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Drive and Shine continues its effort to build next to the Asylum Lake Preserve

A large pile of sticks plastered with mud sits on the edge of Asylum Lake.
Cori Osterman
"Beaver Mansion," a large beaver house at Asylum Lake, in the winter or spring of 2023. Opponents of the project have cited concerns for the lake's wildlife population, including beavers.

The car wash chain has reapplied for commercial zoning on its controversial Stadium Drive property.

 The Drive and Shine carwash chain has once again asked the city to rezone its property next to Kalamazoo’s Asylum Lake preserve.

In 2020, the city planning commission did not support Drive and Shine’s controversial first rezoning request, or its attempt to remove the property’s Natural Features Protection, or NFP. But Drive and Shine has reapplied for commercial zoning, this time with the NFP in place.

This is not the first time this year that the property’s future has come up for debate. In April 2023, city planners included the property in a city-wide zoning overhaul. Under that plan, two of the property’s three parcels would have gone from residential to community commercial, which allows for large-scale development. The parcel closest to the Asylum Lake Preserve would have remained residential. But city planners removed the property from that plan, citing the amount of public interest in the decision.

The city’s zoning map now reflects Drive & Shine’s 2022 request to combine the three parcels into a single property. This means that if its current application is approved, the entire site would be zoned community commercial.

City planner Christina Anderson says the city’s Master Plan, which was approved in 2017 after public input, has always designated the property as commercial. She said city planners look at the “context” of any property when making zoning decisions. This property has two contexts—one is its location on a highly developed commercial corridor, and the other is its proximity to the nature preserve.

“So there's probably a balance to be had when you think about the development of the site,” she said. “The natural features protection overlay, presumably will help with that, to some extent.”

City planner Christina Anderson says that even with the NFP in place, Drive and Shine could still build a car wash on the site, though it would have to preserve some natural elements of the property. The NFP overlay can be applied to any type of zoning.

“It’s meant to be applied anywhere, because it needed to work citywide,” she said. “We have property that's residential, that's industrial, that's commercial, that’s mixed use, that has the NFP overlay on it.”

Drive and Shine says it plans to hold an informational public meeting at some point in November. The planning commission will review the request at its regular meeting December 7th.