Troy City Council to consider townhomes/lofts on Big Beaver

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 2, 2014

Plans for a four-story townhouse, apartment and loft complex will proceed to the council after the Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the conditional rezoning request needed for the project to move forward March 25.

The Planning Commission is the recommending body on rezoning requests, and the City Council makes the final decision. Developer Jerry Amber is requesting a conditional rezoning on a vacant 1.23-acre-parcel on the west side of Livernois, north of Town Center, from the current office zoning to Big Beaver District.

The Big Beaver District is designed to be a mixed-use gateway that promotes walkability, according to the city’s master plan.

The council rejected Amber’s previous request for a rezoning to build a five-story complex featuring apartments, townhouses, lofts and studio apartments at the Jan. 27 meeting in a 4-3 vote, with Mayor Dane Slater and council members Jim Campbell, Ellen Hodorek and Ed Pennington voting against it. Amber presented revised plans to the Planning Commission at the March 11 meeting, and presented the plans and conditional rezoning request to the Planning Commission for approval of the preliminary site plans at a March 25 study session, pending council approval of the conditional rezoning.

Amber downsized the development from a five-story, 60-unit complex to a 46-unit complex, which lowers the proposed building from 61 feet to 51 feet. The revised plans include a 54-foot rear setback, a 96-foot west property line setback, a 24-foot north driveway and a 13-foot greenbelt on the north property line, widened from the 11-foot greenbelt first proposed.

The site plan also includes almost 19 percent open space, more than the required 15 percent, and the building lot coverage is just under 32 percent, less than the typical 35 percent for multifamily residential developments, said Troy City Planner Brent Savidant.

Savidant said that in a conditional rezoning, the site plan represents the conditions the developer is proposing and “assurances that what you see is what you get. This really does control the future development of the property,” he said. 

He noted that the property has been vacant for at least 12 years, and the office vacancy rate in the city is 30 percent.

“From an economic standpoint, it does make sense to move forward with the rezoning,” Savidant said.

“Mr. Amber has listened through the process,” said Dennis Cowan, of Plunkett Cooney, attorney for Amber. “We believe we have addressed every concern that has been mentioned and still make this a viable and economically feasible project.”

“At the end of the day, you can build anything, but if it is not feasible, it’s a failure. I know Troy prides itself on having successful projects. We think we’ve got a real winner here and a good project for Troy.”

Dr. Craig Goldin, who owns and operates his business — Cosmetic Dentistry Institute, at 3415 Livernois, adjacent to the property — opposed the rezoning request and asked that the rezoning not be considered until the Planning Commission and City Council review the city’s master plan.

“It’s surrounded by single-story offices and homes,” he said. “A four-story building has no place, given the makeup of the surrounding property.”

He also expressed concern that a four-story building would block the office buildings from view from the street, as well as concerns about traffic through his parking lot.

Michael Fahmy, who operates OMPT Specialists at 3435 Livernois, also expressed concerns that the building would block his building from the street. Sunjay Shah, who lives on Millstone, described the proposed building as an “eyesore not consistent with the master plan.”

At the public hearing before council Jan. 24, residents said the proposed rezoning doesn’t fit or blend in with the area. They expressed concern about lack of privacy created by a five-story building in the neighborhood and questioned whether in an effort to rebuild the city tax base, the city was being too lax.

Planning Commissioner Michael Hutson said the project is in a beautiful spot within walking distance of the library, aquatic center and community center.

“I think it’s a great project,” he said.

“I think it’s time for the city of Troy to have some alternative living accommodations from traditional homes and traditional townhomes,” said Planning Commissioner Robert Schultz. “I think it’s a good development.”

“More walkability and sustainability in the 2020 study — residents said that this is the kind of stuff they want,” said Planning Commissioner John Tagle. “They want to see different housing stock. I think this is a very good development.”

“It’s exactly what we want: a walkable community,” said Planning Commissioner Tom Strat.

Savidant said the conditional rezoning request is scheduled to go before council at an April 14 meeting.