Signage opposes putting apartments at 8271 Irving Road in Sterling Heights in March. In June, the Sterling Heights City Council denied a planned unit development application that would’ve allowed the development of a Sterling Landings III apartment complex at the site.

Signage opposes putting apartments at 8271 Irving Road in Sterling Heights in March. In June, the Sterling Heights City Council denied a planned unit development application that would’ve allowed the development of a Sterling Landings III apartment complex at the site.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Council rejects Sterling Landings III proposal

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 13, 2022


STERLING HEIGHTS — A planned unit development proposal for a new apartment complex recently failed to stick the landing.

The Sterling Landings III PUD application was denied by the Sterling Heights City Council 6-1 at a June 21 meeting. Mayor Michael Taylor voted in opposition, to support the proposal.

The Sterling Landings III proposed site was for an estimated 2.25 acres at 8271 Irving Road, south of 15 Mile Road and east of Van Dyke Avenue. The vacant land is zoned O-2 planned office district, and city officials said the master plan puts the area within the Van Dyke mixed-use corridor.

Attorney  Philip Ruggeri submitted the application on behalf of Tony Gallo, the developer, who also owns the nearby Sterling Landings I and II.

As presented to the council, Sterling Landings III would have been a two-story building with 64 units and an interior courtyard. Parking was reduced from 132 to 111 spaces, and some setbacks were shifted.

Ruggeri said his client listened to comments and criticism and “had literally taken off a whole layer” of the proposed complex.

“I believe, with all the concessions that he’s made and a good faith effort by Mr. Gallo and the team, I think this is an ideal proposal for the city. You will not see an opportunity to develop that site from anybody else because it has been dormant,” he said, later adding: “And this is a very difficult time in our economy to build anything. Costs are significantly high. Labor is tremendously short and lacking. But yet he forges ahead and he produces products that are significant and were very worthwhile.”

A 5-3 vote of the Sterling Heights Planning Commission recommended that the City Council approve the PUD for Sterling Landings III at a March 9 meeting.

City Planner Chris McLeod reviewed the project’s specifications, adding that the proposed building’s 219 feet in length would surpass the maximum allowed in an RM-2 district for multifamily housing. He also said there was less parking and fewer trees than normally required.

“Obviously, the density that’s proposed is significantly above the RM-2 density that is normally or typically seen within the PUD ordinance itself,” McLeod added.

During public comment, Planning Commission member Brandy Wright, who originally voted against the proposal, said she didn’t think the proposal aligns with a PUD, and she thought it would be better suited for a rezoning. She said she thought the building was “way too long,” and she was concerned about the potential for crime. She added that she wanted to know whether a camera system Gallo implemented elsewhere reduced crime.   

When the council spoke, multiple council members pointed to the proposal’s density as a reason to deny it. Councilwoman Deanna Koski said the city is trying to preserve green spaces. Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko said the proposal was “too much in a small area.”

Councilwoman Maria Schmidt said the proposed development would not be along a major road like Schoenherr Road — as was Gallo’s Sterling Park Place project that was approved that same meeting. She said Sterling Landings III would be within or at the edge of a neighborhood, and she believed that the limited parking wouldn’t accommodate visitors.

Councilman Michael Radtke said Sterling Heights needs more housing and even density in some areas. But he said he opposed this plan because of the building’s length, the lack of recreation space and trees, and what he believed was a poor fit with the city’s commitment to sustainability and green practices. He said he’d prefer to see townhomes or ranch homes there.

“I really do believe in an ownership society,” Radtke said. “I think that when you give someone an opportunity to buy a place, they’re buying into the community.”

Mayor Michael Taylor said he was disappointed with the discussion and that many people can’t qualify to purchase a home due to their credit background, or they can’t afford $50,000-$100,000 for a down payment. He added that many people rely on apartments, and the “housing crisis is not going away.”

“What message are we sending when the elected officials of this city are pretty much saying, ‘We don’t want apartment people. We want owner people in our community’?” he said. “We have thousands of people in this city that contribute to the tax roll, that contribute to society, that contribute to our sense of community, that are not a danger to society.

“They are not derelicts. They’re not criminals. They’re not people who are going to run over children in the neighborhoods.”

Mayor Pro Tem Liz Sierawski said the criticism of Sterling Landings III was specific to that particular proposal, particularly over the density issue.

“I don’t think anyone said that we don’t want apartment residents in the city,” she said.

Radtke said he evaluates each proposed development individually and without prejudice.

“Being for more residential housing, being for more residential apartments, being for more residents in general, doesn’t mean you have to say yes to every proposal that comes before you,” he said.

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