Development plans in Kalamazoo create controversy

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A proposed development near a protected nature preserve is igniting controversy in Kalamazoo.

Initial plans included a car wash for the property on Stadium Drive near the intersection with Drake Road.

The intersection near a proposed development that borders a nature preserve in Kalamazoo. (Jan. 9, 2020)

A developer wants the city to rezone parcels of land from residential to commercial and remove a special environmental protection designation.

The Asylum Lake Preserve borders the southern edge of the property.

Residents and environmental groups are concerned this development will be devastating to wildlife and the ecosystem.

A proposed development that borders a nature preserve in Kalamazoo. (Jan. 9, 2020)

Karin Larsen lives in the nearby Oakwood neighborhood and opposes the project.

“To see what’s going to possibly happen to the land in rezoning it as community commercial is devastating and the impact that it will have on the preserve is tremendous,” Larsen said.

Lauri Holmes with the Asylum Lake Preservation Association says in addition to concerns about runoff, noise and light pollution, the development would hurt the local bird population.

“That end of the lake is used by migratory birds and they will not come anymore,” Holmes said.

The property includes a special environmental protection called a Natural Features Protection (NFP) overlay.

The property owner Haji Tehrani, who is known as a car wash developer, spoke at a May board meeting in 2019 stating he spent $2 million on the land.

“When I engaged with the city planning department during our prepurchase investigations, I learned about the NFP before even buying it,” Tehrani said. “The feedback from the city was the northern two-third. The majority of the property was not going to be in NFP and only the southern portion would be in the NFP.”

He said these restrictions would make development not economically feasible, and he has worked closely with the city to address the environmental concerns.

Pete Kushner, president of Oakland Drive-Winchell Neighborhood Association, says the current proposal is not a fit for the area.

“We’re not necessarily opposed to development in that piece of property or any within our neighborhood, but it should be appropriate,” Kushner said. “It should live up to the ideas to not only the city’s master plan but their sustainability plan, neighborhood plans.”

The zoning request will be discussed on Jan. 14 at the 7 p.m. Kalamazoo Planning Commission meeting.