Thursday, February 10, 2022

Commissioners table Northville Downs project

Artist's rendering of Northville Downs project 
Members of the City of Northville Planning Commission will hear more about the updated site plan for the Northville Downs property at a meeting Feb. 15 despite objections from the developer.

Commission Chair Donna Tinberg told those in attendance at the meeting that a vote on the site plan for the 48-acre Northville Downs property would have to be tabled due to time constraints at the Senior Center where the meeting took place. Her announcement prompted a strong response from Hunter Pasteur CEO Randy Wertheimer who suggested that his company would pay any extra fees incurred at the Senior Center to move the meeting to a vote. Tinberg explained that the commission was allocated the space until 10:30 p.m. and the 3 ½ hour meeting had nearly exceeded that time.

“Our team has put too much energy and too much time into this to have it end with a curfew and no vote,” Wertheimer said. “This is an unacceptable outcome tonight. If we have to stay an extra 10 to 15 minutes, we'll pay the overtime to the staff. To have no vote at all is absolutely unacceptable. I can't tell you how disappointed I am.”

Tinberg countered by saying a vote would not be possible because there was not enough time for further discussion. She requested a motion to table the discussion until the Feb. 15 meeting which was approved by a 6-3 vote. A motion for adjournment followed and was approved by the same 6-3 vote. 

During the meeting, commissioners heard an initial report from Planning Consultant Sally Elmiger, along with presentations from Wertheimer and Hunter Pasteur associate Seth Herkowicz.

Elmiger reminded the commissioners their job was to ensure that the site plan presented by the developer was “generally complete” prior to scheduling a public hearing on the plan. She outlined six issues of the plan in need of review. Elmiger noted several deviations from the zoning ordinance including narrower setbacks and taller building heights for some of the town homes - but suggested that these deviations create a desirable site design, based on the recent Master Plan discussions. 

Wertheimer told the commissioners that the project as designed was not only the “best in Michigan” but also one of “the most tremendous plans in the United States.” Herkowicz focused on four aspects of the plan: 1) revisions to the plan presented for PUD eligibility, 2) geo-technical aspects, including daylighting the river, 3) funding public benefits and 4) review of consultant Dan Burden's analysis of site walkability.

The developer noted the cost of the Northville Downs project is projected to be $225 million. Within four years of finishing the first home in 2024, the city could realize $2.1 million in tax revenue, based on data provided by the developer and evaluated by the city finance director and assessor. 

Plan changes included 474 residential units (of all types) rather than 481 with 19 fewer town homes, 17 fewer single-family homes, the addition of 26 carriage homes, attached 1-1/2 story condos with front-facing garages, closer to Seven Mile, and three additional row houses. The number of condos and apartments within two separate large buildings fronting Cady Street would stay the same. Single-family home sites would vary in lot width from 52 feet wide to 73 feet wide and lot depth would be 120 to 132 feet. Town homes would be repositioned along Center Street and have peaked roofs near neighborhood homes and flat roofs along Beal Street. - to blend in with the multi-family properties there. The setback along Center Street has been adjusted to 15 to 17 feet to be consistent with the primary “entryway” character of the street and the Master Plan. 

Commercial space in this project available for rent to tenants is proposed at just over 12,000 feet, with an additional 4,000 feet for residential lobbies and leasing office. A consultant hired by the Downtown Development Authority advised that Cady Street can accommodate up to 50,000 feet of commercial space.