Community rallies against proposed Kzoo development

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — Hundreds packed Kalamazoo City Hall Tuesday as the debate over protecting a nature preserve continued.

The meeting of the Kalamazoo Planning Commission on the topic began Tuesday evening and continued until after midnight when the commission voted against rezoning the property in question — a recommendation that will now go to the city commission for a final vote.

A large group of those who oppose the proposed development said they were concerned that pollution among other things may destroy the serenity of the Asylum Lake Preserves.

The property in question is located at the intersection of Stadium Drive and Drake Road, directly adjacent to the preserves. The concerned group argued that the proposed development could be detrimental.

“I am here to strongly urge the commission to deny the rezoning of this land and to keep in place the Natural Feature Protection for Asylum Lake,” said Gabriel Jerome, one of the many who spoke in opposition to the proposed development. “Any removal of the NFP would be a complete contradiction to the recently approved climate emergency resolution and a direct violation of our city’s commitment to protecting our natural resources.”

The property owner Haji Tehrani paid $2 million for the land with the intention of building a carwash on the site. He said he did not believe the business would adversely affect the preserves. He said Kalamazoo city officials lead him to believe that his plans for the parcels would fall in line with the city’s master plan and that he would be allowed to construct his business.

“Would it not be unethical that after such heavy investment we have made in your city, relying on your master plan, we would be denied the opportunity to develop the property as we were told we could,” Tehrani said.

The meeting room at city hall, which seats about 100 people, was filled with dozens of people Tuesday night. Concerned community members sat around the room, on the floor and stood in the hallway. An overflow room also filled quickly.

In the end the commissioners agreed with those criticizing the plans and voted not to allow the rezoning necessary to allow the plans to move forward.

As discussions among commissioners pointed against the development Tehrani appeared frustrated, at times putting his hands over his face. He and his team left before the commission made its final vote against the development.

The planning commission’s vote serves as a recommendation to the city commission which will make the final vote on the zoning request. In most cases the city commission goes along with the recommendation of the planning commissioners.

As he left the meeting, Tehrani declined to be interviewed and said he wasn’t sure what his next steps would be.

When News 8 asked if he was considering action within the courts, he wouldn’t say.

“I’m not discussing that,” Tehrani said as he walked out of city hall flanked by his team members.

The Kalamazoo City Commission meeting. (Jan. 14, 2020)