It’s on to the next planning phase for , which received approval from the Oakland Township Planning Commission Tuesday to move forward with the .
After months of deliberating on the project, emotions were high at the meeting and was packed once again. Nearly four hours after the item was brought up at the meeting, planning commissioners were ready to make a motion, which resulted in a 5-2 approval of the Blossom Ridge senior-living community project to the Board of Trustees. Commissioner Roger Shultze and Secretary Janine Saputo were the two members that voted against the motion.
The 282-unit senior living community has been a hot topic since summer at Planning Commission meetings because of the location and size of the project. As proposed Blossom Ridge will be located at the northwest corner of Adams and Dutton Roads and will sit on 42 acres of land. Moceri Development needs approval for the 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.
Understanding the commission’s role
Members of the Planning Commission discussed at length where their authority lies and what basis they have to recommend approval of the process.
Planning Commission Chairman James Carter pointed out to attendees that tabling the issue is up to the applicant, and that the Planning Commission could only make a motion based on the current master plan and ordinances. Commissioner Marc Edwards also pointed out to other members of the commission and attendees that the decision couldn’t be subjective but instead had to be based on facts.
“We’ve got to keep our personal opinions out of this,” Edwards said. “We knew it would be emotional, we knew it would be long; we’ve got to stick to our course and stick to the ordinances.”
Traffic, an issue that has repeatedly been brought up at past meetings, was once again under the magnifying glass Tuesday, but Edwards pointed out that traffic comes with growth. He continued by addressing statistics, which show in comparison to the 61 single-family dwellings that could scatter the property under its current zoning, the proposal would increase daily traffic by less than 1 percent.
“In 20 years, I have never seen a development rejected because of traffic. Much to my dismay, I would not have had The Hills of Oakland if that were the case,” Edwards said of the subdivision.
After ticking through special land use and zoning requirements, as well as relevant portions of the Master Plan, members, aside from Shultze and Saputo, seemed satisfied that Blossom Ridge met, and even exceeded, the requirements. The plot of land envisioned for Blossom Ridge is one of the three sites deemed appropriate in the master plan for a senior living community, which is a fact that many commissioners kept coming back to.
The approval was noted with just a few conditions, including that clear age restrictions for the dwellings be outlined and that there be an emphasis on the preservation of natural resources on the property.
Weighing in on the proposal
About 10 members of the community stepped up to the podium at the meeting, all addressing concerns about the project. Bob Sirna, member of the group did acknowledge that the group he represents is not against a senior living community, and that in fact the group endorses one. However, Sirna said, the density of the project is too large and not in character with Oakland Township. The density was one of Saputo’s concerns as well.
“Many of us residents do not object to a senior development; in fact we embrace it … we embrace the whole concept,” Sirna said. “We ask you to step back and look at the bigger picture. What is the best interest of a senior center … what is good for Oakland Township?”
Resident Craig Blust addressed his concerns that recommending approval of the property would set precedent for the other two locations that the Master Plan deems adequate for a high-density, senior-living facility. Township Attorney Steve Joppich jumped in and assured that since the sites are very different, there would still be a number of reasons to decline a similar project in the future.
Dominic Moceri pointed out a number of facts about the growing population of seniors living in Oakland Township, shining a light on the need for a senior living community. When Saputo questioned the density of the project and said she would feel more comfortable with a project with three to five dwelling units per acre, as stated in the master plan, Moceri told her she was blinded by the density.
“You’re blinded with the density, the impact is less,” Moceri said, comparing to the 61 homes that could be developed on the property. “193 units (instead of 282) will not work, absolutely not.”