OKEMOS - In a June 15 meeting, the Meridian Township Board voted 5-2 in favor of the rezoning of zone #21020 from I and RA (Industrial and Single Family-Medium Density) to PO (Professional and Office), in preparation for the building of a Sparrow Hospital emergency room.
Trustees Patricia Jackson and Township Clerk Deborah Clark gave votes in opposition, while the other five Board members agreed to approve the rezoning after nearly 35 minutes of discussion.
“The need for these types of services and access to health care on [that] side of our Township is needed...there’s just not enough health care out there...that has been able to accommodate what is needed,” Trustee Courntey Wisinski said, when giving her support of the project in the meeting.
Zone #21020 is composed of approximately six acres and is located on the north side of Jolly Road, east of Kansas Road.
The rezoning will be used for the construction of a 12,000 square foot Emergency Department by Sparrow Hospital, including an imaging center for CT scans and X-rays, as well as a primary care practice for physicians.
The project was first heard by the Planning Commission on March 8, with the request coming from Martin Investment Properties, Inc. Sparrow was not known as the public backer of the proposal at the time, and the request was recommended for denial in a March 22 Planning Commission meeting.
However, before a May 18 Township Meeting, the rezoning request was resurfaced, and Martin added a number of conditions in an attempt to appeal to the concerns of residents opposed to the project. These conditions included a landscape buffer for residents, environmentally friendly construction, as well as the extension and construction of a water main along Kansas Road.
Sparrow announced their backing of the project in April, and it is believed that they were behind the additional conditions proposed in the rezoning.
Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Chief Information officer at Sparrow Tom Bres was present during the meeting and final vote, as well as Government Relations Officer John Shaski, both of whom fielded questions from Board members in the June 15 meeting.
The rezoning was a hot topic among Meridian residents, with some feeling strongly on both sides. Opposition to the project cited other vacant areas that could be used for the project instead, as well as residential concerns such as air pollution, sound, and even depreciation of their homes.
“I am still opposed to the emergency room being built at Kansas and Jolly Roads...It doesn’t fit into our rural neighborhood. It is a 24/7/365 operation and we will never get any relief from the noise, light pollution, traffic…,” one resident wrote in an email to Board members.
Those in support of the project agree that the additional conditions of the project are fair, and are interested in the improved healthcare and water quality that the project could provide.
“The project would improve access to healthcare for residents of Meridian Township and surrounding communities…. The proposed project meets the high standards set by other upscale developments in the Jolly Road-Okemos Road corridor and fits with the long-term vision of the area,” one resident wrote in a letter.
In the meantime, Sparrow will seek approval for the Special Use Permit on the site, which will be presented in front of the Planning Committee in July, and then in front of the Board for final approval in July, according to Township Director of Community Planning and Development Tim Schmitt.
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