BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Area residents voiced their displeasure at a proposed 67-acre development in Independence Township at a recent informal meeting.
“None of this benefits the community,” said township resident Shannon Tiller, who attended the Jan. 28 meeting at the Clarkston United Methodist Church. “Like we need another bank. We’re not Sterling Heights. Have you seen Sashabaw with all the strip malls? Unfortunately, this also means less and less green space. What happens to the wildlife and the animals?”
“Have these people driven on Walters Road at 6:45-7:30 a.m. on a school day, or 11 a.m. on a half day, or any evening there is a sporting event, a meeting, or other event at CHS,” asked fellow township resident Danielle McLean on Facebook. “This is nuts.”
Jim Eppink and Buzz Silverman of J Eppink Partners, a Clarkston-based development firm specializing in planning, landscape, and architecture, met with residents to lay out plans for a four-phase marketplace development including 280 apartments, 50 single-family homes, two restaurants with outdoor dining, fitness center, grocery store, bank, and movie theater.
The development would be situated north of Waldon Road across from Waldon Center Drive and Independence Township Hall, and east of Walters Road. The developers sent invitation letters to homeowners living within 300 feet of the property. More than 200 people attended.
“We’re working to see how good can we make this development and create a unique area that represents what is the character of Clarkston,” Eppink said. “Clarkston will grow but we need to grow responsibly. It is a neat opportunity for me to work in my hometown.”
“We had a huge turnout, probably more than anyone expected,” Tiller said. “This is also all over social media, which is a good thing. I’d say 85 percent of the people at the meeting were against this. This isn’t something we want here.”
Township resident Amy Rabideau agreed.
“God forbid any property around be left untouched,” she said on Facebook. “Wish developments were really and truly thought out completely. Soon, Sashabaw will be M-59 from Mound to I-94. I really pray that is not the case.”
“Where is the city going to get the money to widen Waldon and Walters roads and all the other infrastructure that will need to be fixed after the marketplace is built,” asked township resident Shaunna Legrow.
Increased tax revenue from the development would not offset the costs to the community, Legrow said.
“Personally, I have not spoken to a single resident, other than the potential investors, who are happy about this new development,” she said. “I do not see the benefits of cramming up the roads with commuters from other cities trying to get to the proposed movie theater. I also question whether some of the proposed businesses are meant to really be there or are just put on the plans so that the citizens can bargain them out in an effort to make us feel like we have some control of this situation.”
The land has not yet been purchased nor formal proposal submitted to Independence Township. However, the current property zoning is consistent with what is being proposed, said Supervisor Pat Kittle.
“Remember, at one time, a big box store (reportedly Walmart) was proposed that was defeated,” he said. “The township’s biggest concern is traffic logistics. Nothing has been run by the Planning Commission yet, and nothing has been approved at the township level.”
Independence Township met with developers for a pre-application conference. Developers who wish to create a planned unit development (PUD) usually start by bringing a conceptual plan to the township Planning Commission, said Brian Oppmann, Independence Township Planning and Zoning Manager.
Though not a formal meeting of the Planning Committee, minutes are kept and given to the developer with concerns and comments. The developer then tweaks the plan and brings it back to the planners for formal approval. All meetings are open to the public. The Independence Township webpage has a monthly calendar of Planning Commission and Township Board meetings, he said.
If the Planning Commission approves a developer’s PUD, the plan moves on to the Independence Township Board for formal hearing and ordinance reading. There would be two meetings of the Township Board to approve the PUD and Phase I of the proposed Waldon Road development.
Tiller said she heard a traffic study was conducted in the area, but it was done between Christmas and New Year’s, when school is not in session and traffic is down due to holiday travel.
Developers said a traffic study is currently being completed by the Oakland County Road Commission to determine the impact of traffic on the location.
Lagrow created a new Facebook page, “Independence Township For Better Development,” to follow this ongoing issue.
“I created the group because at the meeting, I learned only about 300 people were informed about the proposed development,” she said. “The developers only sent out letters to the immediate area surrounding the proposal. I wanted to create a place where everyone in Independence can stay up to date and hear the latest information instead of just the 300 because it affects every single one of us, especially those who use the Sashabaw I-75 ramps and the families with high schoolers.”
People are invited to post information on the Facebook page as they receive it so they are ready for meetings, she said.
Lagrow added she isn’t 100 percent sold on any of potential benefits of the project.
“Creating jobs may be a positive to this development but, no, I don’t really see this as a positive step for this community,” she said. “I have accepted it as inevitable, but I do appreciate the developers holding a meeting and saying they will work with the citizens to make this site the best that it can be.
“Someone at the meeting brought up making an I-75 exit off of Clintonville Road, which would inevitably make Pine Knob Road a main road instead of a residential one. I am extremely against this. The house I grew up on Pine Knob Road has been there for more than 150 years. I don’t think the community knows there is a lot of history in that small area. It’s not just the Village of Clarkston that is historical and Pine Knob Road near Clintonville should be preserved as such.”
The lead civil engineer for the project is Anderson, Eckstein and Westrick Inc., whose president, Steve Pangori, is the lead engineer. The parcel of land is proposed to be developed in four phases. Phase One would include 14 buildings with 280 apartments.
Continental Properties from Menomonee, Wisc., would the apartments near Waldon Road. It would be similar to the Springs at the Reserve in Wyoming Mich. (www.c.properties/springs-at-the-reserv.info), Eppink said.
“Ten percent are planned to be studio apartments, 10 percent three-bedroom units, 40 percent will be one bedroom units, and 40 percent two bedroom units,” he said.
Eric Ton, Continental Properties representative, said prices would range from $1,350 for the 600-square-foot studio apartments to $2,160 for the three-bedroom, 1,436-square-foot apartments. The apartment complex would have a pool, concierge kitchen, and clubhouse with front doors for all the lower level apartments, and be pet friendly.
Phase Two would include a business and retail area, including a high-end grocery, theater , restaurants, and other businesses, Silverman said.
Phase Three would have approximately 45 single-family homes, $350,000 each, in a residential setting with access off Walters Road. Phase Four is to be determined.
Silverman has been developing in the township since the 1990s and previously developed most of the land within one square mile of the township hall, including Waldon Pond condos, Pine Valley and Lake Waldon Woods subdivisions, and a commercial area on Sashabaw Road north of I-75, Oppman said.
In the 2020 Master Plan approved in 2006, the Waldon Road parcel was rezoned to multiple family, transitional use, retail, and commercial. The area is bounded on the south by Waldon Road, on the east almost to Sashabaw Road, north to I-75, just touching Flemings Lake Road, and on the west by Walters Road. There are some residential homes on Walters Road not included in the development.
Silverman sent invitation letters to homeowners living within 300 feet of the property. More than 200 people were in attendance at Clarkston United Methodist to hear the proposal.
Joette Kunse contributed to this report.