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December 4, 2013

Redevelopment plans move forward for Flanders site

By Sherri Kolade
C & G Staff Writer

FARMINGTON — After residents from the Farmington Meadows and Farmington Oaks subdivisions voiced their opinions about proposals for the Flanders Elementary School site during a meeting Nov. 21, the Farmington Public Schools Board of Education will have the final say Dec. 10.

By late winter, the district could receive requests for proposals for the site of the former elementary school, 32600 Flanders St., from interested parties, Jon Riebe, the district’s facilities operations and transportation director, said via email.

“The district anticipates selling the property to a developer who will construct single-family homes, which is consistent with the city of Farmington’s recent master plan,” Riebe said.

After reviewing the RFP submissions, two or three top proposals will be selected, and the parties will be interviewed, he said. The best proposal will be brought forward to the school board for consideration.

The FPS-owned Flanders, on a 10-acre school parcel, was one of the four elementary schools to close recently; the school was demolished in 2011.

In late July, the school board unanimously approved hiring Ann Arbor-based consulting group Great Northern Consulting Group.

The district will pay an hourly consulting fee — not to exceed a total of $66,000 for five properties.

The district owns two properties in Farmington: C. Robert Maxfield Training Center, 33000 Thomas St., and the Flanders site.

The remaining three properties are in Farmington Hills: the former Fairview Early Childhood Center School, 28500 Oakcrest Drive; the former William Grace Elementary School, 29040 Shiawassee St.; and the former Wooddale Elementary School, 34275 Oak Forest Drive. The Training Center is the only building left standing.

“We ultimately decided that it would be a good idea to look at selling those properties once we determined that we weren’t going to need them to build any new schools or other types of buildings for use by the district,” School Board President Howard Wallach said earlier in the year.

During the Nov. 21 special meeting at the Farmington Community Library, dozens of residents from the two subdivisions listened to City Manager Vincent Pastue, and Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen discuss three potential concepts proposed by the consulting group.

The first concept plan would use the maximum amount of space, based on the current zoning standards for an R1 district, a single-family residential zoning district, Christiansen said.

The concept would be a maximum density plan on the site, which yields 36 lots, based on the current zoning standards for a minimum lot area of 8,500 square feet per site, and a minimum lot width of 70 feet. Christiansen added that there are minimum setbacks in that zoning district.

Concept two would have 25 home sites — 25 lots varying in size — with a minimum of 8,500 square feet and 70 feet of lot width, he said.

In that plan, a neighborhood park would be on the southeast corner of the site, adjacent to Flanders Street, on both sides of the eastern entrance road.

“On both sides of the road would be for development of a neighborhood park or maintaining a neighborhood park area, and it is about 1.2 acres in size,” Christiansen said.

Concept three would have lots that range in size from a minimum lot area of 8,500 square feet and 70 feet of lot width, with larger lots to the north; an approximately 1-acre park area would be in the northwest corner of the site.

Christiansen said those three concepts are by no means final options.

“(They are) just examples of what potentially could be a single-family detached, residential redevelopment project on the site,” he said.

A number of attendees fervently disapproved of the idea of disrupting the neighborhood park — the Flanders site currently has two baseball fields, two tennis courts and park space. Other attendees did not like the idea of a smaller park, and some did not want houses to be built there and felt the houses would not be architecturally compatible to the neighborhoods.

Christiansen said during the meeting that the goal is to get the “most efficient use of the land.”

He added that further research has not been conducted because the proposals are in the very beginning stages, and any selected proposal would not diminish existing neighborhoods’ characteristics nor impact infrastructure.

“This is a very big picture,” he said. “All these concerns are valid.”

Bob Lindow, South Farmington Baseball director, said during the meeting that having two baseball fields and tennis courts at the Flanders site is vital.

After the meeting, he echoed similar sentiments about how people frequent the park.

“I think it is important to have the field usable,” Lindow said. “There are an awful lot of kids that come from the neighborhoods and just ride their bikes. And they can walk over and use the field. Whether it is baseball with your dad or learning how to work on your throwing, it is stuff for people to do. I think it is important.”

During the meeting, another attendee said that if the Flanders site is taken away, it is irreplaceable, and it could hurt the neighborhood.

Another attendee said there are no parks in south Farmington.

Pastue said city officials are looking at how to grow the city’s tax base.

“But we don’t want to do it in an irresponsible manner,” Pastue said.

Christiansen said the city welcomes everyone’s comments and concerns.

“What we hope to do is to eventually answer questions that people have, to address residents’ concerns as best as possible … as formal plans are put together and are moved forward with the community for redevelopment of the Flanders School site.”

He said the city does not have interest in purchasing the site.

“Our job is to help facilitate and to share information,” Christiansen said. “We are not here trying to promote one particular perspective or another. We are here to try to provide information to answer questions to let the community know … there is a potential redevelopment project that is intended to move forward and to see that everybody has as much of the best information possible.

“In the end, what we are hopeful for is to get the highest and best redevelopment for the Flanders School site possible.”

To learn more, visit www.farmington.k12.mi.us.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Sherri Kolade at skolade@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1046.