OXFORD VILLAGE – A litany of concerns were expressed by both officials and residents regarding a proposed 76-unit multiple-family housing development at 98 S. Glaspie St., but the bulk of the criticism centered around one word – density.
“I think you’re trying to put 10 pounds of something in a 5-pound bag,” said village Planning Commissioner Jack Curtis. “It’s going to break. It’s too full.”
“It’s going to completely overcrowd the street,” said Jennifer Myers-Spencer, a mother of five who lives directly across from the site in one of the 16 single-family homes that line the west side of S. Glaspie St.
Last week, village planning commissioners discussed plans by the father-son development team of Chuck and Craig Schneider to transform the 3.6-acre former industrial site into two residential buildings. The proposal is to build them in five phases between 2016 and 2020 under a planned unit development (PUD) agreement with the village.
Fifty-two of the units would be part of what’s being called the Lofts, located on the property’s north side. Two phases of the building would contain two stories, while the remaining phase would be three stories high. The building would have a footprint of 31,950 square feet.
The other building, called the Villas, would consist of 24 units spread across three floors. Located on the east side of the property, it would have a 10,120-square-foot footprint and be constructed in two phases.
All of the units would be a minimum of 1,200 square feet and have one or two bedrooms.
The site is proposed to have 140 parking spaces including 24 individual garages and 48 covered spots.
Village planner Chris Khorey, of the Northville-based McKenna Associates, recommended approval of the project.
“They’re high-quality, large units and I think that they would bring value to the village,” he said.
In Khorey’s opinion, the vacant, former industrial site is currently “blighting the neighborhood” and it would be a “positive” thing to remove and replace it with something that’s “more compatible,” like the proposed residential use.
Despite the planner’s opinion, there seemed to be a significant amount of public concern and criticism regarding the project in its current form as evidenced by the fact that during the two-hour discussion, it was citizens who did much of the talking.
They voiced their concerns and questions about density, potential pollution, trespassing, public safety, the impact on nearby Round Lake in terms of water level and quality along with fish population, increased traffic and the potential adverse effect on property values.
“I’m totally against it and I hope this doesn’t go through,” Myers-Spencer said. “I take very good care of my home. If I want to sell it later, who’s going to want to buy my house living across the street from an enormous apartment complex.”
Khorey explained the PUD process “allows the village and the developer to trade a little bit.”
For example, under the current zoning, the Schneiders would only be allowed to build 43 units. The proposed PUD agreement would permit them to construct 76 units in exchange for them leasing a 1.984-acre piece of village-owned property to the east, abutting Round Lake.
Under a proposed lease agreement with the municipality, the Schneiders would develop, landscape and maintain this area as park space open to both residents of their development and the general public.
“Both the PUD and the lease (agreements) guarantee, in writing, public access to that site for as long as the lease is in place and if the lease is not in place, the landlord remains the village,” Khorey said. “Really, the public won’t notice any difference because it will always be open to the public.”
As part of the agreement, the Schneiders would add items to the space such as benches, trash receptacles and tables.
“That is the big trade – density for park improvements,” Khorey said. “The village is getting upgrades to a public space and the developer’s getting a little more density and some other things. That’s really how a PUD process is supposed to work.”
Resident Bill Lane, who lives on Oxford Lake Dr., was unimpressed.
“Any time somebody proposes that they increase the density limit to 175 percent of what’s suggested, it concerns me,” he said. “You have to look at what you’re giving up and what you’re getting . . . It doesn’t seem like a good deal.”
Resident Jeff Arkles, who lives on Thornehill Trail, agreed.
“It’s a lot to give up for grass, in my opinion,” he said.
What about Round Lake?
Oxford Lakes subdivision residents who live on Thornehill Trail and whose lots abut Round Lake expressed their concern about the potential impact of this proposed development on the water and their properties.
Khorey assured the public that residents of the proposed multiple-family development would have no special rights with regard to Round Lake.
“They would have the exact same access to the lake as any other village resident, no more, no less,” he said.
But Kelly Arkles, a resident of Thornehill Trail, fears adding so many potential lake users is dangerous, especially considering the village no longer employs lifeguards to keep an eye on people accessing the water via Scripter Park. She worries about what could happen to people, especially kids, who venture outside the designated swimming area.
“With all these individuals and no lifeguards, that’s very concerning to us,” Arkles said. “More people, more risk.”
Kelly Arkles also asked Craig Schneider, who was present for the meeting, how he plans to guarantee that demolition and construction debris from the project won’t get into the lake or onto neighboring properties.
“We already see enormous amounts of trash from the park and we deal with that,” she said.
Schneider said it will be part of the contractor’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Brandon Township resident Gayle Grix was concerned about salt, oil and debris from the proposed development running off the site via stormwater, entering the lake and potentially having adverse effects on aquifers, wetlands and wildlife.
“That’s all going to get dumped into the water and water is contiguous,” she said.
But the project engineer, Steve Wagner, of the Oxford-based Sharpe Engineering, assured stormwater runoff is not going to be an issue.
“The water quality will 100 percent be improved with this development,” he said. “All of the stormwater will be collected in catch basins and then discharged at a restricted rate (into the pond located just north of the development site).”
Wagner explained the stormwater is going to be filtered through a “mechanical oil and sediment separator.”
“The water that’s going to come out of that thing is going to be way cleaner than what’s running off of that site right now,” he said.
Concerns over Round Lake’s water level and fish population were expressed by residents.
According to the proposed lease agreement, the Schneiders would be responsible for installing a system that would use water from Round Lake to irrigate the 1.984-acre improved park space, nothing else.
Gary Jialanella, a resident of Thornehill Trail, is worried about the “added stress” this could place on the lake.
He said although the area experienced an “excessively wet year” in 2015, the water level is for some reason “much lower.”
For this reason, Jialanella believes “additional strain on that lake is extremely undesirable.”
Others expressed concern about the potential impact of more people fishing Round Lake.
“It’s already overfished,” Campos said.
“We have so many people fishing on that lake as it is in the winter and in the summer, who’s going to supply more fish?” asked Denise Kabalka-Chesney, president of the Oxford Lakes Homeowners Association.
Trespassers not welcome
Trespassing was another issue for the residents who spoke at the meeting. They said they already have people crossing their properties to get to and from Scripter Park. They fear the problem will only be exacerbated by a 76-unit development.
“Every year, I have had several trespassers coming through,” said Fernando Campos, who’s lived on Thornehill Trail for nine years.
Most recently, he said someone trespassed across his land while riding an all-terrain vehicle and this individual destroyed several trees and bushes.
“I’ve had nothing but trouble from people coming through,” Campos said.
He believes residents of the proposed housing development “are going to do what everybody else does” and continue trespassing.
“There’s nobody there to keep an eye on them,” Campos said.
Sell or lease?
Lots of folks wanted to know whether these proposed 76 multiple family units would be sold or leased.
“My understanding is that they’re going to try to sell them, but they will lease them if necessary,” Khorey said.
“If the units are leased, we will remain as the owner of the units and the landlord of those units, so we’ll still maintain an interest (in) making sure that the development is run in a good way and that tenants are (abiding by) the rules,” he said. “We aren’t going to just walk away from it.”
Lane asked whether the PUD agreement could require all the units to be sold and not rented.
“It’s not legal (to do that),” Khorey said. “The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) would have a problem with that.”
The additional traffic that would be generated by a 76-unit development was also of concern to the public.
Grix pointed out that adding “that many more units that quickly,” in addition to the other developments in the area, is going to lead to more congestion, more accidents, more police calls and more of a strain on tax dollars when eventually, officials have to consider widening the roads.
Grix noted the traffic situation is already bad. “It’s always gridlocked at certain times of the day at Lakeville and Glaspie,” she said.
After listening to all the public comments, planning commissioners chimed in with their thoughts on the proposed project.
“I think apartments or condos on that side of town is a great idea, but I think this many on this site is insanity,” said Commissioner Maureen Helmuth, who also serves on the village council. “The site is way overbuilt.”
Helmuth noted green space in the proposed site plan is “nonexistent” and the Schneiders are relying completely on leasing village property in order to have some.
“Seventy-six units is just too many for the site,” she said.
“I’m having a problem with finding the positive aspect (as to) how the community is going to benefit from all of this,” said Commissioner Bonnie Staley. “I have a problem with the density as well. I just can’t imagine all of those people on that little 3-acre piece of property.”
Commission Chairman John DuVal said density is the main issue and it must be addressed if this project is to move forward.
“I don’t think it’s an issue that’s going to go away,” he said. “I don’t know really, with that being the case, what direction we can go (in) at this point, if it’s indeed economics (on the developers’ part) that dictate those (unit) numbers.”
It was noted that in order for this project to be approved, all three elements – the site plan, PUD agreement and lease agreement – must be okayed by the village.
“All of these are tied together,” explained village attorney Bob Davis, who noted if any one part is rejected, the whole thing fails.
In the end, planning commissioners voted 6-0 to set the project aside.
But before they did that, they took Khorey’s advice and set up a subcommittee to be part of the negotiations with the Schneiders. Serving on this body will be planning commissioners Staley, Tom Kennis and Gary Deeg along with village residents Scott Spencer and Kelly Arkles.
“I think it would be useful to get those voices in those meetings,” Khorey said.
“I would just like all of us to remember that what we decide has to add to the community and be a benefit to the community, not take away from it,” Staley said.
The commission’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19. Meetings are held in the village council chambers located at 22 W. Burdick St.