By Matt Mackinder
Clarkston News Editor
The Waldon Village II development at Waldon and Walters roads had the first reading to a minor amendment narrowly approved at the July 19 Independence Township Board of Trustees meeting, but not without nearly 90 minutes of discussion between the board, township officials, and developers.
The Waldon Village II project was approved in 2021 and consists of five phases, the first two of which are in progress. Phase 1 is 132 single-family townhomes and Phase 2 is 48 single-family detached condos. Phase 3 is the commercial aspect that will include a market/grocery store, a restaurant, and office space. Phase 4 includes 78 single-family villas while Phase 5 is a future township/private park parcel.
The Phase 4 site plans were modified and approved unanimously at the June 16 Independence Township Planning Commission meeting and then by a 4-3 vote at the July 19 Township Board of Trustees meeting. The applicant is requesting to proceed with Phase 4, prior to receiving final approval for Phase 3.
According to Brian Oppmann, the township’s planning and zoning director, there is no change in density or location, just changes to legal documents that go with the development. The site plans for Phase 3 are not ready, so the move was made to begin Phase 4.
“There is really no material change to this site plan,” said Oppmann. “It’s still the same 78 units. Pulte will be the contractor to do this work. I just want to point out that the first step of this was to go to the planning commission, which they did, and because there was an amendment to the PUD (planned unit development). We still went through a public notice and a public hearing. It was then unanimously approved by the planning commission at that meeting.”
Phase 3 includes minor parking calculations that need to be made, in terms of how parking is going to be delineated with driveways and garages, as well as landscaping items and decks for each unit, as well as the condos not exceeding three bedrooms.
“Very minor issues and I want to point out again that this was unanimously approved by the planning commission,” Oppmann said. “There were pretty minor issues that they identified that, essentially, Mr. (Richard) Carlisle also identified.”
Carlisle, of Carlisle Wortman and Associates, the township’s planning consulting firm, joined the meeting by video and clarified comments from the township board, including one on parking, where Township Clerk Cari Neubeck asked about snow plowing when vehicles are parked in the street.
“At this point, whether the road is accepted as a public road remains to be in question,” Carlisle said. “Snow removal would be an association responsibility if it remains a private road. However, that’s usually something that we will address in the condominium documents in terms of snow removal. This came up in the planning commission meeting and what we can ask Pulte for is a response to this in terms of snow removal, prior to the second reading.”
Will the road be public or private, and will this be decided before the second reading?
“We can certainly discuss it,” said Carlisle. “It is private until it is requested to be public. When the project actually changed, I think in all likelihood that the road is going to be private and all the maintenance issues will have to be covered in the condominium documents in the development agreement. We can have a definitive response to the board about that before second reading.”
The market as part of Phase 3 has long been rumored to be a Nino Salvaggio’s. That may or not be the case going forward.
“I don’t like moving forward with Phase 4 until we get locked down what’s happening with Phase 3,” said Trustee Paul Brown. “We’re not being provided that information. We’re just being told it’s close. Well, if it’s close, it shouldn’t matter that we wait until we find out what it is. If we approve Phase 4 now, we lose leverage in the plan.”
“The leverage is in the PUD documents,” noted Oppmann.
“I don’t understand what the leverage will get us,” said Township Supervisor Gerald Fisher. “What are we going to get from the leverage?”
“What I’m getting at is that Mr. Oppmann says that it is vaguely written because they always verbally called it Nino Salvaggio, that style of market,” Trustee Ron Ritchie said before the developer Buzz Silverman, asked to clarify via video call.
“To answer your question about the quality of market that’s already in the recorded PUD documents that were heavily negotiated with the planning commission and your board, it does call for I believe a high-quality grocery with a huge amount of outdoor patio space,” Silverman said. “We are under contract 100 percent of the property in Phase 3, not only the market but the balance of the commercial as well.
“We know that people have preferences where they shop, but we believe that the market that we’re talking to is a really big deal. It will be something we can all be proud of.”
Ritchie responded by saying he wasn’t trying to attack Silverman and was simply voicing his opinion about the project.
“There have been many months and now years that have gone into this design and many public meetings,” Ritchie said. “I’m not opposed to the project on a whole. I just want to make sure we get what we wanted to. I’ve had a lot of public beat me up about how we gave away a lot and are we going to get what we said we are going to get. What scares me is that I’ll listen to Mr. Oppmann say it was vaguely written and there’s not a lot of stuff there. We want Nino Salvaggio amenities in whatever the market becomes there. We can’t control who it is, and I’m not saying it has to be Nino Salvaggio, but that’s the type and the scale of what we are looking for in the market.”
Motion was made by Township Treasurer Rachel Loughrin, seconded by Neubeck. Fisher, Ritchie, Loughrin, and Neubeck voted yes, while Trustee Jose Aliaga, Trustee Terri Nallamothu and Brown all voted no.
“This was a really healthy discussion and I hope everybody agrees,” Fisher said. “I have confidence that this is going to move forward in the right direction. That’s my hope.”
PHOTO: Township Trustee Jose Aliaga makes a statement July 19 during an update of the Waldon Village II development. Photo: Matt Mackinder