The owner of 207 S. Monroe St. now has plans to build more than three times more homes than he originally pitched when he bid on the property.
Damian Farrell appeared before Saline City Council Monday night to go over his plans for a 44-unit development on the four-acre parcel.
City council and city planners previously approved a 30-unit development on the 3.6 acre property. Farrell planned to use modular condominiums, but his manufacturer ceased operations. Development has been at a standstill since. During that time, city leaders have lost patience on several occasions as the property and the old house that stood on it, became an eyesore.
Council had a mixed reaction to Farrell's proposal Monday night.
Councillor Janet Dillon asked why the density continues to climb.
"It keeps creeping up. We're talking about significant jumps. I know at one point, planners expressed concerns about the density and that it wasn't relative to the neighborhood," she said.
Farrell explained that market forces have led to increasing density.
Mayor Brian Marl said the density was in keeping with the zoning for the parcel.
"With great respect for my colleagues, I don't believe there's a whole lot of merit to concerns about density. It complies with the standard," Marl said.
Marl went on to say he prefers the new plan.
"I like this proposal better than the last one. It offers a product that is different and unique from what currently exists in the housing stock,” Marl said. "I'm supportive of this project. The goal is to see the site developed and on the tax rolls and to have more housing for people who want to live in the area."
Councillor Dean Girbach drew a reaction from Farrell when he asked why city council should have any faith that his current plan wouldn't fail like his previous one did. Girbach also pointed to delays in tearing down the dilapidated and dangerous home on the property and complained of weeds that often grow to three and four feet high.
"We have our doubts," Girbach said of Farrell’s ability to follow through with his plan.
Farrell disagreed that his previous plan failed while answering Girbach and explaining why the density continues to rise.
"We lost our manufacturer. We had no control of that. At the time, building costs started to rise. As have labor costs. As the project was pushed back it became unfeasible," Farrell said.
Farrell noted that he's lined up about 60 percent of the equity financing.
"Once we have the rest of the equity funding raised we'll be moving forward," Farrell said.
Answering a question from Councillor Linda TerHaar, Farrell said his new plan would respect previous agreements to allow Mark Hannah Court residents walking access to Peoples Park.
Answering a question from Councillor Mitchell, Farrell said one-bedroom condos would sell in the low $200,000s and two-bedroom condos would sell in the low to mid $300,000s.
Part of the new plan involves buying a fifth of an acre from the New Tabernacle Church. Farrell plans to move the existing barn to that parcel.
Farrell, answering another question from Councillor Christen Mitchell, said the original scheme called for 30 homes. That was the number approved by planners after the property was rezoned, but Farrell won the request for proposals to buy the property from the city by pitching a 7-duplex development.
In November of 2014, neighbors were upset to learn of plans to develop the city-owned land, fearing the loss of green space around Peoples Park. Farrell originally pitched a 14-unit development for the parcel -- three more than Peters Building Company. Farrell agreed to buy the property for $200,000 after the city agreed to pay about $70,000 to move utility lines on the property.
By the time Farrell agreed to purchase the property the size of the development had increased to 24 units.
Farrell in 2016 requested the property be rezoned from R-2 to R3-A. By this point, he was seeking a 30-home development.
“The first designs that we looked at were just a fairly typical duplex arrangement, side by side units, garages out front,” Farrell said at a planning commission meeting. “As an architect/developer for this project, I really wasn’t happy with that. Other projects that we’ve done, we try to strive to do something that’s a little different. My primary concern was that that kind of solution pretty much wiped the site clean.”
But Farrell's project, known as Fairdene by this point, stalled because the manufacture of his modular condominiums ceased business.