Saline Planners Approve Changes to Downtown Housing Project, Maple Heights Apartment Overhaul

Local News Needs Your Support

Donation Options

 03/01/2016 - 14:56

The City of Saline Planning Commission met during the third week of February to consider a new housing development, renovation of an older one and a zoning change alone Michigan Avenue.

The new development is Risdon Heights, an 11-unit project to be built on Henry Street adjacent to the city water tower. A site plan was approved in January, but the current discussion was to approve the most recent revisions.

City Engineer Gary Roubal had listed eight conditions to be met by the developer, Peters Building Company, and these have been addressed. The zoning, D-2 Downtown Edge, required “street furniture,” a condition that the developer is meeting by including raised stone planters along Henry Street.

Commissioner Terri Sibo-Koenig wondered whether the proposed development might appear out of place with nearby historic districts.

“The property where this condominium complex is being built has historic properties on each side of it,” Sibo-Koenig said. “My concern was just that the design of garage-first architecture is much more of a common design for subdivisions and is not commonly seen in the area where it is being built.”

Developer Jim Haeussler said his company had had such concerns also and that is why they took the measures they did to break up continuous lines and reduce garage frontages.

Planner Doug Lewan said that he previously had similar concerns but that his thoughts had evolved. He said that since the area was truly at the edge of any present or future expansion of the commercial area, it seemed appropriate.

After commissioners Cheryl Hoeft and Bill Beardsley spoke in favor of the plan, the commission voted unanimously to approve the recent changes and complete the site plan approval.

The city and the developer are making haste with the project because they hope to get the major work done before the Michigan Avenue renovation project starts diverting traffic onto Henry Street. The developer is hoping to begin work in mid March.

“We are trying to meet the US 12 project startup and I think we’re going to do it,” Roubal said.

The most discussion centered on the planned renovation of Maple Heights apartment complex off of Maple Road. The owner plans to renovate the interior of all 48 living units, the exterior of the three buildings, and several other on-site amenities. They also propose building a 1,654 square foot community building.

The Planning Commission does not need to approve the renovations in existing structures, but they do need to OK the new building and other proposed exterior changes. The project includes upgrading the water detention area, improved parking, new playground equipment, a pad for bike racks, dumpster enclosures and relocation of the bus shelter.

Both Lewan and Roubal reviewed the plans. Architect, Stacie Hadeed of Hooker/DeJong was also on hand to answer questions.

Lewan expressed concern about the potential uses for the community building and how that might affect parking requirements. He said that city ordinances require two spaces for each dwelling unit and an additional one for each ten units. This would require 48 x 2 + 4 = 100 spaces and the builder is proposing to include 101.

However, the community building could change the calculation.

“If it’s going to be used for parties and events for the folks that live there, they may need a little additional parking,” Lewan said. “Our calculation would indicate they would need four additional parking spaces.”

Hadeed said that the site was “pretty constrained,” but that they would look into possibly adding parking.

Except for the parking issue, most of the concerns were minor. The Planning Commission could have given combined preliminary and final site plan approval, but for this.

The plan is a MSHDA (Michigan State Housing Development Authority) project as well as an Enterprise Green Communities Project and a Rural Development Project. All of these provide financial and/or technical assistance. They also assure that certain criteria are met.

A public hearing on the project was opened and closed when no one came forward to speak. Commissioner Dean Girbach moved that the site plan be given preliminary approval only until the use of the community building and parking requirements is resolved.        

Mayor Brian Marl said that the project was much needed and had been a long time coming. He said that the apartments were in definite need of remodeling, having been built in the 1980s, and that he liked the community building idea.

Roubal asked Girbach if he would feel comfortable granting a grading permit along with the preliminary approval so that the builder, Pete Potterpin of PK Construction, LLC, could begin work on the site. With this addition, the motion was passed unanimously.

The Planning Commission also discussed the zoning of lots 17 – 20 of Sauk Trail Business Park. These are on the south side of US 12 across from Rentschler Farm.

The lots were zoned I-2 Industrial in 1999 when the Rentschler Farm Museum was established, but there has been little interest in industrial development there. On the other hand there has been interest in business uses.

The city is considering rezoning these properties from I-2 to SPA-1. SPA-1 zoning is very flexible and allows commercial, residential or industrial development.”

“This should be rezoned to SPA1 because it will not only allow for better and more conforming uses for the corridor on the three lots facing Sauk Trail Business Park, but also by bringing in the lot of Gateway Center, that will allow them to utilize their property in a manner more consistent with the kinds of construction and tenants that they service for that property,” Roubal said.

The commission voted to authorize city staff to draft a zoning ordinance for the area and set up a public hearing date.

There was also some initial discussion on revision of the city master plan. Lewan gave a progress report, emphasizing that the intention is to amend, not overhaul, the existing plan.

“It’s amazing when you look at this plan, even though it was five years ago, that we’ve accomplished quite a bit that was in here,” Girbach said.

He expressed hope that five years from now city officials would be able to say the same thing.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for March 9 at 7 p.m., or March 23, if there is insufficient business to conduct on the ninth.

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 [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @RobertConradi.