Planners Approve Site for Whispering Pines Sub

by CYNTHIA KMETT

Showing they’ll save 298 trees, put a collar of a 49-foot landscape buffer around the edges of the proposed Whispering Pines subdivision on a 18-acre site that Mondrian Properties bought from the Troy School District for $4.2 million, ha drastically cut back on the protests first heard when residents of East Long Lake Estates No. 2 learned the property had been sold to a developer.

Originally slated to be a Troy elementary school, the Board of Education had studied the issue for two years before putting several properties up for sale. Mondrian Properties first purchased the land basically in the middle of the Raintree subdivision. When Mondrian’s Joe Maniaci worked with the city to stop all the flooding caused by that subdivision’s old and none-to-clean detention pond, those residents were pleased that the city was about to help stop their yards from flooding and protests died.

But at Whispering Pines, which is west of John R and north of Long Lake, the land had been vacant for 50 years and residents wanted it to stay that way. They had even wanted the school district to sell it to them for a conservancy, but not for $4 million.

There is a resident protesting that the School Board lied to residents about why they wanted to sell the land, which was no longer needed for a school, and save the money. It was always stated, and noted to the public and in the press, that they wanted to build a separate building for all the district’s preschool programs, as they are using valuable space in some of our elementary schools. It was never a secret.

There seemed to be two other areas of concern for the residents, the animals that called the parcel home, and the five acres at the north that had EP (environmental protection) zoning on it. To the north of Whispering Pines is the “creek” (it’s actually part of the Gibson drain), which abuts Jaycee Park and the homeowners’ park in Golf Trail subdivision. But DEQ studies showed no regulated wetlands in the EP and no one was there from 1982 to say why EP was even on the land. Plus the new subdivision just barely cuts into that land, and the homes are hundreds of feet from the “creek.”

Maniaci was asking that the EP be rezoned to R-1C, which the rest of the site already had as its zoning. If denied, Mondrian Properties could build 40 homes and clear-cut the entire site and put houses just 25 feet from abutting lots. They can do that “by right” as they meet all city ordinances. As the protests were not as significant last week when first presented to the Planning Commission, some issues must have been resolved at a December meeting between Maniaci and the homeowners.

But by asking for conditional rezoning with the cluster option, Mondrian could build up to 62 homes as they’re leaving 31 percent of the site as open land.

Mondrian Properties is only proposing 50 homes.

About the animals. Residents had protested that they would be killed in traffic or perhaps starve at earlier hearings. This is just an educated guess, as I live in the same Section 11. The deer, especially, became regular visitors to Golf Trail when Kensington Church was built across Square Lake. As the School District owns 90 acres a bit east of Square Lake, the animals will probably just move there.

Planners wanted a little additional landscaping and perhaps a picnic table and benches for residents to enjoy in the open space. But this is conditional rezoning, not special use, and the planners cannot dictate to a developer, Assistant City Attorney Allen Motzny explained. However, it was noted that Maniaci is a man of his word and probably can be counted on for a picnic table or two. He even promised to plant new trees where residents had encroached on the site over the years.

The planners voted unanimously for the site plan and the rezoning of the EP area. This site plan also must be approved by Troy City Council.