CALEDONIA — It is now the ninth month of discussion surrounding a requested expansion to a senior-living facility, and it could be months before any final approval is granted.
Last November, developer Alf McConnell appeared before the Caledonia Plan Commission, asking for village approval to add a building to his Parkview Senior-Living Community, located on Douglas Avenue just south of 4½ Mile Road.
McConnell’s overarching plan is to add four more apartment buildings and eight townhomes.
On Monday, a rezoning vote was pushed back, and McConnell was asked by the Village Board to draft a new proposal that would essentially change where he starts building. The conditional-use permit McConnell was requesting was for the westernmost of four planned apartments; the Village Board asked McConnell to start with one of the apartments further east and further away from nearby properties.
The Village Board can still take up the rezoning request at its next meeting, but a public hearing that requires one month’s notice needs to be held before the board could consider approving a new conditional use permit.
“I don’t know if we’ve created a monster,” Village President Jim Dobbs joked near the end of Monday’s meeting, thinking back to November’s meeting when the Plan Commission asked McConnell for a more robust plan.
Back in November, McConnell had initially come forward seeking land he already owned to be rezoned and to get a conditional use permit to build one three-story building.
The plan that appeared before the Village Board Monday included four three-story buildings and eight townhomes, but still just one conditional use permit.
That plan with the additional buildings wasn’t endorsed by the Plan Commission; it received a tie 3-3 vote May 28. The two members of the Village Board who sit on the Plan Commission, Dobbs and Trustee Kevin Wanggaard, both voted in favor of it.
Back and forth, again
The idea of expanding the Parkview Senior-Living Community is simultaneously beloved and despised, depending on whom you ask in the area.
Busloads of Parkview residents have attended at least three separate Caledonia meetings in recent months, putting faces to the strong community McConnell has espoused.
“I’m here in support of Alf trying to expand this community,” Beverly Ellertson, a Parkview resident, told the Village Board on Monday. “There’s a lot of senior housing, but not a lot of affordable (senior housing like Parkview).”
The louder group has been made up of opponents of expansion, primarily residents of 4½ Mile Road who say allowing four three-story apartment complexes behind their homes would exacerbate water drainage problems and diminish property values.
“We don’t want to look at these big monoliths in our backyard,” Kim Kasten said.
At Monday’s meeting, Development Director Peter Wagner offered some clarity on that topic. Wagner said that the 30-plus-foot-tall buildings as proposed would be more than 100 feet from the nearest house, although two of the four proposed buildings are less than 30 feet away from a few property lines. Some feared the buildings would be less than 50 feet away.
Another concern, shared by Caledonia Trustee Fran Martin and Parkview opponent Ken Veselik, was that McConnell has been able to build a fifth building for about 15 years, but hasn’t. They’ve been wondering why he’s trying to get other buildings approved before finishing the last one.
“Why hasn’t he built on that?” Veselik wondered.
“It just doesn’t sound right to me,” Martin added.
McConnell says the already approved building is a separate issue.
McConnell wants that building, located further south closer to Douglas Avenue, to be partially funded using affordable housing tax credits from the federal government. McConnell says he doesn’t want to fund the buildings to the north that same same way, and thus they should be considered independently of the building that’s been waiting to be built for nearly two decades.