Saline City Council wants Fairdene architect Damian Farrell to promptly submit plans for a 30-unit development at 207 S. Monroe St.
In 2015, Saline City Council agreed to sell the 3.6-acre site to Farrell for $200,000. As part of the deal, council agreed the city would pay to reroute utilities on the parcel. The city eventually rezone the property to allow Farrell to build 30 units in his modular condominium development. But the development stalled when the manufacturer of the modular units went out of business. Farrell said that by the time he was ready to begin, the market had changed, and 30 units was no longer feasible.
Farrell asked council for 40 units, which was met by resistance from neighbors. The city’s purchase agreement with Farrell stipulates the city must approve changes to the development. Council declined Farrell’s 40-unit plan.
Monday night, city council briefly discussed the next steps. As is often the case on this issue, council had trouble reaching consensus. But council, with Mayor Brian Marl not in attendance, did seem to agree that it was important to stick to the 30 units in the purchase agreement.
“I would be really happy to see a plan for 30 units. I really like the development. I would like to see us stick to the original contract language and I would support that, working with the neighbors to help facilitate that,” Councillor Christen Mitchell said.
Councillor Heidi McClelland agreed.
“I don’t’ want to see it sit undeveloped for years and years and years,” McClelland said.
Councillors Dean Girbach and Janet Dillon suggested the city should stick to the countract.
“We have a contract in place. If not we can examine other recourses,” Girbach said.
Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar suggested allowing a 30-day window for Farrell to work with neighbors on a 30-unit development and then report back to council on progress.
Dillon suggested that was just kicking the can down the road.
“We’ve asked for firm deadlines before. The developer knew where the city stood and chose to bring us plans that do not comply with our contract,” Dillons said. “I’d like to see a firm date with a viable plan.”
Councillor Girbach agreed.
Dillon suggested Farrell should have something before city council by the Dec. 3 meeting.
Councillor Jack Ceo said he didn’t see the need for a hard deadline. Councillor McClelland agreed, suggesting that coming up with a plan and working with neighbors could be tough in a month with a Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
“I want to see significant progress with all the neighbors on board. I’d rather see a quality plan,” McClelland.
Dillon disagreed with the need for neighbor engagement.
“We already have a contract in place. I don’t see what more engagement there needs to be,” she said.
“He has a decision to make. Is it (30-unit development) feasible if not. At this point, it’s his decision whether or not this proceeds or not. I think he can make that decision within 30 days,” Girbach said.
Ultimately, council was split on the need for a hard Dec. 3 deadline. Instead, Farrell will appear before council Dec. 3 to give a progress report.