By Mike Kruzman /

Another developer attempting to build on the site of an abandoned Brighton school has been turned away.

Developer Manny Kianicki of S.R. Jacobson Development was before the Brighton Planning Commission, Monday night. He was seeking a recommendation for final site plan approval of his proposed West Village Development at the site of the former Lindbom Elementary School on State Street. The site has contamination issues, as it continues to sit, becomes more and more of an eyesore. A couple of other attempts at developing on the site in recent years have been denied. His proposal met the same fate with a 6-2 vote recommending denial.

Kianicki received preliminary site plan approval for West Village, last year. West Village would be comprised of 140 3-story townhouses with amenities like a pool and clubhouse, but needed rezoning to a planned unit development to do so.

During the public hearing, residents, including many who live near or adjacent to the site, came out unanimously against it. Several said they don’t like the idea of having such large structures so close to their neighborhood. Residents were worried about looking out of their single-story homes at 40-foot-high townhome walls looming over them and the loss of privacy from people being able to see down into their properties. Kianicki later countered that all townhome fronts adjacent to existing residences were turned to face the neighborhood.

Many residents felt the density was too great and inconsistent with the master plan. It was questioned why every proposed development has a three-story structure as part of it, and why can’t they cut the density in half and only build two-story structures. Discussion among planning commissioners revealed that many developers found the cost to build there was too great for anything smaller. Some residents hypothesized that the owner of the site paid too much for it and can’t find a developer to get his money’s worth out of it with a development that properly fits current zoning.

Kianicki tried to settle fears about declining property values, light, and noise pollution, but as a discussion between commissioners continued, he lost more of their support.

Dave Petrak and Jim Bohn felt they were being misled about the roof heights and the site’s adjacency to downtown Brighton. Proposed roof heights were measured by the developer to be at 33.5-feet at the mid-point, which is under the 35-feet that the ordinance allows. Bohn pointed out that in Brighton’s ordinance, height is measured to the peak, putting the townhome heights closer to 40-feet. Kianicki said this was the first time he’d encountered a municipality that measured to the peak, and not the midpoint.

Multiple commissioners were also opposed to the buildings being rentals and not owner-occupied. Kianicki said at $1,950 to $2,600 per month, these homes would attract professionals and not common transients.

Mayor Pro-Tem Susan Gardner lives in a three-story community downtown that has a mix of renters and owners and said that the people who rent are really no different to her. She said they are a friendly neighborhood with people who settled in because they love Brighton, and she believes West Village residents would have been the same. Gardner’s townhome is downtown, however, while the proposed development is a short walk away.

Matt Smith felt items like more internal parking considerations had been ignored and wanted to see more variety in the building types.

Dave Schmenk voted against recommending approval, but warned residents about the dangers of turning away every developer that tries to build on the site. He reminded that there are problems at the site and at some point, something has to be done. Many residents acknowledged this during the public meeting and at the final call to the public.

The Planning Commission voted to recommend denying final site plan approval for the reason of it not meeting part 6 of their PUD zoning ordinance which states it must be consistent with the goals and policies of the City’s master plan by a 6-2 vote.