More than 80 residents showed up to speak or hear about the project, taking public comment into a marathon session at Tuesday's Oakland Township Board of Trustees meeting.
The vast majority of residents who spoke opposed the proposed 282-unit senior living community that would provide assisted (and age-restricted) care in a variety of dwellings at the northwest corner of Adams and Dutton roads.
, the company behind the project, needs approval for the 42-acre plot of land to be rezoned from Medium Residential Density (MRD) to Multiple Family Residential Density with Planned Residential Rezoning Overlay (RM-PRRO) in order to build Blossom Ridge.
The after nine months before the Planning Commission. The commission's approval came with the conditions of providing clear age restrictions and stipulations that Moceri must preserve the property's natural resources. The fate of the project now lies in the hands of the Oakland Township Board of Trustees, which held a public hearing for the proposal Tuesday night.
The board will deliberate the proposal in upcoming meetings to decide what, if anything, needs to be amended before ultimately deciding the fate of Moceri Development's rezoning request.
Concerns and support voiced by residents
Dominic Moceri, head of finance and development for Moceri Development, and his team started the hearing with an hourlong presentation. The presentation focused on responding to previous concerns brought up during Planning Commission meetings, and the measures the company has taken to comply with them.
Following Moceri's presentation, residents were allowed three minutes apiece to voice their opinions on the project. About 25 residents spoke, with some having the opportunity to speak twice. There was a clear split over the proposal, but people on both sides of the issue agreed the hearing was constructive and completed in a civilized manner.
The largest contingent of residents opposing the project objected because of traffic concerns. Many acknowledged Oakland Township's need for a senior living community (which it is currently without), but disagreed with the size and/or location of Blossom Ridge.
"I personally do not, and the group I'm a part of (Residents for Responsible Growth in Oakland Township) do not, object to a senior center. We object to the density. We do not believe it's been mitigated, or that it complies with the master plan," Oakland Township resident Bob Sirna said.
"Moceri does excellent work, I've lived in one of his houses. I could see myself living in this (Blossom Ridge) if it was done correctly. It is too large, it is too dense, and it is out of character," Sirna said.
Density, character of project criticized
The seven-unit-per-acre density of Blossom Ridge is higher than is outlined in Oakland Township's master plan, which permits residential developments a limit of three to five units per acre. Higher densities are eligible if the proper provisions are taken to reduce impact on the character and if they do not overly infringe on the township's other standards.
However, many residents argued during Planning Commission meetings and did so again at Tuesday's public hearing that the senior living community will not blend in with the character of Oakland Township.
“The culture that they’re putting in at Blossom Ridge is not our culture,” Oakland Township resident Dick Fennell said.
"Money, time, resources and energy have been spent to modify a concept where it simply doesn’t belong."
Bringing more seniors into township
Planning Commission Chairman James Carter spoke at Tuesday's three-hour-plus meeting about the value of bringing more senior citizens into Oakland Township. He said senior citizens would not only be a welcomed addition to the community, but a valuable one.
"Senior citizens bring intelligence, experience and they have the time and willingness to serve in their community," Carter said.
Many of the residents who were not sold on the Planning Commission's decision regarding Blossom Ridge urged the board to consider the senior living center as a business instead of the residential property as it is defined. Residents pointed out that the additions to the township population would require additional public services, such as adding a post office or fire department, and could require future tax millages to compensate for the increase in services.
Other residents expressed concerns about the units only being available as rentals. However, the proposal does not indicate whether units will be sold or rented, and is not required to do so.
Moceri responds to residents' concerns
Following 80 minutes of public comments, Moceri responded to citizen's questions and concerns by addressing many of the speakers personally.
For example, Oakland Township resident Paul Knauss asked if the 48 percent of open space in the Blossom Ridge proposal included things such as parking lots. Moceri took the time to assure Knauss the 48 percent excludes front yards, roads, parking lots and shrubbery.
In response to increased traffic, he reminded residents of the two traffic studies already conducted -- one at his expense, another financed by the Planning Commission. Residents at the public hearing questioned whether all hours of the day were accounted for and if school was in session during the studies.
Moceri responded by noting the traffic studies were conducted by two different companies () at different times of the year and measured at an hourly basis.
Some residents felt the statistics used by Moceri were skewed to support his personal interests. Moceri responded to these remarks, saying they were not true.
"The findings of the traffic studies are facts. SEMCOG conducted the traffic study in a complete manner, taken at all different times of the year on an hourly basis," Moceri said.
A study showed that traffic would be less of a burden during peak hours for the proposed Blossom Ridge project, in comparison to the 61-unit single family homes the property is currently zoned for. However the total amount of trips would increase.
Moceri cited examples of provisions taken, including the modification of the design to set buildings further back, as well as the addition of landscaping and a berm to reduce visibility from major roadways.
“At the end of our discussions, the planning commission found the proposal is fully consistent with, and in many ways exceeds, the local industry standards,” said Don Westphal, a representative for Moceri.
In other business, the trustees approved by a 6-1 vote a proposed budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, to take effect April 1.
Revisions can be made to the budget if the proposed millage on November's ballot fails to pass, but extra money has been tentatively allotted to create an administrator position at Cranberry Lake Farm.
The next scheduled Oakland Township Board of Trustees meeting is March 27, but Blossom Ridge is more likely to be on the agenda on April 10. For more Blossom Ridge coverage, click here.