City Stops Splitting


    GRAND RAPIDS — Residential developers now have to take an extra step to build a house in Grand Rapids, as commissioners amended the city’s land division ordinance last week requiring them to disclose certain deed restrictions placed on a lot.

    AssistantCity Attorney Bernard Schaefer, who wrote the revision, said property owners will have to tell the city if a deed limits the number of homes that can be built on a parcel, if it restricts the size of a home, and if it specifies where a house can be located on a lot.

    “There are other deed restrictions that are on record and we’re not going to ask about those,” said Schaefer.

    First Ward City Commissioner Roy Schmidt was the driving force behind the ordinance change. Schmidt said he received numerous calls from residents who complained that new homes were being squeezed onto small lots, crowding their houses and disrupting a block.

    “People in a neighborhood have 110-foot lots, which are kind of the norm for size in the city, and people are coming in there wanting to split the lots in half. It doesn’t conform to standards, but there’s no rule against it,” he said prior to the commission’s vote.

    “It’s the same thing on buildable lots. People are pecking away at small lots and basically putting a house up next to another house. The houses are so close together that their windows are just a few inches apart. For residents that have been there for a number of years, they decide they don’t want to live in the city any more. They don’t think it’s fair — and it isn’t fair,” he added.

    Schmidt said the revised regulation will standardize residential construction throughout the city. Each property owner will have to reveal deed restrictions concerning house size, location and number. Refusing to do so will result in the denial of a building permit, and a penalty if an applicant knowingly lies on an application. If a deed limits a lot to one house, a parcel would be labeled “unbuildable” for a second home.

    “It’s really just a uniformity thing,” he said.

    Before the ordinance change, Schmidt said if homeowners thought another house was about to be built too close to theirs, they had to dig deeply into their pockets and take their case to court.

    “When these restrictions aren’t enforced, a resident has to go through a civil matter, and that can be expensive,” said Schmidt. “There is no reason to split these lots up to get a few more bucks.”    

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