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396-unit residential development in the works

October 16, 2013 - It appears the largest residential development Oxford's seen in years could be built in the township.

Last week, township planning commissioners discussed Burton-Katzman's proposal to build up to 396 apartments and condominiums on a 56.38-acre parcel located east of M-24, south of Ray Rd., west of N. Oxford Rd. and north of the village limits.

The proposed development, which would be part of Waterstone, was unveiled during a pre-application conference, a nonbinding discussion between officials and applicants.

No approvals were sought or given.

"Hopefully, we can move some dirt next summer," said Charles DiMaggio, senior vice president of project development for Burton-Katzman.

The Bingham Farms-based real estate developer is looking to build 240 apartments (12 buildings containing 20 units each) and a maximum of 156 condominiums (26 buildings containing six units each) in two phases on a site that's located west and south of Oxford High School and east of the Boulder Pointe golf course.

Phase I would consist of 200 units, while Phase II would involve 196 units.

No special land use approval or zoning changes would be required for this proposed development.

"It's zoned multiple family and we're proposing multiple family," DiMaggio said.

Besides providing additional property tax revenue, the proposed development would also benefit the township by generating $831,600 in sewer connection fees and $1.44 million in water system connection fees.

The proposed apartments would range in size from approximately 800 square feet with one bedroom to about 1,200 square feet with three bedrooms. Burton-Katzman built these same types of units in Brownstown Township in Wayne County.

"It's a very nice product," DiMaggio said. "It's vacancy rate right now in Brownstown is almost zero and has been for the last four to five years."

"It does very well and we think it will do very well here in Oxford," he added.

DiMaggio indicated market studies show there's a need for more rental properties in Oxford. Commissioner Jack Curtis agreed. He explained that recent studies have shown there's currently a waiting list for apartments in Oxford. "Apartments are needed in this town," he said.

As for the condos, DiMaggio said they will "provide tremendous exposure to the golf course."

"The owners of these units will be able to enjoy those views," he said.

Although Burton-Katzman is looking at constructing six condos per building, DiMaggio said it could be lowered to five units each.

Located between the apartments and condominiums would be a clubhouse that includes a pool. This would be for residents of both types of units.

There would be a third phase to this development, but at this point, Burton-Katzman is uncertain what form that would take, according to DiMaggio.

"We're not quite sure what will go there," he said. "I think we're going to let the market dictate that as we move forward."

DiMaggio said the third phase could be apartments, condominiums or even single family homes. Given the topography and woodlands involved with the area where the third phase would be built, whatever goes there must be done in "a sensitive way," he noted.

The topic that garnered the most discussion was whether the development should have a road connecting it to N. Oxford Rd.

The plan presented to commissioners showed E. Market St., which connects to M-24, as the only road leading in and out of the development. The only connection to N. Oxford Rd. depicted on the plan was for emergency use only and wouldn't be constructed until Phase III.

Commissioner Kallie Roesner raised the issue and called it a "big problem." She explained how a previous residential plan for this 56-acre site called for connections to both M-24 and N. Oxford Rd.

She believes the current proposal should have two connections as well. "For me, that's a real sticking point," Roesner said. "That road should go all the way through."

That proposed development was known as Terraces at Waterstone. Approved in 2005, the site plan called for 424 condominiums and townhouses. The project never got off the ground due to the poor economy at the time. In 2007, the developer was denied a second extension of its site plan approval and the property went into foreclosure in July 2011.

Roesner stated her strong opposition to residential developments where the "NIMBY principle" is exercised by not wanting or allowing through-traffic on subdivision roads. NIMBY stands for Not in My Backyard.

"That's not how it works," she said. "We all share the roads."

It doesn't make sense to Roesner to funnel all of the additional traffic this proposed 396-unit development could generate onto the already "gridlocked" M-24. It especially doesn't make sense to her to send people onto busy M-24 if they want to go to Oxford High School or get on Lakeville Rd., both of which are easily accessible from N. Oxford Rd.

"I don't need anyone going back to M-24 if they don't have to," she said. "It's already bad enough."

A design that forces drivers onto M-24 is "just poor planning," in Roesner's opinion.

Based on her experience, Roesner said whenever there's a large development with frontage on two roads, the planning commission always requires it to have connections to both. If there's frontage on only one road, she said they normally require the subdivision road to loop around so it has access points to the main road in two locations.

"We don't like a development that has one entrance," she said.

Commission Chairman Todd Bell is "not sold" on the idea of having a road that connects M-24 and N. Oxford Rd.

He's concerned about the safety factor.

"The high school kids are going to use this road," Bell said. "They're not going to drive 25 miles per hour."

Bell noted one of the reasons the planning commission required Terraces to have access to N. Oxford Rd. was that Ray Rd. was not paved at that time. It was paved in 2010.

After listening to planning commissioners' comments, DiMaggio said Burton-Katzman will submit a plan that shows a road connecting to N. Oxford Rd.

"From our point of view, the cut-through traffic can be a problem," he said. "On the other hand, there could be ways of handling that where folks from our subdivision who need to go out that way can do that."

"We just don't want to develop another thoroughfare there that's going to take a lot of traffic through this subdivision," DiMaggio noted.

DiMaggio told the planning commission that Burton-Katzman will "definitely" have a traffic study conducted.

Exactly when that connecting road would be built is an issue to him. DiMaggio was concerned about spending a significant amount of money up front to build it during Phase I.

Bell understood DiMaggio's point.

"You can't expect them to put in 6 miles of road and have two homes up for sale," he said.

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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