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Orion Commons one step closer to development



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November 20, 2013 - By Meg Peters

Review Staff Writer

Developers of a new 86-acre home front at the southwest corner of Scripps and Lapeer are one step closer to approving their site.

Orion Commons will be built next summer if all goes accordingly. Consisting of 102 single-family lots, 88 attached duplex ranch-style condominiums, and a strip of speculative commercial business uses—either banks, restaurants or the likes— along Lapeer, homes will cost $300,000 to $400,000.

Residential units will be approved in phases. Developers requested and received approval of the residential portion Monday night at the board meeting.

Trustees approved the first reading for approval for Pulte Home's plans November 18 making it a Planned Unit Development (PUD) Agreement.

Plans were previously reviewed and approved with conditions by the Planning Commission October 16.

All conditions were met, apart from one which was discussed at length.

"The safety path on Scripps Rd., from the entry of our community on Scripps over to state land, doesn't lead anywhere, and to install it would require us to take down a lot of mature trees," Bob Halso said, representing Pulte Homes. "So we asked them to allow us to pay money in lieu of putting it in, into the safety path fund, and then the township could spend that money in other areas they could put in safety paths to be useful," he said.

Their goal is to put sidewalks on both sides of the public roads, which the township will have to approve after liability and associated costs are assessed.

Pulte Homes is designing the residential housing for Orion Commons, not too dissimilar from the Pulte community across the street on the north side of Scripps Rd. Lormax Stern-Kirko will be designing the commercial properties along Lapeer to be brought for consideration later on.

Pulte Homes is following recommendations by a traffic engineer with their designs.

"We're installing a new right-hand turn lane to make a right turn onto M-24 from Scripps," Halso said.

"We're designing this community and the improvements on Scripps to make it traffic neutral, and we're actually required to do that, meaning we won't be adding anymore congestion to the area. We'll actually, hopefully, be improving the flow. The major hang-up is the Scripps Rd. crossing M-24 heading eastbound, and hopefully adding that eastbound lane will make that a little bit better, even with our new homeowners living there," Halso said.

Pulte is committing $100,000 in improvements to Lapeer Rd. to include a traffic light at the main entrance of Orion Commons. A 100-foot portion of Scripps Rd. will also be paved to smooth out the transition onto the dirt road.

The next step is expected to be final approval by the township board on December 16 during the second reading. Developers can then submit for all of their permits to be able to build by the summer of 2014.

"We've been building homes in Orion Township for 25 years, so we have a pretty good sense of what they want and where they want it, so we feel pretty good that there will be a good market for it," Halso said.

Orion Township Supervisor Chris Barnett thanked the developers for keeping the community in mind and weighing in on their opinions.

Both Pulte Homes and Lormax Stern-Kirko are bound to other conditions for Orion Commons.

Development of homes must be consistent with those in the area; the natural environment must be protected by complying with wetland protection ordinances. A detailed description for landscaping along with floor plans and elevations of buildings must be submitted. The commercial section must be in compliance with MDOT's sight visibility and design criteria.

Citizens have a chance to give public input at the December 16 meeting during public comment.

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