Unable to reach a deal with the City of Saline to provide water and sewer for a planned 280-home development, Saline Ventures has pressed forward with plans to build as a Saline Township property providing its own water and sewer.
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City of Saline officials recently viewed the plans for Andelina Farms – and didn’t like what they saw. Mayor Brian Marl went so far as to suggest the city will seek legal remedies if required.
Saline Ventures has received preliminary approval for its site plan and is expected to consider final site plan approval as early as February. The site plan could be on the agenda the Feb. 5 planning commission meeting. Meanwhile, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality is seeking public comment on Saline Ventures’ plan to discharge wastewater into an unnamed tributary of the Saline River. The treated wastewater would travel from a wastewater treatment plant located on Michigan Avenue across Michigan Avenue – along the road in front of the River Ridge neighborhood, to the city limits and then back south, where it would be discharged just beyond the city limits.
The wastewater plan -- from the type of plant, to the location of the plant, to the lagoons, to the discharge location – drew the most ire from members of the town council. They were also concerned about traffic decisions they said would cause more problems, especially at the intersection Michigan Avenue and Austin Road.
Mayor Brian Marl called the discharge location “ill advised” and “inappropriate.” He also questioned the aesthetic value of building a wastewater treatment plant along Michigan Avenue.
Councillor Jack Ceo said he had concerns about diagrams which appeared to show open lagoons as part of the wastewater treatment plant.
“We’re in the process of spending millions of dollars on the current (wastewater) odor problem we have. This would be the second sewage lagoon constructed on our very western boundary. I’m not sure how much that contributes to the overall comfort of the citizens of the city of Saline,” Ceo said.
Ceo also took issue with the location of the wastewater treatment plant.
“We’ve spent a lot of time and money on gateway elements make the aesthetic as your approach the city of Saline something pleasing. To have a sewage lagoon out there on Michigan Avenue near our western boundary is not a very pleasant and welcome to the city of Saline,” Ceo said. “I was upset when I saw this and I get more upset as I talk about it.”
Councillor Janet Dillon said westside residents have experienced odor issues and believe the River Ridge wastewater treatment facility may be the culprit. She also expressed concerns about adding another wastewater treatment facility to the neighborhood.
Mayor Pro-Tem Linda TerHaar was surprised the developer submitted a plan that discharged effluent at the city border.
“It would stun me if the DEQ would allow the discharge of water from a wastewater treatment plant at the city limits,” TerHaar said.
Marl said he did not know if Saline Township officials had the legal standing to deny the Andelina Farms site plan. But he said the city plans be emphatic when stating its opposition to the MDEQ. City Superintendent Gary Roubal noted that the developers of Huntington Woods Phase 3, which will be built close to the area where Andelina Farms plans to discharge wastewater. City officials encouraged nearby residents and homeowners associations to contact the state with concerns.
Superintendent Roubal said phase one of the development would only exit on to Austin Road.
“That’s going to put a real burden on the intersection of US-12 and Austin Road,” Roubal told council.
City Manager Todd Campbell said Saline Ventures will have to deal with the county road commission for its traffic engineering. Phase two of the project, which lines up with the Torwood subdivision, would spill out on to Austin Road where the city controls the road. Phase three, further west, will spill on to Michigan Avenue.
Roubal suggested the city work with the developer, the county and MDOT to allow a temporary drive to service construction traffic.
Councillor Dean Girbach asked if the city has been represented at meetings when township officials review these plans. Mayor Marl replied that the township has not yet voted on the final site plan.
Mayor Marl and the City of Saline took to Facebook to encourage residents to voice their concerns over the plan.
Girbach said the city should hire its own experts to make their case. Girbach said the developer chose not to work with the city and is now presenting a plan that will harm the city.
“We need to get our ducks in a row,” Girbach said.
Saline Ventures and the City of Saline discussed bringing the development into the city. Township officials also believe the development belongs in the city. The city’s master land use plan shows the parcel as part of future city growth.
But the city’s wastewater treatment plant is getting closer to capacity and its west side wastewater trunkline is the most burdened trunkline in the city. The was pleased to expand its capacity if the developer would foot the bill because it didn’t want city rate payers subsidizing development. But the developer balked at the city’s price.
Instead, the developer plans to build its own plant, sewer pipe and water system.
But while the city may have saved water and sewer users from another rate hike, they’ve lost control of the development of a strategic parcel – a gateway to a lot of potential development west of the city. And yet, the city may still have many of problems that come with the development – more traffic, more odor, wastewater discharge on the city limits.
“It’s pretty horrible,” Councillor Christen Mitchell said of Saline Ventures’ plans. “It’s tough not to feel like the placement of sewer discharge is not personal.”