Letter to the Editor: Blossom Ridge Site Planner Responds to Project's Concerns
Blossom Ridge landscape architect/site planner Donald Westphal outlines why he believes the senior residential development should go through as planned.
To whom it may concern,
For starters, understand that I am the Landscape Architect/Site Planner for the Blossom Ridge project. I am also the planner of more than 20 projects in Oakland Township and many more in the surrounding communities. I moved to the Township in 1968 and still reside in the township. In my forty plus years as a planner for many controversial projects from coast to coast I have learned that to be successful in the approval process one needs to understand the rules and abide by them. I have also learned that one’s master plan can survive challenges only if it is properly enacted, updated, and adhered to as a guide for growth. Following this principal has allowed the Oakland Township Master Plan to be a viable guide for the growth of the township.
The statement of facts that follow probably will not alter the opinion of those vested in the effort to defeat Blossom Ridge as proposed, but may shed some light for the benefit of those citizens with interest in the project and matters that affect the future of the township. Some facts:
- The Blossom Ridge site is designated in the master plan as a receptor for a senior living project. It is well situated closer to needed services than the other two similarly designated sites which currently do not have the necessary sewer and water services.
- After months of debate and hearings, it has received the necessary majority votes of the planning commission and the township Board to move forward in the approval process.
- Those in opposition to the project as presented choose not to include the full wording of the master plan and ordinance provisions that planners and board utilized to determine that Blossom Ridge meets the intent of the rules. First regarding density; the master plan states “three to five” but in addition states that “On a limited basis, higher densities may be considered where the effects of that density on natural features, infrastructure and surrounding properties can be mitigated. For example, a senior housing development may be considered if it can be demonstrated that impacts such as traffic, storm water runoff, community character and service demands would be consistent with that generated by a less intense development.” The proponents have shown to the satisfaction of the board’s majority that impact on the township would be less than that of a 61 single-family home development on the same site. In addition, the 46 additional units represents less than one quarter of one percent increase over the conservative build-out of the township of 20,000. Second, regarding the square footage of the units, this R-M Ordinance pertains to multi-family apartments and condos housing families, not senior residences on average housing only one person. Because the Township has no ordinance guiding senior housing, a PRRO agreement will be utilized. For example, a Rochester Hills ordinance regulating similar projects states that a one bedroom senior unit shall have a minimum of 400 square feet and two or more bedroom units, a 500 square foot minimum. Third, regarding the length of the Blossom Park Enhanced Residence building, the governing documents state that “in the approval of the PRRO agreement, the Township may authorize in its discretion and consistent with industry standards for the proposed use, exceptions to the underlying regulations, including height”. This exception would apply to the building length. In addition, service to seniors will be more consistent, efficient and of superior quality if located in one large building rather than broken up into several smaller buildings. Fourth, in regards to the height of the building, the aforementioned quote would apply. Additionally, the boards have been assured by the public service director that Blossom Ridge can be appropriately serviced by township fire and EMS services. It was stated that these services are supported by use fees on a call by call basis.
- The Developer has voluntarily offered a $1,000.00 per unit at certificate of occupancy donation to fund road improvements near Blossom Ridge. The Township and it’s governing documents only require the applicant to fund any road improvements suggested by the Oakland County Road Commission, of which no improvements where required.
- Much has been said about the Rural character of the township that we all treasure. One only needs to travel Adams Road north of Dutton, looking to the right and left, to realize that that portion of the township up to Gunn Road is not rural in appearance and in fact is the most developed portion of the township. That fact was assured when to stave off annexation by Orion Township, all available sewer taps were allocated to the southwest portion of the township.
Statements have been made that this proposal should be defeated in a fashion similar to a previous project by the Blossom Ridge developer. As properly stated by a board member, this project is not at all similar to the mixed use project requiring additional commercial zoning that was defeated by referendum. Suggestions that this project is commercial in nature and should be in a commercial zone go against all rational planning designations. It is clearly a senior residential development.
I am well aware of the passion that this project has generated, but am convinced that it meets all existing regulations and will be a benefit to existing and future residents of Oakland Township.
Donald C. Westphal, RLA, A.S.L.A.