The primary issue on the agenda for the first June meeting of the Saline Planning Commission was a public hearing for a proposal to rezone 207 Monroe Street from R-2, single and two-family family residential to R3-A, multi-family residential. The once city-owned land was sold to Damian Farrell’s High Meadow Development, LLC after winning “a design competition of sorts” for building on the site.
Interestingly, however, the design that won the favor of city council is not what the developer is choosing to go forward with.
“The first designs that we looked at were just a fairly typical duplex arrangement, side by side units, garages out front,” Farrell said. “As an architect/developer for this project, I really wasn’t happy with that. Other projects that we’ve done, we try to strive to do something that’s a little different. My primary concern was that that kind of solution pretty much wiped the site clean.”
After wrestling with what to do, in consultation with city engineer Gary Roubal, Farrell began thinking about asking for rezoning as R-3. This would allow him to cluster the housing so that he could preserve more open space, saving more of the trees and the sloping land.
“I really like the idea of getting the parking under the building, not ending up with a vast parking area and really trying to focus on reducing the impervious surface,” Farrell said. “All of the parking for the units is contained within the footprints of the buildings.”
Farrell had a meeting with the neighbors, first to present his plan under R-2 zoning and later to present the alternative plan with R-3A zoning. He said all but one neighbor was comfortable with the revised plan, and that he is continuing to speak with that individual.
What Farrell is proposing is three large buildings, each containing 10 condominium units. They will be positioned on about 4 acres of land with ample open space between.
Planner Chris Atkin of Carlisle/Wortman Associates reviewed the rezoning request. One concern was that the city’s future land use map suggests that the site be used for “Open Space – Recreation.”
The future land use map is currently being updated, so this could change. It may have been zoned that way because it adjoined People’s Park and it was owned by the city at the time.
Atkins also expressed concerns about housing density relative to neighboring property, building height and concerns about the soil type. He also highlighted compatibility of the proposal with the city’s Master Plan. This area is designated “South Residential Sub Area” and recommendations for this area encourage clustered developments and preserving open space.
The planner made no recommendations on the proposed rezoning.
“I leave it in your hands,” he told the commission.
In the public hearing only perennial commenter Mary Hess came forward to express an opinion. She was concerned that the neighbors may not be aware of what is really happening next to them.
City Engineer Roubal said that letters had been sent out to all neighbors within 300 feet of the property. Also, Farrell had already met with them to disclose the most recent plans.
Commissioners discussed the issues raised by Atkins. Commission chair Bill Beardsley expressed concern that the public still might not be aware of the rezoning proposed.
Finally, Mayor Brian Marl moved that the Planning Commission recommend approval of the zoning change to City Council. This was seconded by Cheryl Hoeft. Beardsley suggested that the motion include required notification of neighbors about the most up to date renderings of the plan.
The motion was approved unanimously. Rezoning will still require approval of City Council, then the developer will need preliminary and final site plan approval before proceeding.