A planned apartment development on the site of a former Livonia mall appears to have an additional hurdle if it’s to become a reality.
The city’s planning commission recently recommended denial of a rezoning request at the lone vacant property at the site of the former Wonderland Mall site on the southwest corner of Plymouth and Middlebelt roads.
The proposal would see more than 200 apartment units built as three-story buildings on the land west of Walmart and Target, which has been vacant for many years.
The commission reviewed and voted on the plan during its meeting Oct. 19, several months after the project was delayed when the developer requested more time to retool the plans.
The plans, said Jeffrey Schostak of Livonia-based developer Schostak Brothers & Company, said they’ve taken several issues into consideration when looking to develop the site, including the desires in the newly-adopted Livonia 21 master plan.
“We really try to be thoughtful of not what we think is necessarily the highest and best use, of course that plays a role, but in what the city wants, what we think makes the most sense with what the city’s current zoning states, and also what the community wants,” he said. “And we always encourage feedback and encourage a discussion.”
As has happened in previous meetings, many of the residents who live in the neighborhood to the south of Wonderland Village spoke out against the rezoning, which would allow for residential instead of the current commercial zoning.
Victoria Kowaleski said such a project will invade the neighbor’s privacy and be a detriment.
“Our neighborhood is in shock right now,” she said. “We’re talking and we’re trying to understand why this planning commission is even considering the zoning change for a project of this type.
“We are fighting for our own privacy and comfort and safety.”
There was no discussion among the commissioners during the meeting after the public hearing regarding the reasoning behind the denial vote.
Tim Ponton of Detroit-based Stonefield Engineering and Design, a firm working on the project, said these types of mixed-use developments are unique enough where they typically garner criticism from neighbors because they are not typical proposals.
“We do think there is a significant benefit, not only to the advancement of the master plan and furthering the goals of the mixed development … we also think there’s tremendous benefits to a much lower intensity user to the adjacent residents and we’ve committed to a significant greenspace between the proposed development and the neighborhood,” he said. “We do think that the benefits for the proposal significantly outweigh any detriment associated with the request.”
With the planning commission unanimously voting to recommend denial of the rezoning, it does not mean the project is dead: the item now goes to the city council for its review and determination on a first reading. Typically, the Livonia City Council will only do a first reading of a rezoning and wait for a site plan to come to the body before finalizing rezoning.