Land swap could settle battle over acreage near nature center

By: Brendan Losinski, Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published December 4, 2017

 The land adjacent to the E.L. Johnson Nature Center won’t be developed if a consent judgment is approved by Nosan Ventures, the current owner of the property.

The land adjacent to the E.L. Johnson Nature Center won’t be developed if a consent judgment is approved by Nosan Ventures, the current owner of the property.

Photo by Tiffany Esshaki

BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP — The tug of war over land adjacent to the E.L. Johnson Nature Center might be coming to a close, if the township and developers stick to a consent judgment crafted last month.

During their regular meeting Nov. 13, Bloomfield Township trustees voted unanimously to enter into a consent judgment that would end a lawsuit filed by Nosan Ventures in Oakland County Circuit Court against the township, which denied the company’s preliminary plan to replat its newly acquired property at Franklin Road.

The agreement, created by the Bloomfield Hills Schools district and Nosan Ventures, trades the 4.6-acre property on Franklin Road purchased by the developer for a property about double that size, just over 8 acres, near the BHS headquarters on Wing Lake Road currently owned by the district, but further from the nature preserve.

Residents in the area, and even BHS Superintendent Rob Glass, had previously voice opposition to the project that would put five houses on the land near the nature preserve, fearing it would impact the district-owned conservation site that serves students and the public with a 40-acre natural space and educational programming. In the preserve there’s an inland pond, natural woods with native plants, wildlife and trails, as well as a visitor center and classrooms funded through grants from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“The developer was wanting to replat Lot Six on the border of the nature center, and we were concerned it would affect the viability of the nature center, so the township was in court with the developer to resolve whether the land could be replatted,” Glass said. “While that was going on, we were working with the developer to see if we can acquire that land at a reasonable cost so we could preserve the nature center. Whether that acquisition happens is dependent on the results of this judgment between the developer and the township.”

“This consent judgment you have in front of you is, in my point of view as your attorney, a win-win-win,” said Township Attorney Bill Hampton. “First, there will be no development on the Franklin Road property. Second, there will be 8 acres of land not currently on the tax rolls now on the tax rolls for (Nosan Ventures’) new 10-unit (condominium) development. And we will have a public hearing for those who live on Wing Lake Road to be heard. I think it’s an excellent resolution of this case.”

Other stipulations for the developer would be included in the judgment, such as being subject to an open space requirement that would leave 2 acres of the Wing Lake property undeveloped as a conservation easement per township ordinance.

Once the district acquires the Franklin Road property, Glass said it would be incorporated into the nature center.

But the saga isn’t over, since the development plan for the Wing Lake property would need to go before the township’s Planning Commission — including a public hearing — before building could begin.

Trustee Michael Schostak thanked Hampton during the board meeting for his work to bring a resolution to the issue.

“I know we’ve gone back and forth on this, and I think everyone’s gotten on the same page,” he said before moving to approve the proposed consent judgment. “I trust that they’re going to agree to it, and it accomplishes what this board set out to do, which is protect a very important piece of land, which is the nature center.”

Terry Nosan, of Nosan Ventures, could not be reached for comment before press time. While the township agreed to the judgment, Nosan Ventures and the school district still need to sign off.

“If our board doesn’t vote for this measure, the developer gets to build those five houses. If we do approve it, it has to go through the township’s approval process,” Glass said.