The County Press

Lapeer officials approve rezoning for apartments

LAPEER — Monday evening, the Lapeer City Commission approved a rezoning request to permit plans for an 83-unit apartment complex on an 8.1- acre parcel at 1245 Imlay City Rd. to proceed. The developer still needs site plan approval by the Lapeer Planning Commission.

While officials unanimously approved the rezoning from B-2 General Business (commercial) to Planned Unit Development for the property between Budget Tire and Lapeer Inn & Suites, several commissioners expressed concern that the City may be “too heavy” in the number of rental housing units verses owner-occupied homes. Housing data in Lapeer suggests the housing rental rate is slightly more than 50% of all housing in the city.

On May 11, the Lapeer Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning request and forwarded their motion to the City Commission for its consideration. The applicant, Roger Berent, seeks to build a mixed-use, multi-family development that proposes townhouse-style attached apartments, two-story traditional apartment-style dwellings, a commercial building and a community plaza on the site.

“Those who own their home are more invested in the community. I would be more comfortable with row houses like you saw on the Cosby show,” said Commissioner Eric Cattane. “What’s our future going to look like?”

Commissioner Tony Stroh agreed. “I tend to think we’re getting too rental heavy. I think we should be making strides to get more homeowners in the city. I’m concerned we’re sending the wrong message to developers that this is what we want,” said Stroh.

Commissioner Jeff Pattison approved the rezoning request, but commented, “This is not an ideal location for housing in a commercial and industrial area.” He added, “This project is the beginning of a project that may spill over to Lapeer Township.”

Future phases or separate projects may realize the construction of single-family homes to the rear of the property (on the north side) on what’s currently farmland.

“That’s right. It will be in the township, and not the city,” said Cattane.

Pattison would also like to see EV charging stations included in future housing development plans, in addition to public stations elsewhere in the community.

City Manager Mike Womack said while home ownership is preferred, he said there are many people who don’t want the long-term commitment of home ownership, they can’t afford a home or they simply like the freedom rental agreements offer. “I think there’s a place in this world for apartments. We also have to make sure we’re business friendly. We don’t want to have a reputation where developers won’t approach us if they’re interested in developing an apartment complex here,” said Womack, who appreciates the cost and availability of housing as he’s currently looking for a home in the community after starting as city manager nearly a month ago.

Womack agreed that the location may not be ideal for housing, though said because the former lumberyard site has been a difficult property to develop the proposed development may be the best option for the property. Large pole barns currently occupy part of the property that has been rented by a Port Huron-based electrical contractor that does a lot of work for DTE Energy.

The Commission also approved two special event requests. To allow Jeep Thing on Nepessing on Saturday, June 24 from 6-9 p.m., as well as on July 22, Aug. 26 and Sept. 23. Check-in for Jeep owners is Vinyl Bar & Grill.

Vinyl hosted a Jeep Night event in September 2022, held within two City of Lapeer-owned parking lots — one along Park Street and the other along Clay Street.

The Commission also granted a request by the Lapeer Optimist Club to hold its annual Halloween-season Nightmare on Nepessing costume party and beer tent on Saturday, Oct. 14. The 21-and-over costume party has been held under a large tent between Cedar and N. Court streets.

While the special event requests were approved, several commissioners and Mayor Debbie Marquardt said city officials and the Lapeer Main Street Downtown Development Authority may need to review their application process as there are downtown businesses and residents who don’t appreciate the frequent street closures in downtown Lapeer that include Friday Night Bikes, the Monday evening car cruise and even the Lapeer Days festival.

“We just want to be sure we’re working for the benefit of the entire downtown,” said Commissioner Joshua Atwood, who co-owns Beautiful U Salon & Spa with his wife on Nepessing Street and also lives downtown.

Commissioner Stroh commented, “We need to address a policy regarding special event requests. We can’t just close the street anytime someone wants to.” Stroh is founder and operator of Stone’s Throw Theatre, located in a portion of Beyer’s Furniture store on Nepessing Street.

In other business:

• The Commission approved the establishment of a special assessment district for a portion of the Andrews River Estates subdivision located at the northeast corner of Saginaw Street and Peppermill Road on the city’s east side.

Some roads within the subdivision never had a second layer of asphalt applied, and as result over the years has resulted in roads being in poor condition.

A public hearing will be held July 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Lapeer City Hall to hear from residents on the necessity of improvements and the decision to proceed with a special assessment direct that will charge residents a percentage of the project. In Lapeer special assessment districts, homeowners and property owners that front the impacted roads will have 10 years to pay the assessment.

• The Commission approved an annexation by choice to allow El Cozumel LLC to annex property on the east side of S. Lapeer Road (M-24) from Lapeer Township into the City of Lapeer.

Owners of El Cozumel Mexican Grill, who have a restaurant in Burton, propose to build a 4,400-square-foot restaurant between Tower and Orchard Drive. The restaurant will feature an exterior walk-up window and outdoor dining space, but likely won’t include a drive-thru window.

Casey Carpenter, owner of Lapeerbased Timbergate Construction that will build the restaurant, is hopeful construction will get underway in the fall. The annexation change has to be approved at the state level, while a site plan must still be presented and approved by the Lapeer Planning Commission.

• Denis McCarthy, Lapeer’s legal counsel for about the last year, announced he and the Metamora-based law office of Kohl, Harris, Nolan & McCarthy will not renew its contract that expires at the end of June. Mike Nolan stepped down as the City’s legal counsel after he ran and was elected judge at 40th Circuit Court in Lapeer.

The firm has served as Lapeer’s legal counsel for 14 years. McCarthy said he couldn’t commit to the work because the law practice is so busy, and also because he announced his intention to run for probate judge in Lapeer County and didn’t want to serve as legal counsel — only to step down at a later date to provide time for an election campaign.

The Commission agreed to hire the Port Huron law firm, Fletcher Fealko Shoudy & Francis, and authorized Womack to negotiate terms to the company’s service.

• The Commission canceled its next regularly scheduled meeting on Monday, July 3 since there’s currently nothing scheduled on the agenda and it will give city staff more time for the Fourth of July holiday. Other than the Lapeer Community Center, Lapeer city buildings will be closed July 3. In the event a critical matter arises, Mayor Marquardt maintains the option to call a special meeting.

The Lapeer City Commission meets the first and third Monday of the month, at 6:30 p.m., in the second-floor chambers at Lapeer City Hall.