Coval files suit but proposes fewer lots

The saga of the Coval property continues with news that owner and developer MI 84th Limited Partnership filed a land use petition against the city in mid-May, though attorney Jay Derr says he hopes to dismiss the appeal down the line.

“For what it’s worth, they were very open and frank about their intent to do it,” said City Attorney Katie Knight. “Otherwise, they would have lost the opportunity to challenge the council’s decision. I would have done the same as their attorney. They were very open about it, and of course, I understand.”

The Coval property, a five-acre estate, built over 16 years with specially imported woods, fruit orchards, a koi pond, indoor pool, and many other amenities, has stirred local debate over its future. This spring, the Coval family sold their house and surrounding property to MI 84th Limited Partnership, which originally planned to develop it into 18 single-family homes. Though site plans passed the Planning Commission in the winter, City Council responded to neighbor concerns by remanding design plans and later reopening the public hearing process for additional fact finding.

Islanders say the large lots are out of sync with the rest of the neighborhood and present traffic and environmental concerns.

The city and developer have agreed to stay the motion. Both parties have until December to report whether the case goes forward. Land use petitions only have a 21-day time frame to respond.

In a cover letter signed by Derr and sent to the city June 18, the developer explains: “We are filing this Land Use Petition to protect MI-84’s rights in light of the short timeframe for appeals under the Land Use Petition Act. However, we are still in the process of re-designing the Coval Long Plat for submittal and consideration by the Planning Commission, consistent with the City Council’s direction.”

The letter goes on to say that the complainant is willing to dismiss the petition if disagreements are resolved through the review process.

“We think the revised design is responsive to all the Council’s concerns,” said Derr. “We’re certainly hopeful that this time around the City Council process will be straight forward. There are still some neighbors that don’t like it...But we believe what we’ve come up with is better for everybody.”

Among the changes made, Derr said the steep slope on the western edge of the lot would be turned into a tree conservation easement. As a consequence, the project is now 16 lots instead of 18. In response to traffic concerns, lots are now accessible from the internal road  only, instead of having driveways open onto 84th.

The applicant has also revised plans to preserve the existing koi pond, though the city did not require it. The pond would be part of an open space area on site. A rain garden would address some of the drainage issues raised by neighbors--drainage that cuts across the site to the south and yards and roof drains from adjacent lots.

At the administrative level, a second process is unfolding. Last Wednesday, June 18, the Planning Commission reopened the public hearing process to address what Council had outlined as its concerns. The application unanimously passed the commission with three minor conditions and will go before City Council on July 7. One of the three conditions asks the applicant to extend the stormwater pipe along 84th. The commission also asked that the applicant revise the side-yard setback to be a minimum of 10 feet along the north boundary, instead of the 7.5 feet now proposed. Finally, the commission specified that raingarden maintenance be the responsibility of the Homeowners Association, not individual lot owners.

A closed record hearing will be set by Council for later in the month.


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