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Plans for five-story apartment complex stall

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 17, 2016

The Troy Planning Commission sent a developer back to the drawing board again Aug. 9 after taking a second look at plans for a five-story, 140-unit apartment building on McClure Drive, just north of Big Beaver Road, east of Crooks Road.

The 2.5-acre, three-parcel site currently contains one single-family home.

The developer, Tollbrook LLC, first submitted the plans for the apartment complex July 12 to glean feedback from the commission. If the plans are approved, the Troy City Council would have to approve a conditional rezoning for the parcel from one-family residential to the Big Beaver District form-based zoning. The Planning Commission is the recommending body on rezoning requests and has approval over preliminary site plans.

The Big Beaver Form-Based District was designed to promote high-density and mixed-use projects with vertical integration.

“This is a conceptual plan. They (developers) are looking for guidance,” said Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant.

Peter Stuhlreyer, of Designhaus Architecture, described the development as luxury, high-end units ranging from 850 to 1,500 square feet and featuring outdoor space. He said the plans included a “significant landscape buffer” to the adjoining neighborhood.

“It’s not an overwhelming scale,” he said of the proposed building height.

“We’ve listened and believe we’ve responded appropriately,” said Dennis Cowan, of Plunkett Cooney, the attorney for the developer, referring to residents’ concerns.

“We’ve made substantial changes,” he said, referring to the original concept plans they presented for a six-story complex. “We continue to intend to respond.”

Over a dozen residents objected to the rezoning at the Aug. 9 meeting. Concerns ranged from traffic and safety issues — as there are no sidewalks on McClure Drive — to compatibility with the neighborhood and a loss of property values.

Planning Commissioner Tom Krent, who lives in the adjacent neighborhood, noted that the homes sit on large lots, up to an acre, on which some homeowners have built homes ranging from $750,000 to $1.5 million.

“This neighborhood is very unique. … This is a jewel,” Krent said. “This (apartment building) doesn’t fit the mold.”

Chuck Walker, who lives on McClure Drive, said he is a 40-year Troy resident.

“The character’s going to change,” he said. “It’s not for our neighborhood.”

“It’s too many. It’s too dense,” said Barbara Dawson, who lives on Boulan Drive. “It’s the wrong place for it.”

“The developer made a valiant effort and brought back a better project,” said Planning Commissioner John Tagle. “This is the housing stock we wanted. This is the kind of product we’ve asked developers to bring to the community.”

“I know this is a very emotional issue,” said Planning Commissioner Philip Sanzica. “This plan, I can’t support this. The transition doesn’t make sense.”

In a memo provided to the Planning Commission, Richard Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, states that the “Big Beaver corridor plan anticipates a potential zoning district which is more expansive than the current Big Beaver Form-Based code. However, in the application of the code to any specific parcel or project, the language in the ordinance is clear in the need to consider adjacent properties in regards to use, intensity and height.”

“This is what we asked for,” said Planning Commission Chair Donald Edmunds in regard to the housing stock. “The application has not even been submitted. There’s still room to negotiate.”

Planning Commissioner Karen Crusse noted that there was a split on the issue among the commissioners, and she urged the developer to meet with the neighbors. She noted that the four-story Amber apartment project on Town Center also required a conditional rezoning, which the council approved.

The next step in the process would be for the Planning Commission to schedule a public hearing on the rezoning request. The Planning Commission took no action on the request at the Aug. 9 meeting.