Saline City Council rejected developer Damian Farrell’s request to approve the redesign of his plans for 207 S. Monroe St. Farrell, who bought the 3.5-acre site from the city, has a purchase agreement that stipulates the city council must approve the redesign of his proposed development.
City council rezoned the property to allow Farrell to build a 30-unit modular condominium community on the property. The site plan for that development was approved by city council and the planning commission. But Farrell’s development stalled when the manufacturer of his modular units ceased business. Citing higher costs, Farrell came back to the city with a plan to buy a .2-acre adjoining parcel and increase the number of units to 44.
Neighbors circulated a petition, fetching more than 170 signatures, urging council to reject Farrell’s proposal.
Council did not approve Farrell’s request to rezone that small adjoining parcel.
On Oct. 1, Farrell approached council with his 38-unit proposal.
At Monday’s meeting, council voted 4-3 to not approve the redesign. Councillors Janet Dillon, Christen Mitchell, Heidi McClelland and Dean Girbach voted against approving the design. Mayor Brian Marl, Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar and Councillor Jack Ceo voted to approve the redesign.
Mayor Marl, as he often does on issues important to him, opened the discussion by reading a statement. Marl acknowledged the plan wasn’t perfect, but said the design was reasonable and that he had faith in the city’s planning commission to deal with issues such as parking, traffic and density during site plan review.
Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar also supported the redesign. One by one, she addressed a list of issues raised by residents and neighbors of the development. Among those issues were green space, parking and traffic. TerHaar said the city’s planning consultant would be required to review traffic data as part of its site plan review. She said the development appeared to meet the city’s requirements for parking. She also said the development provided ample green space. She said she’d read articles in defense of the quality of modular condominium units.
“This design proposes features that are attractive and a bit more forward-thinking than our zoning rules require,” TerHaar said.
Farrell paid the city $200,000 for the property – with the city agreeing to pay $66,000 to move the power lines that ran through the property. Councillor Janet Dillon said that price was based on development density that was far lower than what Farrell was now asking for.
When the city decided to sell the land, it put out a request for proposals. Farrell originally proposed seven duplexes for the property. Peters Building proposed 11 single-family homes, offering $165,000.
“The price (in the purchase agreement) was based on a low number of units. Had other developers been given the option to build 30 or 38 units, there might have been other developers who would have purchased the property,” Dillon said.
She also said a decision to go forward with a parking deficient development flew in the face of the recent recommendations in the city’s parking study.
She also wondered if 38 units would be Farrell’s final ask.
“What guarantee do we have that Mr. Farrell won’t change his plans again?” Dillon asked.
Councillor Dean Girbach, who serves on the city’s planning commission with the mayor, said he only voted to rezone the property because the city had a contract in place calling for 30 units.
“We had a contract in place. Their ability to make a return is their issue, not ours,” Girbach said.
He added that he wasn’t a fan of the look of the new plan.
“I don’t think the conceptual plans match. It looks like a motel approach from the 1960s,’ Girbach said.
He also disputed Mayor Marl’s call to put the decision in the hands of the city planners.
“Planning commission takes its lead from city council. The decision we make tonight with direct city council. We’ve seen that before,” Girbach said.
Councillor McClelland was the lone councillor to vote note on the rezoning effort. Her issues remained the same.
“I come back to the density issue. While I appreciate the design and would like to see the property developed, I can’t support (this proposal). I never supported the additional density in the first place,” McClelland said.
Councillor Mitchell said she was a fan of the design and would consider moving into a development like the one Farrell proposed. However, she said, she wanted to stick with deal spelled out in the contract.
“Whatever I prefer, the contract is solid. It says 30 units. I am very sorry for the developer’s situation. (His request) is understandable. But it’s part of the game,” Mitchell said. “I cannot support anything more than we have a contract for. Nothing over 30 units.”
Councillor Dillon motioned to not approve Farrell’s request. Councillor Mitchell seconded the motion. Girbach and McClelland voted with Dillon and Mitchell. Marl, TerHaar and Ceo voted against the motion.
A smattering of applause erupted from the audience in the council chambers before it was stifled by the orders of quiet from Mayor Marl.
Following the meeting, Mayor Marl was asked what was next for the development.
“My quote from a few weeks ago still stands. That’s the million dollar question,” Marl said.