The Plymouth Board of Zoning Appeals spent just over an hour considering the five variance requests presented by the City of Plymouth and Culver Sand Hills Farm LLC for the Water Street Townhomes. 

Plymouth Planning Consultant Ralph Booker presented the requests which include a variance of development standards to approve no-off street parking spaces when the standard calls for one.  There is a request to reduce the parking space size from the required 10 x 20 to 9 x 19.  The developer also requested a reduction of the access aisle from the standard of 20 feet to 17 feet, a side year setback of 6 feet when the city standard is 20 feet, and a rear yard setback of 2 feet 6 inches when the standard is 10 feet. 

The variances will allow for the construction of Water Street Townhomes at the northwest corner of Garro and Water Streets.  The development includes 12 2-story 2-bedroom townhouses facing Water Street and a 2-story building at the corner containing a business on the first floor and two 1-bedroom apartments on the second floor.  The project will also expand the city’s parking lot from the current 30 parking spaces to 48 spaces but all five variances were needed for the development to move forward. 

This residential and commercial development is the result of a $520,000 READI Grant with the required public match from the Plymouth Redevelopment Commission.  

Plymouth City Attorney Sean Surrisi said the Board of Public Works and Safety reviewed the variance requests at a meeting last month and after discussion sent a favorable recommendation to the Plymouth Board of Zoning Appeals to approve the variances. 

BZA members had some concerns about the parking situation since there are no reserved parking spaces for the renters.  Surrisi said if issues develop the city could offer residents the opportunity to purchase a reserved parking space but they wanted to see how it works without restricting parking in the city lot to begin with.  Once the project is completed the all-new parking lot will be the property of the City of Plymouth and will be maintained by the city. 

When asked about rental rates, developer Kevin Berger estimated them to be between $1,200 to $1,500 monthly. 

During the public hearing, three letters of support were read, one from Gary Neidig from ITAMCO who said this project will assist the city’s shortage of workforce housing.  The Marshall County Economic Development Corporation was also supportive of the project and the need to address housing shortages.  The final letter was from George Schricker who believes the expanded downtown living will benefit the restaurants, retail establishments, and entertainment opportunities downtown.  Adjacent property owner Brian VanDyne was supportive of the project but had some concerns about where residents would dispose of their trash.

Mathew Berry who is purchasing the Lock & Key building at 201 North Michigan Street spoke against the project with major concerns about parking.  He said the downtown isn’t thriving and he fears that some of the main street businesses won’t survive with the city parking lot being out of commission for over a year.  He said shoppers want to park close to the stores they plan to shop in.     

Allan Selge, a member of the Board of Zoning Appeals selected Plymouth to live in because of the historic nature of the city and the downtown area.  While the new conceptual drawing does have a retail space that fits into the historic nature of the downtown, he felt the residential townhouses were out of place.

BZA member Mark Gidley said the mix of old and new appeals to the younger generation.  He said the project “melts it together.” 

BZA member Brandon Richie said he believed the residential project would support the downtown business, restaurants, activities, and entertainment.  He also said he thinks it will bring more life downtown. 

The motion was made to grant all five variances and it unanimously passed with all five members present voting in support.