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Grosse Pointe Farms

July 24, 2014

Country Club of Detroit’s athletic complex to get major makeover

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The Country Club of Detroit is about to undertake an overhaul of its athletic complex.

The private club — located at 220 Country Club Drive — appeared before the Farms City Council during a July 14 meeting for approval for the club’s plan to reconfigure its athletic complex, rebuild its lower road and expand its adjacent parking lot area. The plans call for a new pool house building with a family locker room and changing area, racket building, restaurant and gatehouse entry structure, along with the demolition of some wooden sheds and the old pool equipment building. A new splash playground will be added next to the pool.

The club worked with landscape architects at Grissom, Metz, Andriese Associates to come up with a plan that CCD President Frank Roney said they hoped would be “both pleasing to our members (and) to our neighbors.” Roney, a Farms resident, said they’d like to start construction in September.

Robert Wood, of Grosse Pointe City, worked on designs for some of the accessory structures. Roney said the smaller new outbuildings were designed to be complimentary to the club’s historical clubhouse. The CCD was founded in 1897.

The new restaurant is “a relatively small building” at around 1,900 square feet, but landscape architect Paul Andriese said it “will be placed as the centerpiece” of the athletic complex area. It will include an area for outdoor seating and dining, including nontraditional restaurant seating like lounge chairs, he said.

The plan also calls for relocation of the paddle tennis courts and removal of a couple of existing tennis courts, Andriese said.

City Council member Lev Wood expressed concerns about the loss of 17 “protected trees” on the property to make way for the new structures, asking what the club planned to do to “mitigate that loss.”

Andriese acknowledged the need to remove these mature trees for grading and other reasons, but said they would be replacing them with far more trees.

“We’re putting back 86 trees. … I feel we’re going way beyond what would be typically required” from a landscape architectural standpoint, Andriese told the council.

The creation of a shallow detention pond and bioswale to the south of the improvements will slow down the speed at which rainwater leaves the site, “so we’re not flooding the existing sewer system,” Andriese explained.

To improve pedestrian safety, the club is getting rid of parking along the lower road and having staff use the new parking lot instead.

“We have worked to keep the size of the parking areas to a minimum,” Roney said.

In addition, a new sidewalk next to the road will allow pedestrians and vehicles to remain separate, and extra lighting will enable club members and employees to safely exit after dark.

Because lights have caused problems for some residential neighbors of the CCD in the past, Roney said this plan addresses some of those concerns, including changing the angle of lights on the paddle tennis courts to reduce the impact of such lights on adjacent residential properties. New lights should be a plus, too.

“Each light is very dim … and it has less impact on the neighborhood,” Roney said.

Lighting was a worry expressed by City Council member Martin West. Since the club removed roughly 400 trees a number of years ago and replaced them with deciduous trees, he said any light in the parking lot “is like a stage,” especially when there’s ice on the tree branches. Roney said the Bradford pear trees they planted some five or six years ago “do a very good job of screening the cars” when there are leaves on them, but said the removal of roadside parking should take care of some other lighting problems.

“Parking will be much (farther) back from the road,” Roney said.

He said they don’t want to put in hedges or other evergreens because they don’t want to negatively impact existing golf course vistas.

“It’s an important element (of the CCD) that it’s a parkland golf course,” Roney said.

He said they’re reducing the height of lights, as well.

“We appreciate the cooperation,” West told CCD officials. “I think (the new) lighting will be a great improvement because it’s a much lower wattage.”

Steve Brownell, a Provencal resident, said many of his neighbors have been bothered by the paddle tennis court lighting in the past, so he said they welcomed the changes.

“I think this is going to make this a lot better,” he said of the reconfigured courts and new lighting angles.

George Jerome Jr., a Moross resident, was also happy with the proposed changes, and said the new court lighting plan is “really fantastic” and an improvement over the existing lighting.

“I think the plan looks great,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the new facilities.”

But to shield nearby residents from vehicular and other lights, some city leaders suggested a berm or strategic landscaping, where needed. Roney said they could consider a low-level berm to mitigate some of the headlight problems.

Another of the issues raised by Farms officials had to do with fire safety. Public Safety Director Daniel Jensen said an area adjacent to a fire hydrant by the athletic complex needed to be widened to make room for emergency vehicles.

“I have to either back a (fire) truck in or back a truck out … and I can’t get an ambulance in there,” Jensen told CCD officials during the meeting. He added that the CCD would have to keep the roadway maintained during the winter, including plowing, to make it accessible to emergency vehicles, should they be required to respond to an incident in that part of the club property.

Roney said the club would comply with whatever the public safety department needed.

“We will make sure that road has access for larger vehicles. … We want the same thing: we want access for safety vehicles,” he said. “We’ll make sure we take care of that.”

Mayor James Farquhar was among those who praised the new developments at the CCD.

“I think it’s a great plan,” he said, calling the new items “a wonderful addition” to the club.

West agreed.

“I think the whole proposal is terrific. … It’s going to be great for the club,” he said. “It’s going to be great for families. It’s going to differentiate the club (from its competitors).”

The council unanimously approved the site plan subject to certain conditions, including the addition of a low-level berm and making sure that public safety vehicles could gain access to the area.

Andriese admitted that they have an ambitious construction schedule ahead of them. He said they plan to start work within a week or so after Labor Day and, weather permitting, continue through December. He said work will start up again come spring 2015, with plans to be finished and ready to open the new amenities in time for the start of next year’s summer season by Memorial Day.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.