A joint work session between the city of Dexter and Scio Township regarding a 300 to 400 unit residential development proposed by Peters Building Company for the 240 acres formerly known as the Sloan-Kingsley property raised many questions earlier this week.
Correction: This story previously misstated that city of Dexter mayor Shawn Keough was in favor of a connection between the Dexter Crossing subdivision and the proposed development talked about in this article.
It also provided some direction, in that a report generated by an ad hoc committee formed in 2006 to study the development of those parcels into the now defunct Harvest Valley development could be used as a basis for future joint discussions between the municipalities.
The development will need water and sewer service either from the city’s established wells and wastewater treatment plant or from private wells and septic fields within the development, the latter of which is much less desirable to the developer since it reduces the maximum potential development density of the land due to necessitating that each unit lot be one acre in size.
As such, the two municipalities will either need to hammer out a Public Act 425 Agreement whereby the township retains some tax revenue over a period of time after which the land transitions to the city, or the city would have to begin the process of annexing the land from the township on the property owner’s behalf.
The land in question is situated just south of Dexter’s industrial park and the Dexter Crossing subdivision and north of the Jackson Road corridor on either side of Baker Road with the bulk of it on the side between Baker and Zeeb.
Peters Building Company owner Jim Haeussler invited the officials from the city and township to provide his company with feedback, as there is currently no official site plan for the development.
“We want to see if we can take it to the next steps … we have some information on water and sewer capacity, but obviously we’ll need more,” Haeussler said.
Tom Covert of Midwestern Consulting represented the developer during the work session and is operating as the company’s planner for the project.
“Our intention is to determine what the visions and goals are — what you would like us to work towards incorporating into the prject and what design elements you think would make it a desirable project,” Covert said to the assembled government representatives.
Covert cited market volatility as what caused Harvest Valley to whither on the vine, but the development also faced staunch public opposition for its density and the action of the village of Dexter annexing land from Scio.
Both Haeussler and Covert sized up the current market as favorable to their plans, which they intend to design to meet single-family and attached single-family home demand, which they characterized as being underserved by the remaining unoccupied housing stock in the Dexter real estate market.
Scio Township officials in attendance, although a different group of elected officials than those in place more than a decade ago, were mostly opposed to this level of development on their doorstep, not to mention going through a 425 agreement or losing land capacity to the city via annexation.
“I’m one person, but my perspective is we’ve got a lot of information here and there are a lot of questions … the macro question is land use,” said Township Supervisor Jack Knowles. “We have a relatively up-to-date master plan in place, and my perspective is I haven’t heard anything compelling (about) why we would want to change that.”
Officials from the township touted previously proposed plans to restore native plant habitat around a natural drain on the south side of the property, build a parking lot with soccer fields on the east side of Baker, and start a community farming operation on the north side of the property near industrial park resident Dextech, who would provide the water.
Without owning the property themselves, the township’s vision for the land is not plausible. Haeussler made that clear in pointing out that he and his partners now own the land, as opposed to having options on the land with a prospective seller whose transferral of ownership to the developer is based on a contingent agreement.
“The property (is now) owned by two professional entities that both live in town. Something will happen to it, because we own it, and something will happen,” Haeussler said. “Both municipalities have ordinances and rules and regulations which allow certain manners in which it can be developed, and we have to emphasize that — it’s an investment for us.”
Haeussler reiterated that he, his partner, and many of their employees live in the area, and as such this is an opportunity for the municipal entities involved to work collaboratively with a developer who calls the area home and is invested in it in a way that goes beyond the financial.
“We’re around here, we live here, I’m born and raised in Saline,” Haessler said.
Mayor Shawn Keough stated an interest in connectivity between the industrial park and Baker Road to divert some truck traffic away from school traffic on Dan Hoey and Baker Road north of Shield Road.
Scio Township Trustee Donna Palmer expressed a belief that this development will worsen traffic on Baker Road.
Dexter Councilman Zach Michels was the first official during the meeting to point out that the land will be developed one way or another. He urged those at the work session to look at this as an opportunity to engage in a regional planning effort to help shape this development into one that serves the needs of the area community as a whole.
“I hope to hear how this can be structured so the township can come out feeling happier — maybe there could be a motorized path connecting to Jackson or we could put in some wells there to provide some water to Jackson businesses on the north side, or property could be added to the township land preserve.”
Michels added that this could lead to adding more lots to the industrial park as further development, particularly in this case, would require upgrades to Dexter’s wastewater treatment plant and the creation of an additional well or wells.
City Councilman Jim Carson is the one who pulled the aforementioned ad hoc committee final report from his files to present to the work session attendees.
“Whether it’s developed under Scio Township ordinance or city of Dexter ordinance, it’s going to affect Dexter … we were at this some point in 2006 and (we) created what we called an ad hoc committee and a tremendous amount of work was done,” Carson said, explaining that several goals in the committee’s report completed report are still met by this new development proposal.
“Maybe the next step is to pull this out and sit down and both go through this document’s points.”
The joint work session concluded without the two parties designating a date for a subsequent work session.