Six weeks after citing the coronavirus and "stay home' order as the reason to back out of a proposed development and utilities service agreement with M/I Homes of Michigan for Andelina Farms, city council is moving to recommence negotiations.
On March 24, Saline City Council voted 6-0 to scrap the agreement, which, with an accompanying annexation deal, would have brought the proposed 284-unit develop in Saline Township into the city. At the time, Mayor Marl said the uncertainty created by coronavirus made it impossible for the city to guarantee it could live by the terms of the deal. Marl said he hoped the city could revisit the issue when the coronavirus issue recedes but said that the developer has expressed interest in pushing forward quickly, without the city’s utilities. M/I Homes wants to build 284 units on 117 acres west of the city between Michigan Avenue and Austin Road.
At Monday's meeting, after taking a straw poll of council, Marl instructed City Manager Todd Campbell to reach out to Dykema, the legal firm representing the developers, to discuss reopening negotiations.
"We have invested considerable time and money (in Andelina Farms) and I would like to make one more overture to see if we can land a deal," Mayor Marl said.
Councilor Dean Girbach agreed.
"We would still have concerns about effluent discharging in Huntington Woods. To say no to what was truly an incredible agreement - that provided us with money most developers would never do, would be a mistake," Girbach said.
Councilors Jack Ceo and Janet Dillon also supported the idea.
Councilors Christen Mitchell, Kevin Camero-Sulak and Jim Dell'Orco were opposed. All made reference to the troubles the city has maintaining a wastewater treatment plant to serve current residents. The 64-year-old plant, constantly a source of trouble for the city, has received two violation notices from the state.
Mitchell said she did not support using more attorney fees for negotiations. She also said she needed more information about the plant's actual capacity and the cost for repairs and expansion before supporting growth.
"We should not put the burden of growth on current residents before we guarantee infrastructure," Mitchell said.
Dell'Orco said he does not like the idea of the private wastewater system that would be built if the development stays in the township, but questioned the wisdom of investing millions at such an uncertain time.
"It's in our best interest at this time to focus on preserving and restoring the wastewater treatment plant to need the needs of current residents and not overburden ourselves with Andelina Farms," Dell'Orco said.
Camero-Sulak said he had serious reservations about re-opening negotiations.
"I don't think there's any hurry to be doing this and our time is better spent on our taxpayers and their needs," Camero-Sulak said, referencing the city's current infrastructure challenges and an expected economic downturn because of COVID-19.
Dillon was the swing vote on the issue - and she swung toward's the mayor's side.
"I would like to leave the door open to negotiate with the caveat that we are not currently in a position to actively pursue," Dillon said.