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At its May 13th meeting the Dexter City Council voted to approve the final site plan for the Pelham Planned Unit Development to be located at 8180 Main Street, following the recommendation from the city’s Planning Commission. The approval came following a public hearing and council discussion that lasted more than two hours and grew heated before the vote. 

The final site plan shows that the Pelham PUD includes two, four-story buildings that will each house fourteen condominium units along with forty-three parking spaces. The development requires the city’s water main to be extended by almost six hundred feet. 

Several community members and interested parties provided comments during the public hearing portion of the agenda item, touching on various points of contention including increased traffic, increased density, and the potential loss of Dexter’s beloved small-town character.

One attendee referenced a letter sent to community members by a concerned citizen saying, “I really hope everybody took the time to read it. Reread it. We put a lot of thought into this. We started a petition, we have over 1000 signatures. That’s 1000 people that don’t want this and I guess my question to council is, is there anything that can be said to change this? Or are your minds made up?”

Another resident said, “Speaking of character, we have a provision that says that any new project will not diminish the essential character of the surrounding area…when I look across Mill Creek I see a natural habitat. That’s essentially a nature preserve. And to put two four-story condominium buildings in there and clear-cut foliage right down to the riverbank seems to be destroying the central character of the surrounding area rather than preserving it.”

Following the public hearing, applicant Joshua Bloom provided brief remarks to the council, praising the collaborative, back-and-forth process and reiterating that they have attempted to address the many concerns brought by the public throughout. “Some folks brought up tonight the issue of traffic and in your Carlisle Wortman report…which is also public knowledge and can be easily accessible on your website, it has been shown that the residential use of this property will actually produce the least amount of traffic addition to this area.”

Bloom also addressed the concerns related to changing the character of the surrounding Mill Creek area saying no one on their team took that lightly.  He said folks may not be aware of what the site’s current conditions are and what they will be with the project’s completion. “Later you will hear from our landscape architect who has an entire history and career with the redevelopment of and restoration of creeks and rivers in the state of Michigan and works closely with EGLE, the governing agency for Mill Creek. He has a complete restoration plan that has been reviewed by both planning and city council.” 

Following Bloom’s remarks was more than an hour and twenty minutes of in-depth questions from council members related to traffic patterns, building architecture, landscaping, and wastewater engineering, with the developer’s specialists addressing each question one by one. 

Prior to the vote, Councilmember Griffin read what seemed to be prepared remarks aimed at the public, related to her belief that most of Dexter’s council members don’t respond to public input. “Current council majority has and will continue to interpret our ordinances in ways that favor the developments they want, regardless of what the public says,” said Griffin. 

She continued, “The only thing that will stop the current trajectory of large format, high-density housing in our downtown–whether it be the Pelham, Mill Creek Flats, Millennium Place, whatever might end up at 3045 Broad Street…I mean, if you’re concerned about this, look at our website, send me an email, I’ll let you know what else is on the list–there’s more to come. The only thing that will stop that is a turnover in the majority composition of the council. The quickest way to do that is a recall election.”

Councilmember Wa-Louisa Hubbard attempted to interrupt Griffin’s remarks indicating political comments were inappropriate for the forum but Griffin continued, “I’m informing the public what their options are. They’re going to leave this meeting frustrated feeling like they don’t have an option. I just wanted to let them know that waiting for elections will be too late.” 

Griffin then turned to the public in attendance saying, “My job is to advocate for you. I can’t do it at this table–to get other people to agree with me–so I’m going to communicate directly with you. I have that right.”

Councilmember Sanam Aldag then responded to Griffin saying, “All of our jobs here are to advocate. Just because our opinions might be different, that doesn’t mean that I’m not advocating for people that I have conversations with. If you think you are the only one having conversations with people–and this is what you’re implying–you are eliminating the voices of all of those people in the city who might not have been speaking with you.”

With tensions rising, Mayor Shawn Keough called the vote.  The motion to approve passed 4-2 with Council Members Griffin and Michels voting no. 

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