July 17, 2013 - By Meg Peters
Review Staff Writer
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a home—747 homes to be precise.
The demand to live in Orion Township is increasing, and thus so are homesteads.
Construction builders are getting out their shovels for five approved residential development sites in Orion Township, with another site in the preliminary application process.
The total amount of new residential units projected to be built in the township in the near future is 747, including houses, apartments, condos and duplexes.
"All of these areas that are being developed are privately owned, residentially zoned areas, and to me that's a really good sign that our economy is on the rebound," Chris Barnett, township supervisor, said.
There are some counties in Michigan that don't have half the number of new homes projected to be built in Orion Township in the coming months.
Two sites already have a model up for viewing.
Waterstone at Village Square, located at 3600 S. Baldwin Rd. between Great Lakes Athletic Club and Walgreens, is having their ribbon cutting this Friday, July 19, at 11 a.m., including a walk-through of a completely furnished model. Waterstone is zoned for 77 single-story, ranch style apartments.
They are handicapped accessible and have many of the same features as do condos, according to Amanda Cruse, the regional manager of Michigan Territory for Redwood Management Co. out of Ohio.
"I've got a majority of them pre-leased already," Cruse said. "It's been great, there's just nothing like this out there.
"Lake Orion and Orion Township in general are just gorgeous, and we love the shopping in the area, and the fact that all the schools are blue ribbon schools is an amazing aspect," she added.
The apartments run from $1300 to $1400 a month, and are being built up until December, with eight of their apartments being moved into starting Thursday, July 18.
Models are also open at Turnberry, a Pulte Homes development site off Indianwood Rd. located at 35 Greenan Lane. Many of the homes are built on the Indianwood Golf Course, with plans for 60 homes total, in the $300,000 to $400,000 price range.
The southeast corner of the township will experience the most growth, with 251 homes total. Directly south of Jesse Decker Park, Pulte Homes will be building 140 houses along Squirrel Road, and Hunter Pasteur 111 homes south of that. Both sites will comprise the Stonegate community, at the intersection of Dutton and Squirrel Road, with houses ranging from the low $300,000's to $400,000's. There will be a Pulte Homes model open later this year, in the beginning to middle of the fourth quarter.
Bob Halso, land manager for Pulte Homes, said there was a definite demand for new residential construction in Orion Township.
"Part of that is due to the I-75 employment corridor, the great access, and Orion's terrific natural features and one of the best school districts in the state," he said.
He said Orion was very desirable due to the quality of life here.
"If you look at a map it looks like Orion Township is all lake and park," he said. "Really everything south is already developed. There's not really a lot of new homes available south of Orion Township."
The final approved residential building site is Heron Springs with 162 apartments south of Silverbell Rd. and east of M-24. "The buildings will start as luxury apartments and slowly convert to condos as the economy picks up," Barnett said. Apartments will be home to a community center and a pool house, and priced between $1500 and $1600 a month.
Pulte Homes is also proposing a sixth site to the Orion Township Planning Commission: Orion Commons, south of Scripps Rd. and west of M-24, which has trustee and planning commission approval of their concept plan. One of the largest sites with 86 acres total, Pulte Homes is proposing 74 of those acres to be 100 single-family houses, and 94 duplex condos targeted for 'active-adults,' or husbands and wives looking to downsize after their last child has left for college.
The 12 remaining acres of Orion Commons are being proposed for commercial use along M-24, two acres for potential medical offices, and another section for general businesses like restaurants or banks.
"It's only a 250 foot wide strip that they are proposing for this general business section, the maximum type building could only be around 70 feet deep," Barnett said. There will be an additional public hearing for people to submit their comments before final approval of the multi-step process.
Once the developments are approved, it is up to the developers on how quickly the houses are built.
"Stonegate, which is a total of 251 homes, they could build that in two years, or it could take them six years, it's driven by the market," Barnett said.
The roads are all in, and the infrastructure will all be built, but the houses will be built more for purchase than speculation.
While some township residents are excited for the economic opportunity for businesses and schools and the widened tax base, some residents are concerned with increased traffic on Lapeer Road, and the fear Orion Township open space will turn into hills of subdivisions.
This is not the case, Barnett said.
"The concern of some people is they say I grew up here when Waldon Rd. and Clarkston Rd. were dirt roads, and that's what they love about Orion," he said. But, the only areas that can become developed into subdivisions are already zoned as residential, he continued, and the township cannot prohibit private owners from selling their open space to developers.
"Roughly 4,000 acres are parks and open space, with 27 lakes, and 45 miles of safety paths," he said. "Nearly 23 percent of our landmass is lakes and parks, and it will always remain that way," he said.
It is mainly up to the developers to market their homes.
"They are going to be marketing to bring people to our area, but also they'll be marketing to people currently living in our area that might want to move up into a new house," he said. "Maybe they want to move up and also keep their kids in our school district."
Then, the younger community can take those older houses, he continued.
"The positive side is more people help our schools, help our businesses, and we do have businesses looking to move to the south side where it's more industrial." He also said Orion Township is almost to the point where it is fully developed, with not much more room for residential development.
"I would put our community against any community in Oakland County as far as open space and lakes, that will always be here for Orion," he said.
A Charter Township of Orion Zoning map, listing residential, business, recreation, industrial zoning and more can be found on the Orion Township website, athttp://oriontownship.org/township/buildingdept/Forms/Zoning_Map.pdf.