Township Attorney: If Andelina Farms Receives State and County Permits, Denying Developers Could Lead to Hefty Lawsuit

 02/14/2019 - 01:06

Saline Township Planning Commission Chair Tom Hammond provided the Saline Township Board with an update about the planners’ meeting that occurred on Feb. 5. Hammond explained the commission postponed action on the Andelina Farms site plan due to a lack of detail about the development’s on-site water system and sewage treatment plant.

Hammond said sewer permits were still pending before the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). In addition, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and Washtenaw County still have not approved the Andelina Farms’ traffic impact study.

Hammond noted that the Mayor from the City of Saline, Brian Marl, as well as two members of the Saline City Council were on hand to express concerns to the township planning commission about the Andelina Farms site plan. The representatives from the city urged the commission to vote against the proposed site plan, citing concerns with the location and operation of the waste water treatment plant and traffic.

Fred Lucas, Saline Township attorney, reviewed the history of the township’s involvement with Andelina Farms. He stated that the township has been dealing with the proposed development proposal for over five years.

Initially, the township asked the developer to talk with the City of Saline to receive public utility services from the city. After two years, and the developer spending over $100,000 conducting studies required by the city, the city and developer determined that it was not a financially viable option to annex the property. The city was asking Andelina Farms to shoulder the entire cost of extending sewer and water services to the development site, which was projected to cost millions. The developer calculated the cost of paying for the water/sewer lines to be extended to the property as well as improvements to the City of Saline sewage treatment plant would have added over $25,000 to the cost of each home in the development.

The township, developer and the City of Saline discussed a Section 425 proposal, which allows annexation between contiguous legal jurisdictions (Saline Township and the City of Saline). This proposal was also rejected.

The third proposal was for Andelina Farms to connect to the sewer system at the River Ridge treatment plant, located across Michigan Avenue from the development. This too was rejected. It was reported that River Ridge was been sold to a new owner and that owner is not interested in having Andelina Farms connect into the River Ridge sewer system.

Saline Township Supervisor Jim Marion said the Andelina Farms proposal was consistent with the township’s master development plan. He said that the plan designated the Michigan Avenue corridor as a “urban services district”, and it was understood that all development in the urban services district would be annexed into the City of Saline, “except if public utility services are not available.”

With the City of Saline’s refusal to annex the Andelina Farms proposal, it meets the criteria of having services not being available, and the only option left for the development is the use of a private water system and wastewater treatment plant on the development property.

Lucas, responding to the City of Saline’s request that the township deny the site plan, explained how the laws will guide the township’s decision.

“The Andelina Farms proposed development is consistent with the township’s master plan. If the MDEQ and Washtenaw County grant permits for a water and sewage treatment plant located on the property and MDOT and the county approve the traffic plans, the township could not deny the site plan without facing a lawsuit and the potential for large damages,” Lucas said. “It would be irresponsible of the township, on behalf of the township residents they represent, to put the township in that kind of position where they could be liable for damages.”

Wind Energy Proposal

In other business, Rick Wilson from Invenergy, introduced himself to the board and explained that Invenergy was a renewal energy company and was talking to property owners in the township about potential wind and solar energy projects. Wilson said Invenergy said that the company was based in Traverse City, Michigan. He said the company currently has projects in Gratiot County in Michigan and is talking with property owners at the Isabella County northern border.

Trustee Robert Marion asked Wilson what the size of a project would be and was told that it depends upon the size and scope of the project but typically the company looks for around 1,000 acres. Wilson said that renewable energy projects are like a “drought-free crop- -guaranteed income without having to worry about whether it rains.”

Snow Plowing Request

Marion also reported he had received a call from a resident who resided on Oak Park Drive wanting to know what they could do to get the county to snowplow their cul-de-sac off of Oak Park Dr. Marion explained that the cul-de-sac did not meet county standards for a road because the developer did not complete the work.

He said if the residents of Oak Park want to get road repairs done, the roads need to be brought into compliance with road standards. Attorney Lucas said if more than 50% of the property owners on Oak Park sign a petition and present it to the township, the township can work with the property owners on Oak Park Drive. to:

  1.  Get the county road commission to provide an estimate of the cost to repair Oak Park Drive.
  2. Get a special assessment district established
  3. Provide a time frame for the repairs to the road

Residents of Oak Park Drive would be responsible for the entire cost of the project.

The next Saline Township board meeting will be on Monday, March 11, 2019 at 7 p.m. The Washtenaw County Road Commission will be attending the April 8 meeting to discuss road projects for 2019.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:45 p.m.

 

Steven Sheldon's picture
Steven Sheldon