Dairy Treat condo development approved

Alexander Sinn • Mar 13, 2019 at 9:00 AM

Grand Haven Planning Commission Chairwoman Erin Von Tom took a long pause Tuesday night before casting her vote on a proposed development for the Dairy Treat site.

The commission approved the controversial project 7-1, greenlighting a new Dairy Treat and condos at the landmark Grand Haven site. Von Tom cast the lone vote against the site plan.

Von Tom was not alone in her opinion that the proposal did not gel with the city’s Zoning Ordinance guidance and the existing character of the neighborhood. Neighbors voiced opposition to the idea both in writing and at the meeting.

Developers defended their plans and rejected criticism of their proposal.

Developer David Ten Cate said the plans, which entail a three-story building featuring a new Dairy Treat at ground level and four condo units above, comply with the Zoning Ordinance. Commissioners agreed, despite concerns over parking availability and congestion on the sidewalk.

“We have not engaged in all the Facebook defamers, who have been ill-informed and willing to follow a red herring,” Ten Cate said of the opposition. 

Ten Cate, co-owner of Capstone Companies, addressed comments made by Rick Grasman, owner of a next-door building who has railed against the proposal on social media and in letters to city officials.

Grasman said in a letter to the Planning Commission that a developer “walks a fine line between maximizing developer profits and yet integrating a product and design that is beneficial to — and adds value to — the neighborhood and the community.”

Ten Cate rejected the accusation, saying the building is an improvement and conforms with the pattern of development in the area.

“Sadly, and it does trouble me to say this,” Ten Cate said. “(Grasman has) been able to walk a fine line, as well — the line between exaggerating and downright fabricating.”

A year ago, Grasman and Capstone were working together on plans for the site that both had considered a “win-win,” but the collaboration broke down and plans were altered.

Grasman preferred green space and improved sight lines. Another resident said the building, which will extend to the sidewalks on both South Harbor Drive and Lafayette Avenue, could create a “domino effect,” promoting other businesses to build to the sidewalk. 

Von Tom referred to the city’s Zoning Ordinance, which says the district should limit “monolithic developments.” She also asked the developer to consider flood-risk planning and sufficient room for pedestrians.

The Dairy Treat will remain at the location on the ground floor of a new building at 212 S. Harbor Drive. The ice cream shop space will be about 445 square feet, while four two-bedroom residential units — two on the second floor and two on the third — will be about 1,800 square feet each. One will be a short-term rental, while the other three will be permanent residences, Ten Cate said. 

The Dairy Treat serving window, currently located off Harbor Drive, will be relocated to Lafayette Avenue, developers said. Parking access will also be on the Lafayette side of the building, which will be enclosed and designated for residents with a few spaces for customers.

While a public hearing was not required for the development, Commissioner Ryan Cummins said the public feedback during the process was beneficial, including concerns over the need for affordable housing. The commission’s review of the Zoning Ordinance will address these issues, he said. 

“I don’t think that’s fallen on deaf ears,” Cummins said.

The developers will seek a building permit from the city before proceeding with the project.

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