KALAMAZOO COUNTY, MI — A proposed zoning change that would have led to a mixed-use development overtaking the Prairies Golf Course in Oshtemo Township has officially been withdrawn by the applicant.
The requested change, which would have allowed for a mixture of commercial and multi-family residential development on the 116-acre golf course, located northwest of the West Main Street/North Drake Road intersection in Oshtemo Township, had been set to be heard by the township board on Tuesday, May 10.
Following an April 28 planning commission meeting, in which the commission reached a unanimous decision to recommend the township board deny the application, and more than two dozen people spoke out in person or by letter against it, the developers decided to withdraw the application.
Related: Commission rejects proposal to develop Kalamazoo-area golf course
A letter addressed to township planning director Iris Lubbert. dated April 29 and signed by developers Joe Gesmundo, of AVB, and Roger Hinman, of the Hinman Co., informed the township of the decision. The letter, included in the agenda packet for this Tuesday’s meeting stated, in part:
“In consideration of the decisions made during the April 28th Planning Commission meeting, we would like to formally withdraw our current application to rezone the Prairies … We look forward to further discussion related to this property.”
Representatives from AVB and Hinman were unable to be reached for comment prior to deadline and did not respond to phone calls or emails regarding next steps for the possible development of the golf course.
At the April 28 meeting, Gesmundo, co-founder of AVB, said he hated to be the bearer of bad news, but the Prairies, which is already zoned as R2 and R4 and to accommodate for low-density, residential development, would not remain a golf course.
“From our perspective, worst case it will be developed underneath those zoning classifications, but the preference would be to finish what we all collectively started,” he said to the commission, addressing the facts that talks had been ongoing since 2016 and he wants to see them work together.
“Our vision for this property is to do something unlike anything that’s been done in southwestern Michigan, maybe the western part of Michigan,” Gesmundo said.
ABV, which entered into an agreement with the golf course’s owner, the Elks Lodge No. 50, in 2014 to develop the course, has expressed a vision that would include developing the property to feature different types of small-scale commercial builds, residential over commercial builds and green space.
Lubbert, speaking on behalf of the planning department, told the commission at the April 28 meeting that the proposal brought before the commission ignored a majority of the recommended standards and would nullify the township’s master plan if the request was granted.
Most residents who opposed it voiced concerns with potential traffic issues in what is already a congested area. In addition, the majority of comments centered around the elimination of a long-standing golf course, loss of green space and additional development that many did not see as necessary while a high number of vacant business properties dot the community.
Others spoke to how they bought their homes specifically to live on a golf course, and the peace and quiet that went along with it.
“I think before we approve any more commercial development, we need to have an inventory of what’s already out there that is not being used, an inventory of the commercial space that could be developed and certainly, not take a beautiful golf course in a beautiful, natural area and turn it into commercial development where there might be alternative spaces to develop it,” resident Wayne Fuqua said.
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