Moraco says new development ‘poor planning’
BY MATT MACKINDER
Clarkston News Editor
The proposed development known as Waldon Village, located on the north side of Waldon Road between Sashabaw and Walters roads, had its first reading at the Independence Township Board of Trustees meeting, Nov. 10, and was met with unanimous approval from the seven-member board.
The development would include multi-family housing and a retail area, among other amenities.
Preservation Clarkston President Sam Moraco doesn’t oppose the development, he just wishes it would be designed better.
“No one opposes it that I know of as a concept,” Moraco said. “We always expected something to be built there. What people oppose is the extreme density that the township is rewarding the developer (Buzz Silverman) with little benefit to the community. It’s nothing but dense, small-lot production housing with some commercial that may or may not come any time soon, but what is for sure is a lot of lower-quality housing in a lot tighter space than what the township would normally allow.”
Independence Township Supervisor Pat Kittle sees a plethora benefits to the development.
“Approving the first reading is just one step in a very long process,” Kittle said. “Now comes all of the work to establish the final PUD (planned unit development) and to address all of the concerns that were raised and see what we can do to put together a program that, one, meets the needs of the community and, two, meets the basic precepts and principles behind the master plan in an effort to make a viable project.
“It’s a little difficult to say we can change this and that, let’s put this back here, but viability is extremely important on a very tough lot that’s been vacant for decades. Those are the sorts of things we have to look at as a township board.”
Moraco, also a member of the Independence Township Planning Commission, was asked what he feels would be a better use for the 67-acre lot.
“A community plan that surrounds a park area with good connectivity, nice-size lots one-third the density and a lot better amenities,” said Moraco. “A roadside park and food truck parking spot is hardly a quality activity center or quality public space the whole township can enjoy. The park will be nothing but a place for high school kids to party and a nuisance to the elderly people living in the condos.
“It could have brought a quality normal lot size housing development that was more consistent with what past boards approved, a safe open space that everyone could enjoy. (I would like) some retail that was adjacent to a park-like setting and some multi-family housing spread out to appear more like a residential single family set up in nature.”
After almost 20 years as a planning commissioner for the township, Moraco said “it is obvious that this board, the consultants and planning commission has allowed the developer to decide what to build instead of like in past years when the township gave direction and demanded better developments.”
“It appears this board has no concept of the quality of this township to others and feels it must cater to anyone and everyone to just get some tax base,” said Moraco. “If they truly knew how great a place this was, they wouldn’t settle for such a mediocre design and such incredible high density. They have not done one single thing to address the residents’ concerns about traffic and constantly mislead the public about the negative effects this is going to have on everyone around it.
“As they hide in Oakhurst, the rest of the township is changing for the worse, not better. It would have been easy to get a better development if they weren’t so desperate for tax dollars.
“That’s never a good way to govern.”
Kittle noted Moraco deserves credit for where the township is from a development standpoint.
“The parcel as established does meet the basic requirements for how it was re-zoned back when Mr. Moraco was on the planning commission with the mixed use, with the multi-family, with the commercial,” Kittle said. “Sam did a masterful job back in the day working with the township to have it re-zoned, to try and minimize a big box retailer from coming in. I’ve been in business for years and I have traveled the country and I have seen what a K-Mart or a Walmart or a Meijer can do to a local economy. It puts all the local merchants out of business. They just can’t compete.
“So I think (the re-zoning) was done for the right reasons.”
The second reading may not be for a couple months, Kittle added.
Still, Moraco is unhappy with the proposal.
“There is another plan right across the street that was just pushed through the planning commission to build a strip mall right against a person’s house on Waldon,” Moraco said. “We would have never done that in the past. The township hall and building to the west was designed to transition between commercial and residential and now they approve a strip mall between the transition buildings and a house. It makes no sense.
“Poor planning and a consultant ready to retire who is fast-tracking everything before he goes.
“Sad day for us all here.”