Troy Planning Commission again pauses plans for 3-story townhomes

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 29, 2020

 A number of residents oppose plans to build a 74-unit development on the 5.73-acre site denoted by this red box.

A number of residents oppose plans to build a 74-unit development on the 5.73-acre site denoted by this red box.

Map by Jason Clancy

TROY — The Troy Planning Commission once again postponed consideration of developer Safet Stafa’s plans for three-story homes on Crooks Road, between Wattles and Long Lake roads.

The Planning Commission voted 7-2 Jan. 14 to postpone approval of preliminary site plans for the 74-unit development on 5.73 acres.

Planning Commissioners Michael Hutson and Marianna Perakis voted not to postpone.

After listening to approximately 30 residents voice strong opposition to what was then a 60-unit, three-story townhome project on 2.73 acres, the Planning Commission voted 8-0 on Sept. 24 to postpone a preliminary site plan approval to allow the developer to address a number of concerns. Planning Commissioner Karen Crusse was absent.

The parcel is zoned under the neighborhood node designation. According to the city’s website, “Neighborhood nodes are the concentrated commercial and mixed-use centers situated at major intersections of Troy thoroughfares that serve as the center of the city’s economic neighborhoods.” The zoning allows heights of up to four stories.

Two homes are currently on the site and would be demolished if the plans go forward.

The residents’ concerns at the September meeting were about elevation, density, guest parking, traffic, transition and compatibility with the existing neighborhood, and having an open dialogue with neighbors.

Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant, said at the Jan. 14 meeting that the revised plans include more land and units, 74 compared with the previous 60, resulting in less density: 12.9 units per acre.

Carlisle said the revised plans also feature larger townhomes, more open space — 55%, compared to 43% — and more guest parking — 31 spaces, up from 17.

Outstanding items that need to be addressed include neighborhood engagement, recently identified wetlands on the site, significant tree removal, mitigation and screening at property lines, Carlisle said.

“That seems like an extensive list of outstanding items,” said Planning Commission Chair Carlton Faison.

Carmine Avantini, a planner for Stafa, told the Planning Commission that the new plans feature a decrease in overall density, with the intent to maintain as many trees as possible.

“This is a use that’s allowed in this particular (zoning) district. We did take those (comments) very seriously,” he said, addressing the comments made by residents and city staff at the previous meeting.

Avantini said that in consideration of neighbors’ concerns, Carson Drive would remain a dead end, with no connections to the new development, and there would be a substantial buffer to the single-family homes.

Arvan Stafa said they watched the tape of the September meeting to identify residents’ concerns and address them in the revised plans.

Community Development Director R. Brent Savidant said that detailed engineering plans will have to address wetland and floodplain issues prior to approval and construction.

“Those issues would be addressed before the shovel hits the ground,” Savidant said.

“Ideally, we’d like to not touch the wetland,” said Jim Butler, an engineer on the project. “There will be an exhaustive process we will go through as part of the engineering.”


Residents weigh in
Over a dozen people took to the lectern to voice opposition to the plan. Several couples shared their allotted three minutes to allow one person to speak for six minutes.

“This destroys the beauty of the area,” said Tom Reiss, who lives on Bradbury Drive.

Residents Doug and Linda Gerard, who live on Carson Drive,  expressed concerns about flooding, increased density and incompatibility with surrounding neighborhoods for the new proposed development.

“I don’t think they addressed most of the items that came up in the September filing,” said Mike Lipinski, who lives on Carson Drive.

“This proposal is just not right for our neighborhood,” said Daphne Nitri, who lives on Carson Drive.

Savidant said that the proposed is better than what was presented in September.

“The developer deserves an opportunity to come back and give it one more go,” Savidant said, urging the developer to talk to the neighbors and “see if there is some common ground.”

In regard to the neighborhood node zoning designations, in general, Savidant said, the development community paid attention.

“We’re basically getting what we asked for.”

He added that the City Council and the Planning Commission will be discussing the neighborhood node designations in an upcoming joint meeting.

“This is a by-right application,” said Assistant City Attorney Julie Dufrane. “Ultimately, this project is permitted on this property.”

Avantini said they would be willing to make adjustments to the plans.

Hutson said the master plan designation for the neighborhood node in which this site is located states that it should be a mixed-use, integrated, compact development — featuring the “missing middle housing” stock, with walkability to services — that serves as a transition between traditional single-family and multifamily homes.

“I am persuaded that the missing middle is what we’re looking at,” Hutson said.