In May 2019, the City of Kalamazoo created "Natural Features Protection overlays" to protect sensitive areas. Three of them are residential parcels bordering the Asylum Lake Preserve. The Kalamazoo Planning Commission is considering a proposal to rezone the land as commercial.
UPDATE: Kalamazoo Planning Commission members have rejected the rezoning request.
Kalamazoo City Planner Christina Anderson says the NFP is designed to put development standards on land withnatural features, or properties that are next to natural areas like Asylum Lake. She says they require more rigorous storm water management, building placement rules, and a requirement to leave larger areas natural and untouched.
The Planning Commission has a recommendation to rezone the land near Asylum Lake while keeping the NFP. But Paul Scott with the Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council says keeping the NFP won’t be enough to protect the lake. Scott says that the added traffic generated by more commercial development in the area puts the preserve at risk of pollution.
“That is going to bring in road salt into their storm water system. That road salt will go down into the water table and migrate into the lake,” Scott says.
Even with the NFP, the owner of the land can ask for exceptions to develop it. The land in question is owned by Drive and Shine, an Indiana company that operates carwashes, including one that opened in Kalamazoo last November.
Western Michigan University has owned the Asylum Lake Preserve since 1975. With 217 acres of land, the preserve remains one of the last open, "green spaces" in Kalamazoo. John Kreuzer, who is also a member of the Asylum Lake Policy and Management Council, says it’s important for the city to hold onto its remaining natural areas.
“Another store to shop at, another car wash to drive your car through: those things come and go,” says Kreuzer. “But places like Asylum Lake, once they’re changed, they’re changed and you can’t get it back.”
The Kalamazoo Planning Commission will consider the rezoning issue on Tuesday, January 14. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. in Kalamazoo City Hall. But the final decision on the issue will be up to the Kalamazoo City Commission.
Disclosure: a member of WMUK's staff serves on the Kalamazoo Planning Commission.