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Developer proposes turning village complex into townhouses

The Oxford Village municipal complex could become the site of a townhouse development. (click for larger version)
July 10, 2013 - Right now, it's a place for Oxford Village residents to pay their water bills, attend government meetings and file police reports.

But it could become a place for people to hang their hats and live within a stone's throw of the downtown area.

Burton-Katzman, a real estate development company with offices in Bingham Farms, Michigan and Sarasota, Florida, submitted a proposal to purchase the village municipal complex (18-22 W. Burdick St.) and turn it into a residential development.

"An initial analysis leads to the belief that the property could be developed with 30 to 35 townhouses," wrote Charles M. DiMaggio, senior vice president of project development for Burton-Katzman, in a June 28 proposal.

DiMaggio estimated that such a development would have a value of $4 million to $5 million and generate between $80,000 and $100,000 in property taxes.

"We've got some market research that indicates that Oxford is going to continue to grow," he told this reporter.

As part of its proposal, Burton-Katzman offered to pay market value – as established by a mutually agreed upon appraisal process – for the property.

However, it was noted that no matter what the value was determined to be, the purchase price would not be less than $7,000 per approved residential unit.

So, if, for example, 30 townhouse units were ultimately approved for the site, the village would receive no less than $210,000.

DiMaggio indicated that Burton-Katzman likes this site because it's "on the edge of a very nice neighborhood" and "it's on the edge of downtown."

"(People) can walk out of their townhouse and be in the midst of a very nice downtown area," he said.

Burton-Katzman's offer was submitted in response to a request for proposals put out by the village following the November 2012 general election.

Village residents voted 921 to 675 to grant the municipality the authority to sell the complex and the 2 acres it sits on.

The vote doesn't mean the property must be sold, it just means to the village has permission to do so should officials decide to go that route.

The complex includes the village offices and council chambers, police station, community room, old fire station, old township hall and space currently leased to the Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department and Oxford Chamber of Commerce.

DiMaggio said if this project becomes a reality, the townhouses would be two-story structures and "most likely" condominiums.

"Although I wouldn't rule out rentals," he noted. "We have some indications there's a growing rental market there."

Turning the complex into a residential development fits in with the Downtown Vision Plan prepared in 2005 for the Oxford Downtown Development Authority.

That plan indicated how the village property could "accommodate approximately 40 townhouse condominiums."

"This type of development in that location would be more appropriate than the existing municipal building as it would add a residential use surrounded by existing residential structures," the vision plan stated.

The municipal property is currently zoned RM-2 multiple family residential (low density).

If the village were to sell the property to Burton-Katzman, it would have to find or build a new home for its offices. The plan would be to use the sale proceeds to pay for the new facility.

Some possible sites mentioned in Burton-Katzman's proposal were properties the village owns at 98 S. Glaspie St. and 32-38 E. Burdick St.; the Oxford Veterans Memorial Civic Center (28 N. Washington St.), which is owned by the township; and the privately-owned vacant property on the west side of M-24, north of Burdick St., between Sisters Hair Care and the Healthy Smile Center.

"We're prepared to move as quickly as the village can find alternate housing for their offices," DiMaggio said.

He noted his company would be happy to assist the village in its relocation process.

Councilwoman Sue Bossardet indicated she's open to exploring the proposal.

"I thought it was interesting, exciting," she said. "I'd like to hear more about it. I definitely think it's worth talking about."

That being said, should this project become a reality, Bossardet doesn't want to see the village offices moved somewhere off the beaten path such as 98 S. Glaspie St.

She believes the offices should remain visible and easily accessible. "I'm not in favor of moving the village offices outside of the downtown area or much farther than where they are now," Bossardet said.

Councilman Elgin Nichols said he'd "like to see all the information on (the proposal) first" before drawing any conclusions.

"I really don't have a complete opinion at this point," he said. "But personally, I'm kind of against selling the property."

He believes the current municipal complex's "aesthetic appeal fits in with the village."

"It's just a really nice-looking, old building," Nichols said. "It has a unique look to it. It is definitely old, but then so is Oxford."

He also likes the fact that the complex is close to the downtown area, so its accessible to the public. "I'd like to see the building remain where it's at," Nichols said.

However, should council ultimately decide to sell it, Nichols said, "I think condos would be a pretty good addition" because the occupants would have access to the downtown.

The impact on the area, such as increased vehicular traffic and the potential need for additional water/sewer infrastructure, would have to be carefully considered, he noted.

"I suspect all that could be handled, but it's all going to have a price to it," Nichols said. "You know me, I'm pretty tight when it comes to looking at the economics of things."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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