Kent City Council's land use committee tabled a proposed taking of a 145-foot driveway off Anna Street in Kent to serve an undeveloped strip of land owned by Al Klaben, developer of the nearby University Woods development. Anna Street connects to Walter Street on the south side of Lake Street near the Kent/Franklin Township border.
Law Director James Silver said since the ownership of the land is unclear, Klaben asked the city to take the property under eminent domain to provide access to his land-locked, 3.7-acre parcel.
An estimate prepared by City Engineer Al Brubaker said if the city were to make the extension a dedicated street, it would cost about $150,000 for street paving, curbs, sidewalks, storm sewer, water lines and sanitary sewers along the strip, and another $180,000 to upgrade nearby Anna and Walter streets to current standards.
The cost estimates were requested by City Manager Lewis Steinbrecher, who said although the improvements may not need to be made now, it is important to know what costs might be in store at some point in the future.
But Robert Gressard and Gary Miller, who own much of the land adjacent to the vacant property, said only Klaben would benefit from the taking of the driveway.
Gressard, a former resident of the neighborhood who still owns property there, said if the city acquires the driveway, Klaben might then ask the city to change the zoning of the landlocked parcel to accommodate apartments. The property is now zoned for single-family homes.
He added he had offered property to Klaben years ago to provide access to Klaben's land so he could build homes, but Klaben declined the offer, saying he wanted to build apartments.
"He will move forward using the city's eminent domain to build an apartment complex that not one person in the neighborhood wants," Gressard said.
He and Miller also said they feared 20 feet of their neighboring property would also be taken if the city decided to upgrade the driveway to serve the Klaben property.
"Bob and I will not give up any of our land for widening to benefit one person, Mr. Klaben," Miller said.
In a memo to Steinbrecher, Brubaker noted the parcel the city is considering taking is only 40 feet wide, too narrow to satisfy the zoning codes frontage requirements without a variance or zoning change to R-4, a high-density district which allows apartments.
However, he added, such a zoning change could be difficult to support because R-4 zoning requires direct access to major thoroughfares.
Contacted after the meeting, Brubaker acknowledged he had heard rumors Klaben wanted to build apartments on the property, but hadn't seen any plans yet.
Silver said after the meeting he didn't know of any plans to place apartments on the property, but said if that were to happen, Klaben would have to "go through a lot of hoops to get that done," including a zoning change.
Attempts to reach Klabenor his attorney, Tim Assaf, before press time were unsuccessful.
Councilman Wayne Wilson asked the city administration to sit down with Gressard and Miller, adding he hadn't heard about any of their concerns before they were addressed Wednesday.
Councilman Ed Pease agreed.
"I hope this signals the administration that we want complete disclosure
in the future," he said.