Plans proceed for homes on Troy School District property

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 3, 2017


TROY — Plans for 59 high-end homes on a parcel of land owned by the Troy School District — adjacent to Raintree Park, north of Big Beaver Road and west of John R Road — will now go to the Troy City Council for consideration. 

On March 21, the Troy School District Board of Education voted to request proposals for various parcels of undeveloped land the district had purchased with the intent to build schools, but which district officials said are no longer needed. 

Joe Maniaci, of Mondrian Properties, presented preliminary site plans for Raintree Village on the Park to the Planning Commission under the cluster option April 25. 

Last October, the council adopted the cluster zoning option, which offers density bonuses for restricting the unit size to 1,500 square feet, and for sustainable designs — including green infrastructure and naturalized stormwater management — and it requires the developer to preserve 20 percent open space. 

This is the second development that Maniaci — a developer known in the community for clear-cutting thousands of trees on various parcels to develop high-end detached condominiums — has proposed under the cluster option. The council unanimously approved a site plan for Maniaci Jan. 23 for 20 homes on 9.4 acres at the southwest intersection of Long Lake and Beach roads, the first plan submitted under new development zoning guidelines.

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

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended the council approve the preliminary site plans for the school property April 25.

Maniaci has a purchase agreement with the Troy School District on the 18-acre parcel, of which just over an acre in the southeast corner is a state-regulated wetland, which will be undisturbed. The site abuts homes to the south, east and west, and Raintree Park to the north. 

If approved, Maniaci will offer 1,800-square-foot ranch homes, 2,100-square-foot split-level homes and 2,600-square-foot colonials in the development. There would be a new private road extending from North Lake Drive. The development would preserve 32 percent open space, including the wetlands in the southeast corner of the site. The plans also preserve two landmark trees and 175 other trees. Landscape buffering would be planted along adjacent homes, and a walking trail would lead to Raintree Park. However, 397 trees would be cut down. 


Colonials drive housing market

Maniaci said the development would be market driven and that demand for colonials in Troy has been high. The homes would range from $390,000 to $450,000, he said. 

“I’m excited to use the cluster option again,” Maniaci said. 

“This development would not be achievable under traditional zoning, only cluster,” said Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant. 

Troy Planning Director R. Brent Savidant explained that the new development would use the existing retention pond, Shanahan Drain, in the adjacent Raintree subdivision, which is privately owned and maintained by the Raintree Homeowners Association. 

“This is a fairly unique situation,” Savidant told the Planning Commission of the homeowners’ maintenance of the pond. “The homeowners are concerned with long-term maintenance” of the pond with the new proposed development.

Savidant said Mondrian Properties talked about a partnership with the homeowners for maintenance of the pond, but the Oakland County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office was concerned with the homeowners having the long-term responsibility of maintaining the pond. 

The WRC was most comfortable with the city taking over management of the pond, which Savidant said the city is open to doing.

“The city and Water Resources Commission recognize the challenge of the long-term maintenance of the pond,” Savidant said. 

“Nothing is final at this point and is typically addressed during final approval,” he added. 

Maniaci said he had initially designed a retention pond on the site of the new development, then discovered that the whole region drains into the existing Shanahan Drain. He said he met with residents and that he is “more than happy to contribute to the maintenance of the pond.”

A number of residents voiced opposition to the development — citing traffic concerns, loss of the wildlife and trees, and runoff problems. 

“Where is this water going to go?” asked Jennifer Manzo, who lives on Kings Point Drive. 

“The property is wet all year round,” said Bruce Wojciechowski, who lives on Woodgate Drive. 

“The (current) walking path needs to be elevated. It’s now underwater,” said Sherwood Drive resident Paula Hacker. She also expressed concern that the deer and other animals on the site would be running out into traffic as the trees are cut down. 

“This is a blessing … and a transfer of burdensome debt of the pond,” said Planning Commissioner Karen Crusse, referring to the drainage of the now-vacant land she believes the development would provide. “I hope you can be open to the thoughts of the long-term effects and benefits.”

“This is not a final action,” Savidant said. “The City Council has the final decision. The date (for consideration) has not been determined.”