By Angelo Parlove
With a divided vote, the Saline planning commission will recommend to city council a zoning change on North Ann Arbor Street that would allow a potential condominium development to come to the area.
The planning commission voted 5-3 to approve the zoning amendment change of 911 North Ann Arbor Street from professional business to multi-family residential at its Nov. 9 meeting, leading the way for what looks like a four building, sixteen unit residential development on the vacant 2.51 acre parcel on the northwest corner of North Ann Arbor Street and Saline Waterworks Road.
The city council must now approve the rezoning change for it to become official.
Saline Mayor Brian Marl, who sits on the planning commission, supports the zoning change, citing the saturated market for professional office development in the county as one reason. “If this remains zoned for professional business, it’s likely to languish for many years to come,” Marl said. “The local market, this goes beyond the City of Saline, but Washtenaw County, is saturated.”
However, Saline resident Jack Simms, who lives on North Ann Arbor Street, is concerned about the traffic a multi-family residential development will bring to the area.
“I understand the need for housing, I understand the need for development,” Simms told the planning commission during the public hearing on the rezoning on Nov. 9. “We on North Ann Arbor already live on a main street. We already deal with that, we like our homes, but we do have that burden.”
Planning commission member Steven Diebol believes the traffic impact on the area from such a development would not be an issue. Diebol estimates the impact would be about 45 trips per peak hour. “On that scale for this proximity to the busy intersection, I wouldn’t think the impact of 45 trips on peak hour would be too significant,” he said.
Gary Roubal, the city superintendent and engineer, also does not see traffic as an issue on North Ann Arbor Street or Saline Waterworks Road. “Both of these roads are designed for handling the high volume of traffic, and we just don’t have that high volume at this time,” he said.
Simms is further concerned a multi-family residential development will be detrimental to the small town look and country feel of the area. “I am unequivocally against the rezoning,” Simms said. “I am unequivocally telling you it will make traffic more difficult, will make the looks worse. I respectfully submit for the rest of us it will be more trouble than its worth.”
However, Marl disagrees with Simms’ assessment on the the impact such a development would have on the feel of North Ann Arbor Street as compared to an office building suited for the current zoning. “If by some miracle it were to be purchased and developed for a commercial enterprise, there’s no doubt in my mind that would have more of an impact on the community, the feel and the look of the area, than a residential multi-family development,” Marl said.
Danny Veri of Livonia Builders seeks the rezoning in order to bring the condominium project to Saline, in which the proposed development would be smaller, ranch-style units that would then be rented to retired people and small families.
“We have rental properties throughout this general area, and there is a tremendous need for this product in every community. As you know, population is getting older, and there is very, very few ranch style communities for rent versus for sale,” Veri said. “When we saw this piece we realized that the office market in every community, not just here, is pretty saturated and there’s a lot vacancies, so the discussion started, and we thought this would be a really good fit for the community.”