The main issue on the agenda for the May 25 meeting of the Saline Planning Commission was a public hearing on the development at 218 Monroe St.
Mark D. Lewis of Lewis/Klein Properties was present to make a case for final site plan approval for a 17-unit condominium development to be called Curtiss Park Bluffs.
As indicated by planner Doug Lewan, this project has been before the planning commission earlier, both to approve a rezoning of the land and to approve a preliminary site plan. He also said that the applicant has done a good job in addressing review comments by himself and city staff.
Nevertheless, Lewan needed more questions answered. The project is being reviewed under the CUP (Community Unit Plan) ordinance which enables the applicant to create greater housing density in part of the development in order to allow more open space.
Lewis is looking to cede 0.4 acres on the southwest corner of the property to Johnson Controls who own the adjacent property. This area was found to be contaminated with arsenic.
Lewan was concerned about how giving up this property will affect the calculation for housing density and percentage of open space. Lewis suggested that it would be left as open space regardless of who owned it, so it should not be a concern.
Lewan also pointed out that maximum lot coverage is supposed to be 32 percent and the developer is proposing 36.5 percent. This deviation would require special approval. He strongly recommended a few landscaping changes as well.
City Engineer Roubal said that both staff and OHM Advisors, an architecture and engineering firm, have reviewed the proposal. OHM listed 26 comments that it would like addressed before approval.
Roubal said they could not make a recommendation for approval until more issues were resolved. The hope for the public hearing was that comments by OHM, city staff, planning commissioners and interested citizens could be combined to refine questions for the applicant.
Lewis was allowed ten minutes to state his case and he used all of it. Regarding the environmental review, he said arsenic at just above the state action level was detected in an area near the edge of the property, but there was no evidence that it was migrating further in.
During preliminary approval meeting, Lewis had been encouraged to contact Mike Stoelton of Johnson Controls about accepting the contaminated property as a gift. He said that he had done so and Stoelton seemed amenable to the transfer, but then Lewis heard nothing more from Johnson Controls.
He suggested a “plan B” for disposal of the property. He said that he believed he could simply exclude the contaminated property from the contract when he purchased it from the owner, Lance Holland. The property would not be landlocked and Holland could sell it separately.
“Our hope is that we can work something out where we don’t take title to the property,” Lewis said.
Unfortunately, after making his case for “plan B,” he later said he had just learned that the parcel was in fact landlocked due to a recent sale of another property. Consequently, he is now depending on Johnson Controls assuming ownership of the parcel.
Keeping the contaminated parcel out of the chain of title would help Lewis avoid legal issues and marketing ramifications.
Mayor Brian Marl said that the city could “facilitate some interaction” between the developer and Johnson Controls. “I think we owe you that,” he said.
Several neighbors, including Morris Decker, Kathy Rhadigan and Beth Drake made comments about the project. Their primary concern was that the contamination issue is properly addressed and not “swept under the carpet.”
Commissioner Dean Girbach moved that the consideration for approval of the project be postponed until June 22, seconded by Cheryl Hoeft. This was approved unanimously.
The other primary issue discussed by the planning commission was the future of the building at 118 E. Michigan Ave. It is owned by Andy Warner and a major tenant is Klingelnberg America, Inc.
Hastings Wyman of Klingelnberg appeared before the commission to gauge thoughts about a possible plan wherein Klingelnberg would purchase the building, make significant improvements and continue to use it for manufacturing.
Marl spoke first.
“In a perfect world Saline and the community would utilize that particular space in our downtown differently than we do today and we have historically,” Marl said. “However, we’re forced to deal with what reality is.”
“The fact of the matter is, Klingelnberg is a great multinational company that we want to keep in Saline,” Marl continued. “We want you to grow and expand and mature in Saline. That’s not only good for your business, but also good for the community.”
Wyman presented some preliminary plans that showed an aesthetically pleasing building. It would be utilized similarly to its present use. The house located at 111 E. Henry Street would probably be removed.
Lewan spoke of how the city had hoped to use this property for some purpose other than industrial. Klingelnberg’s plan could be approved as a “preexisting nonconforming use” if there is no increase in intensity of the operations there.
Wyman said he could accept that depending on how they defined “intensity.”
Assistant Clerk DeHaan Leaving Saline
This was the last meeting for Assistant Clerk Connie DeHaan. She is leaving the state to take care of her mother. Her duties on the Planning Commission will be assumed by Terri Royal.
“I just wanted to say I’ve enjoyed the thirteen years as a citizen of Saline and working for the city for the last 10 years and thoroughly enjoyed learning the process of planning and all that goes into it and all of the hours you guys donate.”