Flint, MI—Woodcroft neighborhood residents believe a couple is trying to transform one home into an assisted living facility, and many of them are trying to stop it.
But their issues are not with the elderly or disabled.
Residents spoke at a neighborhood meeting on with Councilman Allan Griggs and Councilman Eric Mays on Sept. 10, and voiced concerns about zoning, permits, licensing, property values, lack of notice, and quality of life for residents of the home and of the neighborhood on Flint’s west side.
At the meeting, Terry Bankert and Lynn Sorenson accused the crowd of “lynching” them.
Sorenson owns the house located at 1702 Kenwood Ave., and said said her neighbors are “over the top.”
She said there is no assisted living facility and declined to further comment.
However, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for the state of Michigan, a license for an adult small group home at the Kenwood Avenue address was closed June 7 of last year under the facility name “Ultimate Care.”
Sorenson’s Facebook page lists Ultimate Care as a place of work.
One sticking point for nearby residents is a constriction project on the exterior of the house. If you were to drive by the house, you would likely see construction workers building what Sorenson has referred to as a “porch.”
Residents are calling it a “ramp,” as it slopes down and has wooden poles around the edges sticking up as high as the house’s roof.
Director of Planning Suzanne Wilcox said at the city council meeting Monday night that Sorenson applied for the proper building permits to build the “porch.”
Aside from the construction of a porch, residents spoke out against having a business in a residential area as the Woodcroft neighborhood is A-1 zoned which is for single family homes.
Wilcox said the zone actually does allow for “a facility that has six or fewer residents.”
“I know that that is unpopular but that is something that is provided for in our current zoning ordinance,” she said.
Woodcroft resident William Harris questioned the validity of that, and pointed to section 50-18 of Article II in the zoning ordinance for the A-1 zone, which states that “homes for the aged” are allowed but require a minimum of 1,500 square feet per resident.
According to Realtor.com, the house is 2,645 square feet and the lot is 9,583 square feet.
Wilcox said at Monday’s city council meeting that she is still doing research and that there are “multiple layers” to the complaints from the eighth ward she has received.
“Those are just two items right there, the zoning being one and the building permits, and the inspections being another,” she said. “Those two are satisfactory, but there have been complaints about interior renovations.”
Wilcox said Sorenson claimed not to have done any interior renovations but that it is something they’re trying to validate.
Don and Michele Pfeiffer live across from the prospective assisted living facility, and say a window has been added to the side of the house.
“They told the inspector…that zero changes have been done since they’ve owned it and they’re just bold-faced liars,” Don said.
Some residents say renovations aren’t their only concern.
“The biggest issue that I have is all of this did not happen until [Sorenson’s] appointment to the planning committee,” said Harris. “They live in the seventh ward and she’s claiming this as her residence and that’s how she was able to get recommended by our city councilman that doesn’t live here either.”
But it’s more than just legal complaints upsetting residents of the Woodcroft neighborhood. Many residents want their neighborhood to remain residential.
“In every city like Flint, there are neighborhoods trying to hold on,” said resident Zack Lessner. “So this is one of the last surviving areas and stuff like this helps decay the neighborhood.”
Betty Sanne, a retired nursing director and resident of the Woodcroft neighborhood, said her daughter had an elderly woman show up in her yard from a nearby assisted living facility.
“She was just hysterical and disoriented,” Sanne said. “You still treat them with dignity….I think that if they really cared as much as they say they care, you wouldn’t put them in a house meant for a family of four.”
Sanne was a caregiver for her husband after he had a stroke, and spent every day for more than a year at an assisted living facility caring for him. That meant helping him shower, but also taking him outside to look at the flowers and the pond.
“It’s not a good situation at best, but this house was never designed for that kind of thing,” Sanne said. “There’s no backyard. There’s a limited front yard…It’s a serious obligation to care for our loved ones or someone else.”
Councilman Mays said the residents’ concerns over the group home will be addressed at future city council meetings.
“We are taking a serious look at it and considering whether or not we’ll try to change or amend the zoning ordinance,” he said. “We’re in the investigation process.”
At Wednesday night’s city council meeting, Mays made a special order to discuss the situation at a future meeting.
At the neighborhood meeting Sept. 10, Mays suggested they call a special meeting to discuss this but Councilman Griggs, the representative for the eighth ward where this neighborhood is located, did not support that.
“It’s a waste of city time,” Griggs said. “Everything has been done correctly and by the book.”
He said the only solution residents want is to close the business down.
“I’m not gonna support that, I have a residential business myself,” he said. “They had to create a new zoning requirement for my bed and breakfast.”
But Griggs believes the real issue is not with the assisted living facility, but with him.
“Their big push is to recall me, which, I don’t care,” he said. “The pay for being a councilperson is only part time. If I base it on my last salary, 30 years ago in industry, I should only be working two hours a week compared to what I used to make.”
Harris said it’s because residents of the eighth ward don’t believe he cares about them.
“He does not care, he violated his ethics and he does not stand with the people,” Harris said.
Don submitted recall papers for Griggs this morning on the grounds that he “voted aye to appoint Lynn Sorenson to a three-year term on the Flint Planning Commission.”