Six Rivers Land Conservancy will oversee these 75 acres the Troy School District formerly owned near Square Lake and Dequindre roads.

Six Rivers Land Conservancy will oversee these 75 acres the Troy School District formerly owned near Square Lake and Dequindre roads.

Photo by Deb Jacques


New cluster plan in Troy creates 23 homes, donates 75 acres to land conservancy

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 11, 2019

 This wooden bridge, a Boy Scouts Eagle Scout project, protects part of the 42 acres of wetlands within the 75-acre nature preserve. Spotted turtles, an endangered species, live within the wetlands.

This wooden bridge, a Boy Scouts Eagle Scout project, protects part of the 42 acres of wetlands within the 75-acre nature preserve. Spotted turtles, an endangered species, live within the wetlands.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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TROY — The Troy City Council voted 6-0 to approve a cluster plan for 23 homes on 6 acres next to a planned 75-acre nature preserve, property formerly owned by the Troy School District June 3.

The land is located on the north side of Square Lake Road, west of Dequindre Road.

City Councilman Ed Pennington was absent.

The Planning Commission voted 6-0 Feb. 12 to recommend approval of the cluster plan submitted by Joe Maniaci, of Mondrian Homes.

Planning Commissioner Tom Krent was absent.

The Planning Commission is the recommending body on site plans proposed under the cluster option, and the City Council has final approval.

In October 2016, the City Council adopted a cluster zoning designation that offers density bonuses for restricting the housing unit sizes to 1,500 square feet and for sustainable designs — including green infrastructure and naturalized stormwater management — and it requires the developer to preserve 20% open space.

After a study on demographics and building usage, Troy School District officials and the Board of Education determined that undeveloped district-owned parcels of land — about 180 acres in total  — would not be needed to build additional schools, with the exception of an early childhood center.

The Board of Education voted 4-2 on three items: to divide the 7.69 acres that front Square Lake Road from the 83-acre parcel known as Section 1; to establish a nature preserve and enter into a land conservancy for the rest of the portion; and to solicit a request for proposals for the sale of the 7.69 acres — in March 2018.

Board Vice President Steve Gottlieb and Trustee Elizabeth Hammond opposed all three items.

Board President Karl Schmidt and Trustees Paula Fleming, Gary Hauff and Nancy Phillipart supported the items. Trustee Todd Miletti was absent.

City Planning Director R. Brent Savidant told the council that this is the sixth single-family cluster option development Maniaci has submitted that the council has approved.

During initial discussions in June 2017, Rick West, the Troy School District’s assistant superintendent of business services, told the board that while approximately 7 acres of Section 1 were developable and a preliminary appraisal on the value of the property indicated that it would be worth about $50,000 per lot, it was estimated that no more than 20 acres could be developed, resulting in around 100 units or lots.

Savidant explained that Maniaci is donating the remaining 75 acres to Six Rivers Land Conservancy to be held in perpetuity as a nature preserve, along with $150,000 to establish an endowment fund to maintain the property and establish a 16-space public parking lot and trailhead.

 

Compare to parallel plan
Savidant noted that in a parallel plan, 102 homes could be constructed on the site. He said the cluster plan preserves 92% open space. “That’s a significant number,” he said.

The city’s traffic consultant, OHM Advisors, found the traffic impact from the development to be minimal, Savidant added. Home sizes will range from 1,900 square feet to 3,200 square feet.

In his other, similar developments, Maniaci said, the home prices would start at $500,000. He told the Planning Commission that the prices of the homes constructed in this development will be “market driven.”

He explained that while he does offer ranch-style homes, he’s only built seven in the last 20 years.

Chris Bunch, the executive director of Six Rivers Land Conservancy, told the Planning Commission in February that the site is a very rare lakeplain prairie habitat that only exists in the Great Lakes and was created by glaciers.

Bunch said spotted turtles, an endangered species, call the site home.

He said the preserve will not be run as a park, but they plan to partner with the Stage Nature Center for programming at the site.

Nobody spoke during the public hearing on the request at the June 3 meeting.

“This is phenomenal,” said City Councilman David Hamilton.

Savidant explained that the site contains “tens of thousands of inches of trees and 42 acres of wetlands that will be preserved in perpetuity. This is what I would call a win-win,” he said. “The school district sells the property, assists Mondrian with the donation to keep the property protected in perpetuity, and we get 23 new housing units. It really is a nice balance.”

“This is a very beautiful project,” said Mayor Pro Tem Ethan Baker. He said he appreciates Mondrian Properties’ partnership with the Troy School District. “I think that’s a unique way of doing business.”

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