Traffic concerns postpone plans for 25-home development in Troy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 19, 2017

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TROY — The Planning Commission hit the pause button on the 25-home Oak Forest-4 development, in the Square Lake and John R roads area, after more than a dozen residents voiced concerns over traffic. 

The Planning Commission voted 7-0 to postpone consideration of the preliminary site plan at its Dec. 12 meeting after approving another segment of the development at the Nov. 28 Planning Commission meeting.

Planning Commissioners Carlton Faison and Michael Hutson were absent. 

The Planning Commission voted 6-0 to not recuse Planning Commissioner Donald Edmunds from the vote — he lives in the adjacent Golf Trail subdivision. 

“He’s a fair and objective man,” said Planning Commissioner Philip Sanzica. 

The Planning Commission directed the city staff to meet with residents, police and the city’s traffic consultant to look at traffic calming devices to lessen the development’s impact on the neighborhoods. 

Developer Gary Abitheira submitted a preliminary site plan for Oak Forest-3, a 12-home development on 7 acres bisected by an Oakland County drain, which will be accessed by an extension of Ashwood Drive, south of Square Lake Road, west of John R Road. There will be an emergency vehicle/pedestrian connection from Abbottsford Road, which ends at the east end of the development. 

The Planning Commission approved the preliminary site plan 8-0 at its Nov. 28 meeting. Faison was absent. 

There are 126 trees on the site; 87 will be cut down and 39 preserved. There will be an area for open space, which the homeowners association will maintain. 

Abitheira said the homes, which will range in size from 3,000 to 3,500 square feet and will be priced at $480,000 to $520,000, will be colonials, split-levels and custom-built ranches. 

He said work on the development is scheduled to start in April.

The homes in the proposed Oak Forest-4 development would come in four styles, from 2,500-square-foot ranches to 3,750-square-foot colonials. The colonials would be priced at around $495,000. John Thompson, spokesman for the developer, said they have not yet set a price for the ranches. 

“The issue is not, is the development legal or not? … The question is, can we solve the concerns of the residents in a reasonable fashion?” said Planning Commissioner John Tagle. 

“There’s no special use or conditional zoning,” said Assistant City Attorney Julie Dufrane. She added that if the submitted site plan complies with zoning, “you have very little discretion.” 

The submitted site plan features a connection to Willow Grove Drive, which is a public gravel road that connects to Trevino Drive. The development is on 9.8 acres bisected by an Oakland County drain. There are currently 219 trees on the site; 185 would be cut down, 34 would be preserved and 38 new trees would be planted.  

Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman, the city’s planning consultant, said they recommended approving the preliminary site plan with the stipulation that the applicant provide some guarantee that the green space would be maintained by the homeowners association. 

Carlisle said it is a long-standing policy to provide connectivity. He said OHM, the city’s traffic consultant, concluded that the development would produce 23 trips at morning peak traffic times and 27 trips in evening peak hours, resulting in six or seven vehicles entering or exiting through the Golf Trail subdivision during each of the peak traffic times. 

Planning Director R. Brent Savidant described OHM as an “impartial third party and an expert in traffic.” He said the report provided was not a traffic study, which was not requested by city staff as part of the initial review process, but rather a summary. 

Resident Scott Gibbons said many children live in the area, and he doesn’t want a connection other than for walking or biking between the new development and the existing subdivision. 

“This is going to become a thoroughfare. The traffic study was insufficient. It’s not an issue of not wanting development,” he said. 

Resident Cheryl Herzog said that currently, traffic on Rochester Road backs up between Square Lake and Long Lake roads. 

She said she is not against development, but she would like to see city staff and the developers meet with residents to address their concerns. 

Resident Michael Hensley said the traffic study was “incredibly flawed,” and connecting the new development to the existing subdivision would have a “dragstrip effect.” 

Savidant said that the soonest the Planning Commission could schedule a second consideration of the site plan would be Jan. 9.