103 homes could be built at the site
By Jim Newell
The proposed Gregory Meadows subdivision is moving forward after the township’s board of trustees voted to accept a court-ordered consent judgment at its meeting Dec. 18.
The agreement settles litigation that had gone on for months after the board rejected the developer’s proposal to build 142 homes on 68.857 acres on the south side of Gregory Road, west of Baldwin Road.
The number was down from the original 172 proposed homes and then 167 homes under a proposal that went before the township planning commission Jan. 4. After hearing the plans from developer Michael Furnari, the planning commission postponed a decision on the development to give the developer time to submit new plans.
The board of trustees, in accepting the consent judgment, said that a continued fight could be costly and time-consuming.
“Does it stink? Absolutely. Could we fight? Absolutely. Would we win? Don’t know,” said Supervisor Chris Barnett. “We represent 38,000 residents in Orion Township and we have to make a decision based on how all our residents will be affected.”
Tiburon Orion, LLC, filed the lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court. Judge Shalina Kumar ordered the two parties to settlement facilitation with Thomas J. Ryan as the facilitator.
Under the consent judgment, the developer would build 103 homes. If the township rejected the consent judgment, fought in court and lost, the developer would be able to build up to 142 homes on the property, Ryan said.
“If there is a trial, someone wins, someone loses,” Ryan said. “Whoever loses has the right to go to the Michigan Court of Appeals, which could take years.”
“I don’t think anybody is excited about the way the processes work, but it would be foolish not to acknowledge them,” Barnett said. “This process was not completely dictated by us (the township). It’s dictated by the courts.”
The applicant for the project, Fairview Companies, proposed to rezone the property from Suburban Farms to Planned Unit Development.
Under the township’s current suburban farms zoning for the site, the lot sizes would have to be at least two-and-a-half acres.
Residents’ major concerns with the plans included the density of the proposed subdivision (the number of homes to be built in the area), the increased traffic and the clearcutting of trees on the property.
The township board appointed Trustee Mike Flood, Planning Commissioner Don Walker, Operations Director Jeff Stout and Supervisor Chris Barnett to serve on the Township’s ad-hoc negotiation team.
“We were represented by both Township Attorney Dan Kelly and our assigned MMRMA insurance counsel, Carol Rosati,” said Barnett. “We met on at least four separate occasions. And the attorneys and engineers met even more.”
The terms of the consent judgmnt agreement include:
• The maximum number of homes will be 103 units, with a minimum lot width of 90 feet and a depth of 130 feet. Each lot must also have a 30-foot front yard setback and a 35-foot backyard setback. Side yard setbacks have a to be minimum of 5 feet, with a total of 30 feet for both sides.
• First floor master residences must be a minimum of 2,200 square feet, and 2,600 sq. ft. for two-story homes and side-entry garages.
• Recreational amenities will include pocket parks, play structures, benches and approximately 3,700 feet of walking trails.
• The development must also preserve a total of 20.76 acres of wooded areas and wetlands (open space) along the north, east and south perimeter of the property.
• The township received a $125,000 contribution from the developer for offsite improvements in the future in lieu of the developer building a safety path, which could be built in the future at a cost of about $50,000.
• Gregory Road would be paved from Baldwin Road to the proposed subdivision at the developer’s expense.
The site has water and sewer hookups nearby. When those utilities are near a site, a greater density is allowed than what the zoning calls for – the township master plan allows for that added home density.
“We certainly have recourse if the developer doesn’t live up to the terms of the agreement,” Barnett said.
Homes would be in the mid-$400,000 range, said Robert Halso, one of the owners of the property.
Residents who attended the meeting were angry with the proposal, most saying they purchased suburban farm lots “because we wanted to live in the country” and raised concerns about increased traffic, safety of pedestrians and that the township would set a precedent by allowing the increased density.
“I’m shocked that the township is considering 103 home sites and not the 20 or so that the suburban farms designation calls for,” said Don Hickmott. “This has been in your back pockets for months, I suspect. Is there anything the board demanded and really got?”
“If you guys allow this to happen, we’re turning into Troy and Rochester,” said resident Johnathon Tucker.