Dexter PC Decide on New Condos in the Face of Public Opposition
The Dexter Planning Commission considered approval of a preliminary site plan for The Pelham condominiums at its November 6th
The Pelham is a residential development of two 4-story buildings, each with 14 condos, 40 underground parking spaces (20 for each building), and 16 surface parking spaces. The proposed site is the empty, triangular 1.57-acre lot across Mill Creek from the fire station.
Residents have voiced opposition and concerns over the condos, many speaking at an August 7th public hearing. A contingent spoke again during the commission’s public comments. Comments included:
“The population of Dexter (and) Washtenaw County is going down. The population of Michigan is going down. So, I’m not sure we need this many more houses.”
“We need to build homes for $150-$200,000 to attract people who can afford that...If you want to build a diverse community of inclusivity and equity, that’s how you do it.”
“Building on this area might have been something great in the past where you have a sports center or condos or something, but all these neighborhoods are going in high density. Everything else and the traffic is horrible.”
“My kid works for this city, and he can’t even afford to live in this town because there is nothing here. Nothing. My doctor, my chiropractor, who is making lots of good money, can’t afford to live here.”
“One of the main reasons I moved here with my family is because of the urban density that was happening all around me in Ann Arbor. I wanted some space for me and my kids…Putting these massive buildings in that space will destroy the creekside environment. And removing those trees, it will impact the park and all the trail system there in a negative way.”
Commissioner Jim Carty recognized the public concerns during the commission’s discussion. “A lot of the things that we heard tonight in public comment are very legitimate concerns and our true,” he said. “This city right now has a crisis of affordable housing.”
Carty went on to juxtapose those concerns with the responsibility of the planning commission. “You also have to understand the role of the planning commission is not to care what gets developed on a site. It’s to judge the projects that come to us, and we can only judge the projects that owners and developers bring in front of us. And if those projects fit the rules, in this case, the rules of a PUD, we have to approve them. That’s the law.”
In her report to the commission, Community Development Manager Michelle Aniol outlined the general criteria by which the commissioners were to judge the project. These requirements included:
- The project should not significantly increase the need for public services or put too much strain on the land, people living nearby, or the environment.
- The project should agree with the Master Plan and the goals of the local rules.
- The project should not drastically alter the area's current character.
- The plan should outline the steps and schedule of the project.
- One person or group should own or manage the project to ensure it is completed according to the rules.
Preceding Carty’s comments, city planners, engineers, and community development manager outlined how the proposed Pelham concept had evolved from its initial plans to comply with ordinances and public concerns. Changes include:
- The original plan of three 5-story buildings has been reduced to two-4-story buildings.
- Developers plan to extend the water lines from Alpine and Main to the project area and then make a complete loop by connecting back to the Eastridge and Island Lake Road water pipes.
- Both buildings have been moved further away from Mill Creek.
- The public space near Mill Creek will have more steps, handrails by the paths, a wider sidewalk that is now 10 feet wide connecting to Main Street, and two more benches.
- They plan to build walls to support the land by the train tracks and along parts of the sidewalk by the creek.
- The emergency vehicle lane at the back of the building has been made wider and will have collapsible posts.
- The landscape plan includes more plants and trees, with detailed plans for the creek's edge.
- They’ve reduced the number of parking spots from sixteen to thirteen.
More information can be found in the planning commission meeting packet.
“As a planning commissioner that has been on this commission for more than ten years, this project fits,” concluded Carty.
Wa Hubbard is the city council’s Ex Officio for the planning commission. She echoed Carty’s sentiments with an eye to the council’s discussion of The Pelham. “I am taking the same standard view,” said Hubbard. “These are legitimate concerns. And part of why I'm going to vote ‘yes,’ a big part of why, is because I want this to get to the council level discussion where we can have a different type of discussion about this than we can at this level.”
The commissioners voted unanimously to approve the plans, which now will be submitted to the city council for final approval.