Nearly thirty people crowded into the Saline Township Hall Tuesday evening to hear the latest update on Andelina Farms, the proposed development in the Austin Road/Michigan Avenue area, just west of the City of Saline. Officials from Saline Ventures, the developer of Andelina Farms, attended the township’s planning commission meeting seeking approval for a site plan. Andelina Farms is a proposed 280-unit development that would be built in three phases.
Saline Township Planning Consultants, Dan Cabage, Senior Project Manager for Fleis & Vandenbrink and Douglas Lewan, Executive Vice President, Carlisle/Wortman provided commission members their analysis of the Andelina Farms site plan. Cabage and Lewan recommended the Planning Commission postpone action on the site plan, citing the need for more detailed information, especially the final specifications for the wastewater treatment plant and water system.
Following the nearly two-hour planning commission meeting, the commissioners voted to postpone action on the proposed Andelina Farms development. After listening to concerns from area residents, officials from the City of Saline and hearing the consultants’ reports, planning commission members decided the unanswered questions warranted delaying any action.
The concerns of the City of Saline were presented by Mayor Brian Marl, City Superintendent Gary Roubal and Councillors Christen Mitchell and Janet Dillon.
Gary Roubal, City of Saline Superintendent, expressed the City’s concern about the traffic plan presented by the developer. He stated that the increased traffic and potential congestion at the Austin Road/U.S. 12 intersection could become a health and safety issue for local residents.
Mayor Marl added that the City of Saline “held no animus towards the developer” and noted “their strong track record of planning and execution of projects.” However, Mayor Marl expressed the city’s concerns about the location of the waste water treatment plant along Michigan Avenue and the amount and quality of the water that would be discharged into a Saline River tributary near the city’s border. He added concerns about the potential impact the water discharge plan could have on the residents who live in the Huntington Woods neighborhood.
Marl mentioned the traffic impact study and reiterated concerns about the potential impact of increased traffic in the area. He was especially concerned about the development initially having just one entrance into the property while under construction. He cited the problems associated with construction vehicles going in and out of the construction area and having to mix in with regular traffic.
Several residents were especially worried about odors that could be emitted from the treatment plant. Saline City Councillor Janet Dillon said she lived in the area and has smelled odors from the River Ridge wastewater treatment plant on many occasions and was skeptical when Saline Ventures officials said their carbon filters would prohibit odors. Others confirmed they smell odors from River Ridge as well as the City of Saline wastewater treatment plant.
At one point in the heated debate, Saline City Councillor Christen Mitchell stood and implored the township planning commission members to not approve the proposed site plan. While acknowledging the problems the City of Saline has had in resolving the odor problems with their own wastewater treatment plan, she said “it doesn’t matter that there are other issues and problems, you cannot approve this plan. You have the opportunity to move this wastewater treatment plan away from Michigan Avenue and other homes.”
Mitchell continued, “You need to do the right thing,” and urged the Planning Commission to postpone action until changes could be made to the plan.
Township Supervisor Jim Marion said the Andelina Farms development was consistent with the Saline Township Master Plan but it was the township’s expectation that the development would be annexed into the City of Saline. Marion said it was the township’s intention to remain “rural”.
Saline Planning Commission Tom Hammond asked Saline Ventures attorney Alan Green to review the history of the Andelina farms development and the City of Saline. Green noted that the development has been in process for over five years.
Green noted that there were three different ideas for the annexation of Andelina Farms into Saline. After spending “over $100,000 for engineering studies” required by the city, the developer learned the city wanted the developer to pay nearly $5 million to improve the wastewater treatment plan and utilities to serve Andelina Farms – adding about $20,000 to the cost of each unit.
Unable to reach a a deal with the city, the developer went forward with their own utilities plan.
Nikki Jeffries, spokesperson for MI Homes/Saline Ventures, developer of Andelina Farms, explained the steps that the developer was taking to answer the questions of concerned citizens. She explained the specifications for the water system and wastewater treatment facility are expected to be finalized in the next couple of weeks.
She indicted that prior to a final site plan, including the specifications and location for the onsite water and sewage treatment plant, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) was planning to schedule a public hearing on Wednesday, February 20, 2019 at 2 p.m.
Several citizens raised serious concerns about the proposed project. The concerns were focused in five main areas:
- The location and functioning of the wastewater treatment plant and how it would look as you enter Saline from the west
- Potential odors emitted from the wastewater treatment plant
- The amount and quality of discharged water into tributaries that feed into the Saline River
- Potential safety hazards related to traffic congestion along the Austin Road/Michigan Avenue corridor
- Potential impact of having a wastewater treatment plant in such close proximity to homes in the Austin Commons area and the future value of the houses located there
Bill Anderson, Chief Engineer of Adelina farms, addressed the residents’ concerns about the wastewater treatment plant. He affirmed that the State of Michigan and Washtenaw County have strict standards regulating the operations of wastewater treatment plants. He stressed that the treatment facility at Adelina farms will meet all requirements imposed by the State of Michigan and Washtenaw County.
Several residents, including Mitchell, suggested to the developer that the wastewater treatment plant should be moved away from its current proposed location to the northwest corner of the property.
Anderson said there was a hill in that area, as well as mature trees, and those factors made the relocation of the wastewater treatment plant to the northwest area impossible.
Local residents also suggested moving the plant further north on the property. Anderson explained that the north part of the parcel is a designated wetland and the developer planned on leaving that area as a wetland.
At the conclusion of the meeting, Anderson was asked about moving the plant to the northwest corner of the property.
“Have you ever seen a treatment plant on the top of a hill?” Well, I haven’t because it hasn’t been done. I don’t think I want to be the first to try it,” he said. “The feedback we heard tonight was expected. We have been through this before and it is all part of the process. Change can be hard but we heard what the people said tonight and will try to address all of their concerns.”
Following over an hour of discussion about the Andelina Farms project, Planning Commission Secretary Trudy Feldkamp motioned to postpone any action on the Andelina Farms development until at least the April meeting. It was seconded by Neil Bohnett. The motion passed unanimously. The meeting adjourned at 8:55 p.m.
The next Saline Township Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 2, 2019 at 7 p.m. at the Saline Township Hall.