A preliminary rendering shows the view of townhomes facing the motor court at The Epic at Harrison, which, upon approval by the Royal Oak City Commission, will be located on the northeast corner of Knowles Street and East Harrison Avenue.

A preliminary rendering shows the view of townhomes facing the motor court at The Epic at Harrison, which, upon approval by the Royal Oak City Commission, will be located on the northeast corner of Knowles Street and East Harrison Avenue.

Rendering provided by the city of Royal Oak


Developer modifies condo plans to appease neighbors

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published October 22, 2019

 A preliminary rendering  shows the view of townhomes facing East Harrison Avenue.

A preliminary rendering shows the view of townhomes facing East Harrison Avenue.

Rendering provided by the city of Royal Oak

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ROYAL OAK — The Lawson Park Homeowners Association and a development team requesting a change in zoning from single family to mixed use in order to build 51 multiple-family dwellings in seven buildings in the general area of Main Street and East Lincoln Avenue have come to an agreement.

Nearby neighbors previously had objections to the condominium development, known as The Epic on Harrison, that proposed the conditional rezoning on land at the northeast corner of Knowles Street and East Harrison Avenue.

The two groups met to iron out issues at the suggestion of Commissioner Patricia Paruch after the Royal Oak City Commission voted to postpone the first reading of the conditional rezoning at its Sept. 23 meeting.

On Oct. 14, the issue came before the commission again.

“I just want to say it’s been a great process,” said neighbor Brandon Kolo. “We as a neighborhood are going to be really happy with what’s going to be built. The developer has come and met with many of our requests to change this project to make it a better fit for a single-family neighborhood.”

Michael Thompson, president of the Lawson Park Homeowners Association, said he appreciated developer Robert Wolfson acquiescing on some points, including lowering three buildings from four to three stories, or 40 feet, 3 inches to 30 feet, 1 1/4 inches, respectively.

“We (originally) felt it was way over in size and scale and height, with not-correct setbacks. We were kind of surprised that the Planning Commission approved this project,” Thompson said. 

He said that building 15 single-family homes on the land, which has a high volume of big another condominium development, railroad tracks and power lines, all nearby, would not be ideal.

“Multifamily is the proper transition between single-family homes and uses that you don’t want to be next to. … The question is controlling it and getting it to blend with the neighborhood,” he said. “This is a better solution.”

The revised site plan shifts two of the northern buildings 5 feet south, resulting in the loss of seven parallel parking spaces, but adding a continuous, wide greenbelt buffer, which will save existing trees. The buffer will increase from 20 to 25 feet.

The rooftop patios or terraces on three buildings will now face the interior of the site, rather than adjacent residential properties; a bioswale was removed; and the developer added a daylight or shadow study to the plan.

Because the changes requested by the neighbors, although agreed to by Wolfson, were not all included in the proposed site plan, the Royal Oak City Commission opted to postpone approving the first reading of the conditional rezoning.

“If all of a sudden (Royal Oak Community Development Director) Mr. (Timothy) Thwing wins the lottery, leaves and brings all of his associates with him, we have a plan that we can look at and make sure that things get implemented the right way,” Mayor Michael Fournier joked.

Some of the requests Wolfson voluntarily agreed to include landscaping a nearby berm, preserving as many trees as possible, and increasing the fence height from 6 feet to 8 feet.

“Also, we were concerned about trash collection, and we want that to be internal. We assume it is with no dumpster on the site,” Thompson said. “The sound rating of the mechanical units, these are some minor points, but we want to make sure the condensers aren’t in the backyard.”

Wolfson said he could implement the discussed changes in a number of days.

“We’re all so grateful (the association and developer met to) work this all out. It really is a model for how these types of developments in an area that used to be industrial should work,” Paruch said. “Between the first and second reading, that’s when the actual conditional rezoning agreement is worked out.”

The first reading should appear on the agenda at the Oct. 28 City Commission meeting.

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