At the recent Saline Planning Commission meeting, planners cleared the way for Evangelical Homes of Michigan to take ownership of the former Saline Hospital Building. Talks have been going on for two years and a letter of intent for the purchase was signed in January. Sealing the deal will happen shortly.
While working to finalize the transaction, a detailed review showed the need to correct or reconfigure various boundary lines between the hospital property and the adjacent Professional Office Building. Saint Joseph Mercy Health System wishes to maintain ownership of the office building at this time.
After considerable advance work by Washtenaw Engineering, the transaction was fairly straight forward. Ninety parking slots will remain connected with the office building, only 5 short of what is required by city ordinance, and commissioners had little concern about waiving this requirement.
Denise Rabidoux, CEO of Evangelical Homes of Michigan, Emily Barker of Saint Joseph and Rob Wanty of Washtenaw Engineering were present to answer questions and witness the transaction. After approval, Barker signed the documents.
Another significant approval was the final site plan for the Curtiss Park Bluffs development, which will consist of 17 condominium units at 218 Monroe street. The first step toward approval had happened in January when the land was rezoned.
The most concerning obstacle standing in the way of this approval was the discovery of chemical contamination on one corner of the parcel that had spilled over from the former industrial site to the south. That site, the former Hoover Universal Die Cast site at 232 Monroe, is being remediated by the current owner, Johnson Controls.
Mark D. Lewis of Lewis/Klein Properties spoke about his efforts to meet all the requirements of the planning commission since the preliminary site plan was accepted. Of course, he spoke especially to the environmental questions.
“We did enter into discussions with Johnson Controls and it turned out that they’ve agreed to remediate that small piece of contaminated soil on the property as part of their overall cleanup obligations that they are currently engaged in,” Lewis said. “The only issue which I think was a little uncertain is timing.”
The remediation would involve removing contaminated soil and replacing it with clean soil. It is in a part of the parcel where no construction is planned. Lewis hopes it will be done within 60 days, but he said he had no guarantees.
In addition to the area of concern, soil borings were made in other parts of the property. Lewis said that there are “no other indications of any kind of contamination.” It is also good soil for the planned excavation and filling activities.
Mayor Brian Marl praised the developer’s reputation and the specific proposal at hand. He thought it was “a good fit for this parcel’ and it would be “a positive addition to the community.”
“While there is significant work that still needs to be done to remediate the former Hoover Universal Die Cast site on Monroe Street,” Marl continued, “we as a community and Johnson Controls in particular have made more progress in the last year and a half than we have made in the last ten.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the site plan and Lewis came forward to sign the papers.
There was a pair of public hearings at the Planning Commission meeting, but no citizen comments were registered for either. One was about the replacement of the city’s CUP (Community Unit Plan) with a PUD (Planned Unit Development) ordinance. The other was approval of a small expansion at PSMI.
The implementation of a PUD has been under discussion since last year. Both the CUP and PUD ordinance allow for greater design flexibility in site plans, but the CUP is limited to residential zones.
The PUD language is very similar to the CUP, but it expands the ordinance to include commercial development and industrial development, planner Chris Atkin of Carlisle/Wortman Associates said.
“I think this is somewhat of an historic opportunity for Saline to improve its current CUP into a more flexible PUD ordinance,” said Commission Chair Bill Beardsley.
The commissioners approved the ordinance. It will go before the Saline City Commission of July 11.
PMSI (Production Services Management Inc.) located at 1255 Beach Ct. in the Sauk Trail Business park, applied for preliminary and final site plan approval. They plan to add a 1132 square foot addition for a new lunchroom and expand their parking area by 35 slots to accommodate a greater number of employees.
The plan was reviewed by city staff and by OHM Advisors. Neither found any concerns except for the need to obtain a soil erosion permit from Washtenaw County.
Allen Scott of the Rand Corporation came forward to answer questions. All he had to say was “we brought this pretty picture” (depicting the planned project) and “we love working in Saline.”
The project was approved unanimously.
Planner Atkin reported on progress his firm is making on the City Master Plan revision. He also asked the commissioners to provide input on the future land use map.
Both Marl and council member Dean Girbach suggested that the commission should take time to ponder this question and discuss it at a future date. Beardsley agreed.
“This future land use really is a conceptual vision of how we see the community from a future development standpoint,” Beardsley said. “And even though it is ‘only’ conceptual, it’s one of the first things we look at as a body when we’re looking at a rezoning request to see how consistent it is with what we though the future is.”
City Engineer Gary Roubal gave a progress report on various ongoing or proposed projects in the community. One that might be of special interest is the plans for a theater in Saline at the former Country Market site.
On June 21, Emagine Theaters submitted various documents to the city needed for approval to commence operations in Saline. Roubal said city staff would expedite the application and it would be addressed at the next Planning Commission meeting on July 27.