Scottville Planning Commission recommends denial of ground floor downtown apartment variance.

February 8, 2017

downtown-scottvilleScottville Planning Commission recommends denial of ground floor downtown apartment variance. 

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SCOTTVILLE — The Scottville Planning Commission voted Tuesday to recommend the City Commission deny a variance request by a downtown building owner to allow ground floor residential occupancy in his building.

Ludington-based attorney Mark Pehrson, who owns 133 S. Main St., requested the variance after city officials discovered that he 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 City Commission, acting as the Zoning Board of Appeals, sent the request to the Planning Commission for a recommendation. The Planning Commission oversees land usage within the city.

In order for the Planning Commission to approve the request, the person making the request must show an unnecessary hardship caused by the existing ordinance.

Pehrson, who has owned the building since 1980, said he once had his law practice in the building before moving to Ludington. When he first purchased the building he lived in it, including portions of the ground floor. At that time he had placed bathing facilities on the ground floor. After he moved his law practice out of the building, it was rented to a wealth management company until 2012. Since that time the ground floor has not been occupied by a business. The two second floor apartments are rented, however.

Pehrson told the Planning Commission he has not attempted to sell the building because he stores business documents in its basement. He also said he has not actively sought a commercial renter in the past few years. Due to the heating system, the ground floor must be heated, which causes expense. He said the building costs about $1,400 a month to maintain, which includes the two second floor apartments that rent for $375 a month each.

The ground floor is currently occupied by a residential renter but Pehrson said he is in the process of evicting the renter and expects her to be out within 30 days.

Planning Commission Heather DeVries said she did not see where the request met the city’s variance standards which state that a person may request a variance “where there are practical difficulties or unnecessary hardships in the way of carrying out the strict letter of (the standards).” She motioned for the request to be denied and the commission agreed unanimously.

Chairman Rob Alway told Pehrson that the Planning Commission had been in discussion about reviewing the city’s ordinance related to ground floor occupancy in the downtown area and it would consider to further review the ordinance if the City Commission made such a request.

Pehrson still has the opportunity to plead his case in front of the City Commission when it meets on Monday, February 20, 2017 at 5:30 p.m.

Editor’s Note: Rob Alway, chairman of the Planning Commission is the editor-in-chief and owner of this news service.

Story and photo copyrighted © 2017 by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454, and cannot be reproduced without expressed written consent.

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