First floor residential variance sent back to Scottville Planning Commission.

December 20, 2016

downtown-scottvilleFirst floor residential variance sent back to Scottville Planning Commission.

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SCOTTVILLE — The City Commission, acting as the Zoning Board of Appeals, has formally asked the Planning Commission to make a recommendation on a variance request by a building owner who is asking for first floor residential rental on his downtown commercial building.

Ludington-based attorney Mark Pehrson, who owns 113 S. Main St., has requested the variance after city officials discovered that Pehrson is renting the main floor of the two-story building as an apartment, a violation of the city’s zoning ordinance.

The zoning ordinance restriction of main floor residency is consistent with many downtown business districts, including Ludington.

The request came to the City Commission during its Dec. 5 regular meeting. The commission at that time had set a public hearing for Dec. 19 in front of the zoning board of appeals (the City Commission acts as the ZBA during such requests), but it did not formally request the Planning Commission to review it. However, the Planning Commission, during its Dec. 20 meeting, discussed the issue during staff reports, and then voted to make a recommendation to deny the request. City Attorney Tracy Thompson recommended during Monday’s ZBA public hearing that the issue be formally sent to the Planning Commission so it can be placed on the agenda and Pehrson can have an opportunity to plead his case.

The ZBA voted to send the topic to Planning Commission. However, it also allowed for public comment. During that time, Pehrson explained to the City Commission that he ultimately would like to lease the building’s main floor out for commercial use. The building served as Pehrson’s law office for several years until he moved it to Ludington. Most recently, it was an investment firm office. He said the conversion to residential required little modifications and can easily be changed back for commercial use. The primary reason for letting out the main floor for residential, though, was that he had discovered that his now-renter had disability issues and needed a place that was handicap accessible, which his main floor is.

The Planning Commission is expected to look at the variance issue during its February 7 meeting, since Pehrson will be gone for the Jan. 3 meeting. However, during its January meeting, the Planning Commission will look at the topic of main floor rentals in general.

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