City of Saline Mayor Brian Marl outlined a vision that could provide the future framework for the City and Saline Township to work together in handling development and annexation issues. Marl at the Saline Township Board meeting Monday night
When questioned about the Adelina Farms development, the planned 284-unit development located just west of the city limits between Michigan Avenue and Austin Road, Marl acknowledged the city has a meeting scheduled with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes & Energy (EGLE) at the end of the month. Marl said the city has filed a legal challenge with EGLE objecting to effluent discharge into an unnamed tributary of the Saline River near phase three of the Huntington Woods development along Macon Road.
“We will try to work out an arrangement with EGLE,” said Mayor Marl, though he said a favorable outcome was “unlikely”. “If the city is not able to reach an agreement with EGLE, the City of Saline would proceed to a hearing with an administrative law judge within EGLE.”
Marl explained that a hearing with an administrative law judge within EGLE was a step available to resolve differences prior to going to court. Following the meeting, Mayor Marl was asked was asked what the city would consider a successful resolution to the city’s objection.
“At a minimum, further testing and review to determine whether the discharge plan near the Huntington Woods development is appropriate,” Marl said. “That is the very minimum.”
Marl said he would need to consult with the entire city council and the city’s legal resources to determine if they would take their objection to circuit court.
City Council member Janet Dillon agreed with the Mayor’s perspective on the city’s objection to Andelina Farms’ effluent discharge plan.
“Everybody really has to be sure this plan is safe and is the best option available for everyone involved,” Dillon said.
Marl proposed that the City of Saline and Saline Township work to develop a similar agreement that existed between the city and Pittsfield Township. The Pittsfield agreement identified properties within the township that would be automatically annexed into the City of Saline as soon as they were sold and ready to be developed. That approach was recent demonstrated with the annexation of Layher Farms – that came 40 years after the agreement.
This approach ended the acrimony that existed between Pittsfield Township and the City of Saline.
Marl thought a similar approach would “provide clarity and direction for Saline Township residents and developers” about where properties would receive their water & sewer services and provide for a smooth annexation into the City of Saline. Marl proposed Saline Township’s “urban corridor,” as identified in the township’s master plan be the focus of the language between the township and city.
“This area could be increased or decreased, as negotiated by the city and township”, Marl explained.
Township consulting attorney Fred Lucas explained that he had not yet been contacted by attorneys from the City of Saline. Lucas said there were two approaches that could be considered.
“The City of Saline and Pittsfield Township have an overarching annexation agreement which designates properties that are included in the agreement,” Lucas said. “It is simpler to have a 425 agreement which accomplishes the same thing. In the end they both accomplish the same thing; the property ends up in the city but having a 425 agreement is a simpler way of proceeding.”
Trustee Robert Marion raised the State of Michigan’s concern with “township islands.” (Small parcels of township land within a city’s borders). Lucas responded that the state doesn’t really get involved in 425 transfer of properties. Laws governing 425 agreements tends to minimize the state’s interest and involvement in property transfers between local jurisdictions when using 425 agreements.
Township Supervisor Jim Marion said that even while the City of Saline was pursuing its legal challenge to Andelina Farms he was supportive of talks between the township and city around the development of language for a 425 agreement start.
Lucas pointed out that township residents would have an opportunity to review and comment on any agreement between the city and township, prior to the board taking a vote. “Citizens will not be left out of the process,” Lucas repeated.
Both Mayor Marl and Supervisor Marion said that neither the city nor the township wanted to force any property owner into something they did not want. Trustee Robert Marion acknowledged that there are currently township properties within the city limits now, and that practice could continue in the future, especially if property owners strongly objected to annexation.
Huntington Woods Sidewalk
Mayor Marl said that he was negotiating with Pulte Homes, the developer of Huntington Woods, about the proposed sidewalk connecting the neighborhood via sidewalks to the city. He said he will attempt to get a commitment from Pulte that ensures the developer will take on the legal liability and ongoing maintenance of the sidewalk going forward. Attorney Lucas asked that the township have a third-party interest in the agreement, so the township has the ability to enforce the agreement in the future. Marl said he would be sure to include that.
Oak Park Drive Issues
Jane Bersuder, a resident of Oak Park Drive in Saline Township, informed the board that some residents of Oak Park Drive met with Township Trustee Tom Hammond and Mark McCulloch from the Washtenaw County Road Commission about understanding the process to create a special assessment district (SAD) for the replacement of Oak Park Dr. McCulloch said the road commission inspected Oak Park Dr. and determined it needed to be replaced and there are not sufficient funds road commission funds to do the replacement. Ms. Bersuder said they hoped to gather signatures to present to the township board by January 2020.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:05 p.m.
The next township board meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 11, 2019 at 7 p.m.