- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

SAGINAW, Mich. (AP) - A historic mansion in a Saginaw neighborhood is about to become home to some Central Michigan University medical students.

Saginaw zoning officials approved a variance last week that allows five unrelated third- and fourth-year students to live in the house in an area zoned for single-family homes, The Saginaw News reported (https://bit.ly/1C79D1l ) Monday.

Former zoning rules allowed three unrelated residents in a home.

The 4,355-square-foot, seven-bedroom home in Saginaw’s Heritage Square is owned by local businessman Dick Garber.

Garber plans to donate it to St. Mary’s of Michigan hospital. St. Mary’s hopes to set up a scholarship and host the five students in the home for the upcoming fall semester.

Neighbors who wanted the house to remain a single-family residence signed a petition late last year to stop the plans.

“We did have several meetings with members of the neighborhood group,” Chief Inspector John Stemple told members of the Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday. “We tried to answer all their questions.”

The zoning variance comes with conditions that were approved by residents of the neighborhood. The variance becomes void if the property is sold or no longer used to house medical students. Students also must receive their instruction at St. Mary’s hospital or Covenant Medical Center while living in the home.

“It actually helps us to have the stipulations in place,” said Sheryl Gregory, a resident who initially opposed the variance.

The mansion is the birthplace of Saginaw’s Pit & Balcony Theatre. In 1932, the owner invited the seven members of the American Association of University Women to perform plays in the ballroom.

The mansion previously has been owned by a general manager of General Motors’ Saginaw Malleable Iron Division plant and a councilwoman.

Garber bought it in 2008 for $325,000.

He has said the house is too big for him.

“I want to protect that home,” Garber said. “That home belongs to Saginaw. It’s truly one of the landmarks.”

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Information from: The Saginaw News, https://www.mlive.com/saginaw

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