Township approves first new subdivision in ‘a long, long time’

By: Jeremy Selweski | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published December 25, 2013

MACOMB TOWNSHIP — The township took another step toward re-energizing its real estate market earlier this month when officials agreed to move forward with a long-delayed residential development.

At its Dec. 11 meeting, the Macomb Township Board of Trustees unanimously approved the final plat for Harmony Acres Subdivision No. 3, which will be located on the south side of 24 Mile Road, about 3/4 mile east of Romeo Plank Road. By signing off on the proposed map for the project, the board gave the developer — Huntington Woods Estates, Inc. — the green light to expand upon the first two phases of the subdivision.

Although other Macomb housing developments have made it through early stages of the planning process in recent months, Harmony Acres No. 3 is the first one to reach the finish line. As Township Supervisor Janet Dunn proudly announced at the meeting, “We have not done this in a long, long time.”

In a follow-up interview, Dunn was more specific.

“We have not made it to this stage with a new development in probably five or six years,” the supervisor explained. “It was a very lean period for us (during the recession), so we’re very happy to be moving forward again.”

The final plat of Harmony Acres No. 3 was approved and recommended to the board by Township Engineer Jim Van Tiflin and Planning Consultant Patrick Meagher. However, Township Clerk Michael Koehs stressed that the developer still must comply with all regulations set forth by the township.

“They can begin pulling building permits now, but this is not carte blanche for them to just do whatever they want,” he said. “Everything has to be built according to the approved plan for the completed construction project. There’s definitely a process that they have to follow.”

Harmony Acres is one of many township housing developments that originally began several years ago but then was put on hold by the recession. A memo from the Clerk’s Department indicates that the township board originally approved a street lighting special assessment district for the subdivision back in January 2005.

As Dunn pointed out, “When a developer buys a parcel of land and starts the planning process, they’re putting some serious money into it. After the recession hit, a lot of them were lucky if they could even hold onto those properties because they had over-extended themselves. Some of them had to sell off their properties for pennies on the dollar.”

But those that survived have started up again over the last couple years. Koehs noted that there are a number of residential projects across the township that recently relaunched and are in “various stages of completion” at the moment.

In April, the board approved preliminary site plans for three developments that had been postponed since the recession, which will add more than 1,500 new single-family houses, site condominiums and apartments to the township upon completion. These subdivisions include Legacy Estates, near the southeast corner of North Avenue and 22 Mile Road; Stillwater Crossings, along the north side of 23 Mile Road about 1/4 mile west of Fairchild Road; and Wellington Estates, on the south side of 24 Mile about 1 1/4 miles east of Romeo Plank.

The township’s population has also grown during this “lean period,” as residents have continued to purchase homes in existing subdivisions. A recent study conducted by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) shows that, between the 2010 U.S. Census and July 2013, the township’s population jumped from 79,580 to 84,494. This change represents an increase of 4,914 people, or about 6.2 percent, which amounts to the largest growth of any community in Macomb County. Another study by ReMax of Southeastern Michigan indicates that, from August 2012 to August 2013, sales of single-family homes in Macomb Township increased by about 39 percent.

The Harmony Acres subdivision is not finished expanding yet, either. Meagher informed the board on Dec. 11 that the developer would soon be presenting a fourth phase of the project for approval. Still, township officials are mindful of the fact that slow and steady growth tends to be the most successful, in the long run.

“Obviously, this is a very encouraging sign for us,” Koehs said, “but we still have to make sure that it’s done right. The trick is to not do too much all at once and then have the bottom fall out again like it did last time.”