HOUGHTON - The Houghton City Council voted down a conditional rezoning of an apartment development on Sandpiper Lane Monday after neighbors worried the change would result in more trash and noise.
Building owner Mark Kemppainen had sought a rezoning of his property from industrial to R-3. City Manager Scott MacInnes said Kemppainen believed the zoning change would make the land more attractive for resale.
In a letter to the council, neighbors said during a city planning commission meeting Kemppainen had pledged to build a fence around the apartments.
The fence is required for industrial properties, but not for residential.
"We are concerned about the precedence allowing a developer to change zoning and thus get out of commitments made to the planning commission at the time the project was approved," said the letter, signed by nine residents. "If he hadn't committed to supplying what the zoning required he would not have been in compliance, nor could the project have proceeded."
Kemppainen did not attend Monday's meeting.
Councilor Rachel Lankton, also a member of the planning commission, said Kemppainen said if the property was not rezoned, he would put in a fence, but not trees.
Neighbors said a fence, in conjunction with landscaping, would help break up the property. They also said a fence would help keep noise and construction debris from entering their yards, as well as be safer for children and pets.
"There needs to be a buffer between them and their open patios and us across the street from them," said Annie Gretz, who also signed the letter.
MacInnes said at the most recent planning commission meeting where the plan had been discussed, more people had been in favor of landscaping than a fence. However, Mayor Bob Backon said, the letter was written by the neighbors "who are the closest in proximity ... and who would be most affected."
The council voted 4-1 against the rezoning, with Councilor Eric Peterson casting the vote in favor. Councilor Rachel Lankton abstained because she had voted on the matter previously as part of the Planning Commission. Councilor Craig Kurtz was absent.
Peterson said he voted for the rezoning because the planning commission had already approved it, and sending it back to them would prolong the process unfairly. Other members of the council opposed it, citing an aversion to spot rezoning and the concerns of the neighbors.
"If he would like to sell the second parcel, he may do it with the deed restriction," said Councilor Gernot Joachim.
Garrett Neese can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.