Village Planning Commission hears site concept plan for Lake Orion Lumber Yard redevelopment

By Jim Newell

Review Editor

A major new apartment complex could be coming to the Village of Lake Orion if a proposed concept plan to redevelop the Lake Orion Lumber Yard site goes through.

John McGraw, Director of Development at East Lansing-based River Caddis Development, presented an updated site concept plan (see the photo on this page) to the Lake Orion Planning Commission on Jan. 3 to get feedback from planning commissioners.

The site concept plan proposes to construct three-four story buildings on the site, each with 39 apartments. The plan also calls for another three-story building with retail and community space on the first floor and five apartments each on floors two and three.

The development would have 127 apartments and provide 189 total parking spaces.

Under the current Village of Lake Orion ordinance, developments are supposed to provide two parking spaces per unit. With 127 apartments, the River Caddis development would need 254 parking spaces for tenants.

The village council, however, has recently granted a parking variance to West Construction for the proposed Ehman Center redevelopment project, so River Caddis would have to apply for a variance to the parking ordinance.

Also in the concept plan is an outdoor amenity area, a fenced dog run, carports and a storm water management area.

McGraw told the planning commission that River Caddis was “excited about the potential of becoming a good neighbor here in Lake Orion.”

River Caddis Development is a firm of real estate developers, brokers, attorneys, leasing professionals, financial analysts, property managers and business specialists, according to the company’s website.

River Caddis Development had presented an initial concept site plan to the planning commission on Dec. 6, 2021, which proposed 117 apartments.

At that meeting, commissioners had raised concerns about apartment density and not enough parking and as a single-use development, without and retail or commercial space.

The new plan, with 127 apartments, calls for retail/commercial space along M-24/Broadway Street.

“We’re trying to come up with a plan that makes sense that we can lease and that people can want to lease and can make money at and be visible,” McGraw said.

Another concern is contamination at the lumber yard site.

“For whatever reason, this site has some contamination that we have to deal with,” McGraw told commissioners. “There’s a lot of environmental issues that we’re going to have to work through. And no matter who builds on this site is going to have go through it.”

McGraw said he wanted to work with the village to best develop the site.

“I’m almost feel silly coming back with relatively the same plan, that looks very similar, especially in 2D (two dimensions). But I have some limitations. When we show 117 units versus 127 units, really what we’re trying to say is that we’re somewhere in between there – 120 units is a magic number for a management on site.”

“We appreciate you wanting to work with us and get feedback from all of us as we glance at this, but again we’re all residents here. We live in the community and we’re here to help the community. So, we appreciate you coming and saying, ‘What do you guys think?’ And I think that’s a great first step,” commission Chairperson James Zsenyuk.

Commissioner Rob Reighard said he thinks there are parking issues with the site, especially since the concept plan includes commercial space, which is not planned for in the concept plan presented to the commission.

Reighard also said that he believes the village ordinance of two parking spaces per unit is fair.

“I do think the parking is an issue. I think our standard of two parking spaces per unit is a fair thing,” Reighard said. “I think the project is very possible, but you’re going to have to be more workable. And I’m pretty sure this board would be glad to get something developed there other than what is sitting there right now.”

“I think we are all in agreement on that,” Zsenyuk said.

The planning commission did not take any action on the proposed concept site plan and gave additional feedback to McGraw about the potential development.


2 Responses to "Village Planning Commission hears site concept plan for Lake Orion Lumber Yard redevelopment"

  1. Cory Johnston   January 13, 2022 at 4:58 pm

    I’m new to Lake Orion and based on what is already here, I really expected better than what is being proposed for this site. As currently proposed, it could be built anywhere as it does not appear to have any relationship to the Lake Orion downtown and the commercial businesses around it. It gives no deference to the site which is quite unique with many positive features like the downtown, Paint Creek Trail, Paint Creek, and adjacent parks. It does have a lot of new parking, no doubt only for the apartments, and it sounds like the Planning Commission wants even more because it is all about parking, not people.
    I hope the Planning Commission and Village Council have higher goals for Lake Orion than typical apartment buildings and acres of parking that do little to enhance this location and what is around it. Lake Orion can do better.

  2. Michael J. DeLuca   February 17, 2022 at 11:38 am

    This development seems like a terrible idea for the health and sustainability of our community. The article talks about how there’s some environmental contamination on the lumber yard site, and they’ll need to do a bunch of remediation–I’m not surprised! Among other things, the lumber yard is a haven for invasive Japanese Knotweed, which if they go plowing it up, they’re going to spread everywhere, since, like invasive phragmites, Japanese Knotweed propagates from even the tiniest root fragment. Plus, that whole property borders Meeks Park and Paint Creek. Construction runoff from the development of that building that now has Bitter Tom’s and the bike shop in it seriously degraded the creek ecosystem–you can ask the Clinton River Watershed Council folks who do the stonefly larva counts. We need to protect and improve the creek as a wildlife habitat and add more wetland to mitigate flood impacts, not make it worse. If the township wants to “redevelop” the lumberyard, they should remediate the contamination and rewild it into back into natural wetland habitat for native species.


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