Aimee Bingham Osinski email@example.com
The Dexter Planning Commission met Tuesday Sept 3rd to a packed house. While a final site plan for 2218 Bishop Circle East was reviewed, the issue of the night was the Hilltop View Apartment Planned Unit Development (PUD) Preliminary Site Plan Review (PSP). To state it simply, The Planning Commission needed to vote to recommend the project move forward or not and what issues would need to be addressed before it would be given a green light. In order to do so, a multitude of details needed examination and the public was provided the opportunity to address their feelings on the issue.
The first major hurdle for Avalon Housing Inc, was whether or not the proposed property should be rezoned. As it stands in the current masterplan, the property is zoned research and development ie light industrial. That said, a new draft masterplan has been established and congruent with the law, is under review. The new masterplan identifies the property as being better suited for village commercial, or live, work, office, and multifamily, as it has no access to Bishop Circle. Other issues included project density, number of parking spaces, and whether or not a second exit needed to comply with fire lane standards.
Once the definitions were explained and laws, codes identified, and potential problems highlighted, the Fair Housing Act, was very clearly stated, including that it is illegal to say no to a development if it meets land use requirements because of neighbors fears about the potential tenants or surrounding property value. Karl Fink, board member of Faith In Action addressed the commission, giving the project background. Faith In Action, has served Chelsea and Dexter since 1980 and opened a food pantry in Dexter in 2008. The pantry has struggled to find a suitable place, moving at least four times, and FIA wanted to build a permanent home. The idea for Hilltop View sprung from that need. Representatives from Avalon Housing also spoke and addressed issues, including a dead end water main, which they are resolving.
The public hearing began at 8:40 with Ryan Bruder, principal of Beacon Elementary, urging the planning commision to support the project. He discussed losing students each year because Dexter families struggle to find affordable housing. He also discussed his prior work in Ann Arbor Public Schools, where he worked directly with families in another Avalon project and how successful it was. Jamie Griffin (I did not have the opportunity to get the spelling of her name.) then addressed the commission voicing opposition. She provided the commission with a petition signed by over 100 residents also opposed to the project. While she stated she supports affordable housing, she does not believe the project is properly defined as such, citing that most of the units are designated supported housing. Nine units are affordable units while 15 are supported housing. Her assertion was that an undue burden would be placed on Dexter for the county’s chronically homeless. Amanda Carlisle, Executive Director of Washtenaw Housing Alliance then spoke. She asserted that homelessness in suburban and rural areas does not look like urban homelessness. Many people stay on the couches of family and friends rather than living on the actual streets. She also explained that supported housing is affordable housing, but provides resources for at risk residents including access to health care and other services for those suffering from disabilities. Several others spoke to the need of affordable housing in Dexter, including an elderly woman who asserted people her age needed housing and a father who moved to Dexter because it was affordable, but if he had to move now, he wouldn’t be able to stay in the community.
The night ended with follow up questions and clarification from the commission and it was determined that the commission would move forward to vote with specific conditions added. Those conditions included design. The commission felt in order to meet Dexter’s standards the quality and design of the plan needed improvement. The commission also requested a landscape architect be hired to improve the green spaces and wanted tree credit to be given only to high value, noninvasive species. The final vote to recommend passed. The only no vote came from Kyle Marsh. This means, the planning commission will recommend the project move forward, providing conditions are met, to the City Council. However, this is just one step in a long process before the project will begin.