. I had a Down syndrome sister myself. That would have been just great to have something nearby like that. It's a comfort for family and friends.”

Kennedy noted terms and timeline have not yet been decided.

“We would like to work with them,” she said. “We think it would be great for our city to provide this service for our people.”

Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg also voiced her support.

“I don't think there could be a better use for that property,” Sjoberg said. “One of our goals is to give support to every single segment of the city. Pete (my husband) and I always wanted to give our kids wings. That's what they're doing, giving these people wings and they deserve that.”

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