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| 2 min read | by Sean Dalton |

Wolf Farm planner Bill Anderson of the Atwell Group talks about the proposed development at the Sept. 23 Lima Township Planning Commission meeting.

The Lima Township Planning Commission has stayed its hand in approving the Wolf Farms mixed use property development for Township Board approval pending a review of the developer’s proposed plan by the Chelsea City Council.

In response, the Chelsea City Council unanimously approved the first of multiple public hearings to discuss Wolf Farms starting with a public hearing to be held at the first meeting of the new year on January 6 at 6 p.m. prior to that evening’s regular meeting.

Wolf Farms has been making the rounds of meetings involving Chelsea and Lima for three-and-a-half years now, with several of those meetings being joint working sessions between the two municipal governments which ultimately must reach consensus on the development.

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While the land upon which Wolf Farms would be built if approved is currently under the authority of the township, ultimately Chelsea would acquire it either through annexation or a Public Act 425 agreement whereby the two municipalities would share the tax revenues from the developed property for a period of time, after which the land and development would become part of Chelsea. This is the case because Lima has no ability to provide water or sewer service to the development and municipalities who do don’t typically provide those services to clients outside of their jurisdiction as a matter of policy.

The Wolf Farms plan as presented to council on December 16 is “nothing new” according to City Manager John Hanifan, who gave a backgrounder on the development before council voted to have the first public hearing.

Developer David Wolf of Fremont Group added a “Public Benefits Summary” to the submitted development documents. 

The summary clearly outlines the five steps of the phased development plan, which involves the construction of a medical office building on the western edge of the development on Freer Road with parking, road access, and utilities infrastructure.

The phasing summary projects a construction start date of Spring 2020, but the document specified site plan approval targeted for Fall 2019 as being the basis for that projection, so an actual construction start time is currently unclear given the city council’s desire to hold more multiple public hearings on the topic beyond the one currently scheduled.

Upon starting the second phase, the first 46 of a total of 173 residential living units would be built in the form of townhomes, along with the second medical office building. That was projected for a Fall 2020 site plan approval date and Spring 2021 construction start time.

The next three phases follow the same yearly increment for construction start times. Phase 3 would see 52 residential units built as townhomes and attached ranch single-family dwellings; while phase 4 would see 48 attached ranch single-family homes built, and phase 5 would bring the final 27 residential units also in the form of solely attached ranch single-family homes.

Despite the fact that the Wolf Farms development had been pared down from 208 housing units as originally proposed in response to feedback on a traffic impact student that had raised some local concerns, Mayor Melissa Johnson said she would personally like to look at the traffic topic in more detail, among other issues.

She asked city staff to pull all of the city’s material on future land use for the affected parcels from both the city and township’s perspectives so the council could consider whether Wolf Farms is “consistent” with local planning.

Johnson also indicated that she would like to look at Wolf Farms not in isolation, but as one of many other local developments that all have a collective and cumulative impact on local infrastructure and quality of life. Those other developments include the Rockwell Building, Federal Screw Works, as well as the 330 housing units from Westchester Farms and 120 units from Chelsea Springs.

“I think we also have to think about how much will all of those units compete with existing and future units,” Johnson said, adding that she would like to consider whether the medical office buildings are necessary given existing similar commercial properties that could be or are serving similar purposes in the area.

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