Condos Off Ottawa Raise Residents’ Ire

by CYNTHIA KMETT

The plans for a 16-unit cluster condominium development off Ottawa, off of Rochester Road and north of Square Lake, filled the city council chambers with residents out in protest of the project. Developer Gary Abitheira had been to the Planning Commission in April, but was sent back to the drawing board because the 7.83-acre parcel didn’t seem up to the cluster standards.

Now at a public hearing on the project, he had expanded the site by almost an acre and made some significant changes to meet the cluster standards. The new site plan contains 38 percent open space, but the city also wanted plans to protect natural features like trees and wetlands.

Traffic is always a concern of residents. However, a study by the city’s traffic consultant OHM showed that once out on Ottawa, drivers had several ways to exit the mile, going to either Rochester, Livernois, or South Blvd. They didn’t see this traffic from 16 units causing any delays during peak rush hours. OHM called the impact on traffic within the mile “minimal.”

One problem that seemed to anger many residents was the fact that this parcel is landlocked, or it was until Abitheira bought a home on Ottawa to take down and create a private road into the proposed complex. During the public hearing, residents said the former owners thought they were selling to someone who wanted to live in the house, not tear it down for a road. They protested and expressed outrage at the very idea of cutting into the site in such a fashion.

The planners were reminded that this wasn’t the first time such a method has been used in the city. In fact, Assistant City Attorney Julie Quinlan Dufrane said the city has done this three times in the past to get to landlocked land and that sets a precedent. While she didn’t say it, to deny a road this time might be hard to defend in court.

Many residents had sent the Planning Commission letters in protest of the project. While the street has many new families with young children, it also has many residents who have lived there 40 years and more. They basically said that safety was their main concern. Families with young children live in a neighborhood where they have no sidewalks or streetlights on Ottawa, and apparently there are some flooding problems, too. While there is a floodplain in this square mile, the proposed plans do not call for building in the floodplain.

Some residents protested the speed of cut through drivers hitting 40 and 50 mph and others said that low traffic made it safe to run, walk and bike on Ottawa.

And what about the animals that live on the proposed site? Where will they go? They said it would destroy the character of the neighborhood to build on this land. The Ottawa residents have fairly big lots and say this development will irreparably damage the area and gravely impact the wildlife.

In addition, residents said they already have cars cutting through their neighborhood to avoid traffic on the mile roads. Protesting the development, they circulated a petition and gathered many signatures opposing this development.

They also protested the loss of green spaces, There are some landmarked trees on the site that will have to be replaced; there also are many invasive species that need to be removed.

One protester said this area was not zoned for multi-family, but this is not a proposed multi-family development. Each unit will be a freestanding home that is owned by a person, and only the landscaping and private road will be cared for by a condominium association.

The approval passed 7-1. Residents, however, will have the chance to voice their concerns when this item comes before Troy City Council for its consideration.