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Byron Twp. planning commission votes to deny requests to develop nearly 200 rental homes

After almost two hours of public comment, the commission voted to deny the developer's requests. Next month, the Township board will consider these recommendations.

BYRON CENTER, Mich. — There is a lot of opposition to a proposed rental home development in Byron Township. Dozens packed the planning commission meeting Monday night. 

All the chairs were taken at this meeting, and people even stood in the back of the room and sat on the floor for more than two hours. The planning commission meeting had multiple public hearings on the agenda, including two about a proposal to bring nearly 200 rental homes to Byron Township. 

The land that's up for sale is behind the Speedway Gas Station at 64th Street Southwest and Byron Center Avenue Southwest. Wheeler Development Group made two requests to the planning commission to build 10 single-family, 18 duplex and 14 fourplex rental homes there. 

The current owner of this land would keep five acres to build a church. 

People at the meeting protested the site plan and the rezoning of this land from a Rural-Residential area to a Multi-Family Resident Area. 

People at the podium said they didn't want to deviate from the Township's master plan and open the door to more rentals. Some also worried about increased traffic and overcrowding.

Many people at the podium said the Township's infrastructure cannot support 168 new homes. 

There was one person, however, who spoke in favor of the development. 

"I'm here to speak for those who aren't here today, for those who can't or are too afraid to," Dan Walker said. "Who are we to judge them less than worthy of being part of our community? I'm here to balance those that are about to speak to exclude, divide, vilify, demonize. They're gonna tell you lots of other reasons they don't want this development, but that's how they got people to come here."

"Once the development starts, it's all about the money and cash," Michael Gutierrez said. 

"I don't wanna become a 'Rentwood' either," Jim Vanderwhite says. "Let's think about this a little bit."

"There's not a single person in this room that won't feel the negative consequences of the decisions made in this room," one resident said. 

"The problem is our tax structure encourages irresponsibility with the developers in general, because of the depreciation schedule and such. So, I was very happy that they protected [the residents,] that they actually listened to the residents," Donna Brandenburg says. 

The plan includes 54 buildings total, and these market-value rentals would range from 1,000 to 1,500 square feet. 

After hearing from many during almost two hours of public comment, the commission voted to deny the developer's requests. Next month, the Township board will consider these recommendations. 

After the meeting, Wheeler Development Group declined to comment on Monday night's decision. 

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