by CYNTHIA KMETT
Two new site plans for homes have been approved by the Troy Planning Commission for the northeast quadrant of Troy. Both are basically off Square Lake. First is Meadowlark with just five sites basically behind Evanswood Church of God, and the second is Phase 3 of Oak Forest on the south side of Square Lake, west of John R.
Meadowlark is a fairly strange looking parcel at the moment. as there’s a 60-foot road right-of-way out to Square Lake on the 3.3-acre site. When the church wanted to raise a bit of funds by selling the back part of their lot, this parcel would have been landlocked without the future road to Square Lake. However, now two new streets of home have been added off Evanswood Road, Birdsong and Meadowlark, and that provides access to this site. The land that would have been needed for a road will now revert to the church.
As the developer explained to the Troy Planners, it is all at no cost. The new owners didn’t pay anything for the land needed for the road when they bought the parcel, and the contract indicates that if it’s not needed it reverts to the church and they get it back at no cost.
This land intended for a road will not be built on. It contains wetland and already some of the church parking lot, and it’s adjacent to the 90 acres of Troy School District property that is essentially wetlands. The district hopes to make that site a conservancy, and keep it green space. But just a couple of feet of the wetlands extends into Meadowlark and it will need DEQ (Department of Environmental Quality) approval to be used as a home site by the developer, Bismack Designs.
The five sites are pretty large with homes from 2,500 to 3,000 square feet, lots of trees will be saved and there are even bioswales for better drainage in the yards without the planners asking what are they going to do about drainage and using best practices.
Of course there are always questions, like who will keep up the bioswales? Well, the answer is always the homeowners association, and the point is made that such work will be in the homes’ deeds.
Planners, however, know that homeowners and their associations often fall behind in such maintenance, which can cause drainage problems down the line. While considering this subject, the topic of private roads came up. These are becoming a common part of cluster developments. The planners and the city know these roads are not built to the same standards as regular city subdivision roads of today.
The problem? The bioswales and the private roads need maintenance and money is almost never assessed and saved by the homeowners association for repairs down the road. In this subdivision as well as others in Troy the detention pond will be maintained by the city. As the city learned at Raintree, neighbors took care of the perimeter of the detention pond, but no money was ever spent on keeping it clean below the surface, and that had, indeed, created water problems for dozens of residents over the years.
This all prompted Planning Trustee Michael Hutson to suggest that perhaps the city needs a policy that if such things as private roads, drainage basins and bioswales are not maintained the city will come in and make them whole and assess the homeowners for such repairs on their tax bills. The group seemed to agree this was a good idea and believes the city staff should explore their options.
Meanwhile, at Oak Forest No 3, there were few problems. This will add 12 homes on seven acres. Questions on the project revolved around the Abbotsford entrance for emergency vehicle access in case a fire truck had to get to the site. The planners didn’t want to see this be the only way a fire truck could get to a home. It is not. There are already two other entrances to the complex of home and in the city’s offices are already plans for Oak Forest No. 4 and the emergency entrance will come down.
Both subdivisions will have homes from about $450,000 and up. You can even design a custom ranch if you would like one.
During both presentations, Planning Trustee Karen Crusse protested loudly that it would be nice if both of these parcels could just stay green spaces. That would be nice, but in the case of Oak Forest, Ladd Realty fought with the Oakland County Drain Commission for decades about who was responsible for wetlands on their property because the county had never cleaned their own drains. There was little chance after all those years Ladd’s wouldn’t want to build homes on property they had paid commercial taxes on for years.
The suggestion was made, however, that the city look into how Rochester Hills tries to save green space with their advisory board. It seems, according to Troy Planning Director Brent Savidant, that they find land they like and buy it from private owners. Where do they get the money? Millage designed for that purpose. Residents would have to approve such millage at the polls. We’ll see if such a suggestion comes up as the city council discusses green spaces over the next few months.