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Troy Planning Commission pauses plans for 3-story townhomes

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published October 9, 2019

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TROY — After listening to over a dozen residents voice strong opposition to a 60-unit, three-story townhome project on Crooks Road, the Troy Planning Commission postponed a preliminary site plan approval to allow the developer to address a number of concerns.

The Planning Commission voted 8-0 Sept. 24 to postpone consideration of the project slated for 2.73 acres on Crooks Road, between Wattles and Long Lake roads, so developer Safet Stafa can address compatibility and transition to the adjacent neighborhood.

Planning Commissioner Karen Crusse was absent.

The parcel is zoned under the neighborhood node designation. According to the city’s website, “Neighborhood nodes are the concentrated, commercial and mixed-use centers situated at major intersections of Troy thoroughfares that serve as the center of the city’s economic neighborhoods.”

A home is currently on the site, and it would be demolished if the plans go forward.

Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant, said that by right, townhomes are a permissible use in the neighborhood node zoning, and they can be as high as four stories.

He said that city staff had a meeting with the developer in August concerning the location of stormwater management, shifting buildings to provide more of a buffer along the northern property line and replacing a proposed vinyl fence with landscape screening.

“The project is very similar to what we saw in early August,” Carlisle said.

Greg Bono, a civil engineer on the project, told the Planning Commission that the Planning Department’s suggestions to shift the buildings to the south and relocate the underground detention system were, from “an engineering standpoint, extremely sensitive to design in that location. We laid our site out to follow the natural topography of the land.”

Bono said they reached out to residents close to the property line, and he said the residents’ preference is a vinyl fence, rather than landscaping, as a buffer.

He noted that his firm, PEA — a civil engineering, landscape surveying and landscape architect firm — has completed a number of projects in Troy.

“We do our best to incorporate suggestions that arise in our pre-application meetings that enhance the overall quality of our projects. As always, there are limitations to what we can and cannot do.”

Bono said that from the Planning Department recommendation, they increased the building separation from the main driveway from 30 to 40 feet, reduced the number of units and added visitor parking.

“We felt like what we’re proposing to do is significantly less intense than the ordinance allows with regards to height, density, etc.”

Stafa and his company, Tollbrook LLC, asked for and were unanimously denied a rezoning of 2.5 acres on Big Beaver Road, off McClure Drive, July 22.

In that request, Tollbrook had submitted a concept plan showing a three-story mixed-use building and a three-story apartment building. The applicant only submitted the concept plan for consideration, and if the rezoning were approved, they would not be bound to the concept plan.

The City Council also denied Tollbrooks’s earlier plans for that site. On May 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th District affirmed a lower court ruling that the City Council’s denial of Stafa’s conditional rezoning request to allow a five-story apartment building adjacent to a residential neighborhood on McClure Drive did not violate the developer’s constitutional rights.

After listening to over 50 residents speak at the April 10, 2017, City Council meeting, the council voted 4-3 to deny Stafa’s conditional rezoning request for three lots.

Residents’ concerns centered on the transition between the five-story building and residential homes, and traffic impacts and safety concerns from additional pedestrian and vehicle traffic on McClure Drive, a 20-foot-wide street with no sidewalks.

That decision also required a supermajority for approval because residents from more than 130 households had signed a petition opposing the rezoning.

Then-Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Hodorek, Councilmen Paul McCown and Ethan Baker, and Councilwoman Edna Abrahim opposed the rezoning. Troy Mayor Dane Slater and Councilmen Dave Henderson and Ed Pennington supported the rezoning.

Prior to that, on Feb. 14, 2017, the Planning Commission had voted 7-0 to recommend approval, with stipulations, of the conditional rezoning from one-family residential to a Big Beaver district.

The stipulations included traffic-calming devices, an 8-foot masonry wall as a buffer to adjacent homes, a sign prohibiting right turns from the development to the adjacent neighborhood, and a 10-year lease with a nearby building owner for a parking agreement for additional spaces.

Residents’ objections to Tollbrook’s latest Crooks Road project included a lack of transition, increased traffic and incompatibility with the neighborhood.

“There’s an obvious conflict, quite visually overpowering,” Andrea Noble said on behalf of the neighborhood’s homeowners association.

Planning Commissioner Michael Hutson referenced an 11-page document the homeowners association had submitted.

“This document alone says this project won’t survive in this node,” he said.