Saline City Council Rezones Land for 30-Home Development on Monroe

 07/15/2016 - 16:44

Plans for a ranch-style condominium development at 207 Monroe Street have moved another step forward. In Monday’s meeting, the Saline City Council voted to approve a zoning change from R-2 (single and two-family residential) to R3-A (multi-family residential) that would allow architect Damian Farrell’s proposed design. They also approved a short extension of the purchase agreement.

City staff and  Carlisle/Wortman Associates had already given a thumbs up for the rezoning proposal and it was approved by the Planning Commission in early June. Still, the plan would be more contemporary than existing architecture in Saline and the concept has evolved from what Farrell presented over a year ago when he was awarded the contract.

In its current form, the development would consist of three buildings, each containing eight identical 1873 square foot two-bedroom units and two 650 square foot one-bedroom units. The one-bedroom units were a recent addition, increasing the total units from 24 to 30.

City Engineer Gary Roubal reviewed some of the city analysis of the plan. He said that the original purchase agreement did not limit the developer to the 24 units previously proposed. Also, the additional small units do not actually change the ground-level footprint of the buildings.

Roubal noted that a third letter has been sent to neighbors of the project outlining the most recent changes in the plan. These changes have also created the need for an extension.

“The extension of the purchase agreement is based solely on the fact that during the strenuous effort of making a feasibility study of the project, the buildability of it on that sight, that took longer than expected,” Roubal said.

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Farrell went forward to explain his current design, using some power point slides, and to answer questions from Council. He explained that the project had been very challenging and that designing around the difficulties had been enjoyable.

Reducing the impervious land area and increasing greenspace were priorities for him. Although there are now 30 units intended, the density is still well below what is allowed in R3-A zoning.

The buildings would be 70 feet apart, meeting setback requirements. There are porches on each corner of the buildings and there are “lots of ins and outs” which are more expensive to build, but are important for Farrell’s architectural goals.

The development would include a rectangular “pocket park” approximately 100 by 250 feet. Most of the larger trees on the parcel would be spared, but a large maple and a crabapple would have to go. An existing barn would be refurbished and used as a community room.

Council member Heidi McClelland was concerned about the size and especially the height (apparently three stories) of the proposed structures. Farrell said that since the parking level at the bottom would be at least half below grade and the roofs would be flat, the height isn’t as great as one might suppose.

Council member Janet Dillon asked about market analysis for the proposed units.           

City Manager Todd Campbell said that the analysis was positive and Darby Kolano from Reinhart Realtors, said the local demand for ranch-style units is very strong.

“There’s really nothing like this,” Kolano said. “So we’ve been monitoring this carefully all the way through and we really think this will be something that will be a success.”

Asked about the price point, Kolano and Farrell suggested that the two-bedroom units would be in the $380,000 range. Councilman Dean Girbach doubted affordability at this price.

Mayor Pro Tem David Rhoads had good things to say about the proposal. He appreciated the retention of the barn, the novel style to increase the housing diversity in Saline and the architect’s intention to name the access road “Leslee Lane” after Rhoads’ late wife.

Two neighbors of the development came forward to voice their concerns, Andrew Hatfield and James Dell’Orco. Hatfield was concerned about traffic.

“We have been getting frustrated with the amount of traffic and the speeds of traffic on Henry Street,” Hatfield said, “and I’m concerned as to whether this will impact that even more negatively.”

Hatfield was also concerned about building very contemporary structures, buildings which he regarded as “not very attractive anyway,” adjacent to a historical district.

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Dell’Orco had two concerns. First, he was concerned about the loss of mature trees. Also he contended that the loss of parking on the land at 207 Monroe, presently owned by the city, “essentially would land lock the baseball diamonds and the tennis courts.”

Campbell noted that the city also owns land to the south of the daycare center by the fields and this could be used for parking. Farrell responded to the juxtaposition of different kinds of architecture.

 “One of the things that the Secretary of the Interior recommends and I, you could argue I conveniently go along with it, but I do believe it, is that if you are doing something either to a historic building or a district, something that’s new, that it should not try to mimic, that it should be all its own kind and it should stand separate,” Farrell said.

After extensive discussion, Council member Linda TerHaar moved to approve the rezoning and this was seconded by Council member Jack Ceo. The vote was all aye except for McClelland, who voted nay.

The next steps for the developer will be to finalize the purchase agreement and to seek approval of site plans.

Bob Conradi's picture
Bob Conradi Is a retired pharmaceutical scientist who has redefined himself as a photographer and journalist. He has lived in Michigan for 36 years and in the Saline area for 10. He enjoys researching and learning about new ideas. Reach him at bobcphotography@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.