According to Orchard Lake Mayor Norm Finkelstein, one thing that is missing in the city is housing for its aging population. One potential site that has been considered is on the grounds of Orchard Lake City Hall.

According to Orchard Lake Mayor Norm Finkelstein, one thing that is missing in the city is housing for its aging population. One potential site that has been considered is on the grounds of Orchard Lake City Hall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Orchard Lake focuses on senior housing as master plan discussions progress

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 20, 2023


ORCHARD LAKE — From the perspective of Orchard Lake City Services Director Gerry McCallum, his community is a “great” one, and for the most part, he wants to maintain the status quo.

One exception, however, is senior housing — or, more specifically, the lack of it.

McCallum said that issue has been on the city’s radar for many years.

Although there is currently not an overnight solution, addressing the issue in the city’s master plan, which is set to be updated for the first time since 2018 at some point this year, could help bring Orchard Lake one step closer to realizing its aspirations of providing a viable alternative for individuals who want to continue to call Orchard Lake home.

“We try to look into the future,” McCallum said. “One thing that the city is lacking in this community is aged housing — something where people (want to) downsize their properties but stay in the city. So that master plan in 2018 did talk about it pretty extensively. That was the big change in 2018, but, obviously, we’re still lacking that, even five years later, so that will remain in the master plan.”

Jackie Beach previously served as mayor and on the City Council for Orchard Lake. She is currently a part of the city’s Planning Commission.

Beach said that it is the Planning Commission’s responsibility to put together a master plan, with the ultimate final approval coming from City Council members.

Municipalities are required by the state to review their master plans every five years.

“We’re working on the master plan right now and updating it,” Beach said. “I think that one of the things that we’re really hoping to concentrate on is some kind of housing. We have a lot of people that, when kids grow up and they lose their spouse, they’re in these large houses, and we don’t have the kind of housing — those smaller condos, smaller houses — that people can move into that would be more suitable for maybe a widow or widower, or a couple that does not want to take care of a large piece of property.”

Beach said there is vacant property in the city, but it’s “not available just yet.”

McCallum has turned some of his attention to a property owned by DTE, formerly Detroit Edison, which he estimated has been vacant for approximately 30 years and is 12.5 acres.

He said there is limited vacant property, but that is one that could be an ideal fit for a senior housing development.

“We do have the Edison parcel, which is a very good-size parcel off of Pontiac Trail; so they may look at, maybe, potentially, what a future development would look like there as far as aged housing goes,” McCallum said. “They purchased that many, many years ago, and I think it was eventually to put a substation in there, but I think based upon the findings and what’s worked out through the years, they really don’t need to put a substation in there, but yet they never said, ‘The property’s up for sale.’ But it is a larger parcel, one of the larger vacant ones in our municipality. Be nice to see something happen with that, versus just being vacant land for (as) many years as it has been.”

The Edison property has also crossed Beach’s mind. Both Beach and McCallum have also given some thought to another potential option.

“Not that this is going to come into fruition anytime soon, but we also have some property here on City Hall that could potentially turn into some aged housing — some condos,” McCallum said. “It’s on (the) radar that it’s something we’re going to need to look at, but difficult finding a spot to put it in.”

In a previous interview, Orchard Lake Mayor Norm Finkelstein also addressed the city’s lack of senior housing options.

“There’s one big thing that we are missing in Orchard Lake, and that is housing for our aging population,” Finkelstein said. “I’m just talking about some sort of multi-family, perhaps, or condominium-type projects. We have none of that, and so our residents, as they age, (some) don’t feel that they want to continue with a large house that they’ve had, but they’d like to stay in our city because they love it here.”

Aside from trying to find a senior housing solution, Beach said that Orchard Lake is also trying to get its commercial corridor in good shape. She cited the site of the former Walgreens location at Pontiac Trail and Orchard Lake Road, which she said has been vacant for about a year.

Beach has also not forgotten about what is perhaps Orchard Lake’s biggest attraction.

“We still feel that the lakes and the natural area is what makes Orchard Lake special,” she said. “Our basic desire is to keep Orchard Lake as natural and resident-friendly as we can make it, while making some improvements. We don’t have large business districts. … We’re a fairly small community that has a lot of lakes, and we have St. Mary’s, and we’ve got Orchard Lake Country Club. Those are our biggest land areas, and the nature sanctuary.”

Although senior housing could help fill a void for the city, overall, McCallum is content with what Orchard Lake has to offer.

“We’re mainly residential,” he said. “We’ve got a great community here; we’ve got great lakes. A lot (of) the properties are on lakes; they’re larger-size homes. What has been developed here works for this small community and has been working for years.”

McCallum provided some insight as to a potential time frame for the master plan.

“I’m hoping to get this thing all buttoned up by June so that we can start our public hearing process, because it’s a very lengthy public hearing process — distribution of the master plan and stuff like that. And I’d like to see it buttoned up, totally, by fall,” he said.

Although McCallum said that the master plan currently in place is a good one, he understands the significance of checking in on it every so often.

“It needs tweaking once in a while, hence why we do it every five years, but with a built-out community, it’s not like we’re looking for big industrial companies coming here — processing plants and stuff like that,” he said. “I think what we have is great; we need to maintain what we have.”