Ready for Spring? So is this Troy Builder

by CYNTHIA KMETT

In three public hearings for its preliminary site plan approval, things went well for Mondrian Homes, one of the city’s more prolific builders in the past decade.

The company has turned out to be the biggest purchaser of land offered for sale by the Troy School District and purchases by the company have contributed millions of dollars to help fund the new Early Learning Center presently under construction on the Niles Community site on Square Lake.

The Troy Planning Commission last week approved all three sites by a unanimous vote, with only Tom Krent absent. Protests, compared to many new developments, were modest.

The site plans have to win Troy City Council’s approval, because Mondrian used cluster zoning for these plans.

First up last week was West Troy Meadows, which is north of Wattles and west of Livernois in Section 16. Mondrian is proposing 35 homes here on 19.4 acres. The cluster development preserves 42% of the entire site as open space and further, preserves 8,067 inches of trees and a 5.4-acre wetland (there’s currently 6.1 acres of wetlands on the site).

This is seven homes less than originally proposed last July, although with all that land preservation, Mondrian could have built 42 homes.

Residents, as they often are, were concerned about the traffic on the street, which at 28 feet is narrower than new subdivision streets. However, if Mondrian just built what’s allowed with no cluster zoning, they can cut down every tree, provide no wetlands and bump their lots right up against the backyards of the neighbors without any buffer, which they get in the cluster design.

There had been some discussion about opening Virgilia Street to Wattles, but all the traffic engineers agreed that since Wattles is just two lanes, that wasn’t a good idea.

Since the land was for sale, already has residential zoning on it, and even if council were to deny the cluster zoning, the developer can, by right, build those 33 homes and cut down every tree, instead of protecting 561 regulated trees as this plan will.

Next on the agenda was Preserves of Troy, north of Square Lake Road, west of Dequindre and next to Evanswood Church. Here, Mondrian Homes was seeking preliminary site plan approval for a 23-unit cluster development on 6.1 acres of an 81.1-acre parcel. The cluster development preserves the remaining 75 acres of the site as a nature preserve as part of a land conservancy.

At first, the school district had considered not selling all that land with hopes of finding someone to keep it natural. Eventually, the district and Mondrian struck a deal and joined with the idea of donating the 75 acres to Six Rivers Land Conservatory, to manage it in perpetuity. Mondrian will build the conservancy a 16-space parking lot and the district and the developer will put up a $150,000 to get the project’s endowment started.

It was made very clear that this is not a park, there won’t be trails for bikes and ATVs, and they hope to do some research here.

Chris Bunch of Six Rivers told the planners that development would have been horrible for this land. They do plan, however, to try to rid the property of invasive species.

Mary Bogusch was concerned that a bridge built by an Eagle Scout might be destroyed. And, since Evanswood has sold some of the back of its property, could one still park in their lot and walk into the conservancy? Bunch said the last time they had an event there, it had kept an easement to the property. The city will check on that fact.

The third Mondrian development up for site plan approval is for Chadbury Place, south of Long Lake, between John R and Dequindre. There will be 16 homes on 5.22 acres. Already in place is R-1C zoning, so Mondrian can build here without any nice features.

However, of big concern to abutting residents was the fact that there’s a lake on this parcel, which was once a farm. They all seem to believe it is spring fed. The civil engineers of PEA say there was no lake here in 1940 aerial photographs of the land, and they believe the farmer added the lake to irrigate his crops. So, why is there water in the lake? The engineer said that is because it’s sitting on five feet of clay. The city will take a look at this one, too.

But now it’s on to city council for all three developments. For those who say there are no ranches in Troy, Mondrian has a ranch available in every development, including these three.