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July 2, 2013

Planning Commission says no to condo plans

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

The Troy Planning Commission sent a developer back to the drawing board with a proposal to construct a new public road behind existing homes for an eight-unit condo project east of Crooks, south of South Boulevard.

The Planning Commission voted unanimously to postpone any action on preliminary site plans for the 4.36-acre site submitted for the proposed Cedar Pines Woods from Trowbridge Companies at the June 25 study session. Chair John Tagle was absent.

The developer sought approval for an eight-unit single-family detached condo project that included new construction of a cul-de-sac road that would abut backyards of existing homes on Benjamin. The plans had included a 5-foot buffer of 27 planted evergreen trees in a city right of way, which is not permitted.

Bruce Michael, representative for the developer, told the Planning Commission he was not aware that evergreens were not allowed in city right of way.

“We do have concerns with what is proposed in front of you,” Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant, said to the Planning Commission.

“The road so close to property is detrimental to homes,” he said. “There is an expectation that something could be built behind the houses … but not a road behind them,” he said. “This is an unreasonable burden placed on those four lots in perpetuity. … We do note that this is a difficult site to develop.”

Carlisle suggested that the developer consider an alternative site option, such as a cluster option, which would amend the required setbacks in return for more open, public space.

“We do think there’s a way to sensibly develop this property,” he said. “It will have to be done in a creative manner.”

Don Pratt, a resident on Benjamin, said he is also a builder and he believes the proposed site plan violated property rights and at least two building codes.

“A road next to the backyards on Benjamin — it just shouldn’t be,” said Benjamin resident Joel Pumphrey. “It’s ill conceived. Four houses could be built instead of eight.” 

Planning Commissioner Robert Schultz pointed out that the only way to preserve the view “is if you own it.”

Planning Commissioner Tom Strat said he believes the Planning Department and Planning Commission will be “confronted with more and more problem-sites” as few undeveloped sites remain in the city. 

“That road has got to be changed,” said Planning Commissioner Michael Hutson, who said the site plan proposed was overdeveloped for a small site.

“I’m surprised the site plan got to this point,” said Planning Commissioner Philip Sanzica.

“This doesn’t protect the existing neighbors,” said Donald Edmunds, Planning Commission vice chair.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said the developer must meet setback guidelines and comply with all city ordinances.

“It’s a very unique situation,” she said. She added that if the developer pursued the development as presented at the June 25 meeting through the courts, she would be “very comfortable defending a lawsuit. A number of things raised today have not met the letter of the law,” she said. “There are other options of development for this property.”

Michael asked the Planning Commission to postpone any action on the proposed site plan.

“Let me look at a cluster option,” he said.

A cluster option allows flexibility for setbacks and lot size in return for 30 percent of dedicated space on a site.

“This is a difficult site based on its size and relationship with abutting properties,” said Brent Savidant, Troy Planning director. “The applicant has a number of options available to him to reduce negative impacts on neighboring properties, including the one-family cluster option.”

The Planning Commission postponed consideration of the site plan until the Aug. 13 meeting.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.