(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 26, 2017)
Ferndale, MI – Planning continues for the development of the Taft School site at Allen Rd and Fielding in Ferndale, with developers Robertson Brothers reducing the number of proposed homes from 90 to 81.
The builders held a public info meeting on Thursday to present the new property design for the $18 million project.
Tim Lochran of Robertson Homes opened the meeting with two promises “Not everyone in this room is going to be happy,” and “It will be a quality development.”
The site currently has Taft School, a property that Ferndale Schools no longer needs. The School District put an RFP out to builders rather than selling it on the open market. Superintendent Blake Prewitt explained the District’s reasoning at the meeting Thursday. “If we put it up for sale we don’t have a say in who buys it or what they do. You could see another charter school and have a situation like DLC all over again,” he said, referring to the problem-ridden Digital Learning Center that had attracted fights, drugs and other crimes.
The latest design reduces the density of the homes on the outside of the development to make it more palatable to neighbors. It also increases the number of spaces by having some homes with two car garages. The change brings the number of internal parking spaces, ie those not on the street, to 146. The ratio is 1.8 spaces per unit.
An additional five feet of setback was added, and balconies were moved to the backs of the condo units.
Residents questioned why they could not just build single family homes or reduce the number of units to give less density. Roberston Homes President Jim Clarke said they would not be able to sell them for enough to cover the cost, and also that condos were the right type of home for the market. “It’s not a $300,000 home market,” he said.
Neighbors have been active in the planning process, with many making it clear they do not want to see the school torn down or new homes built. Prewitt encouraged them to consider the alternatives to working with Robertson Brothers. Prewitt said that over 40 RFPs came in, with none offering to build a community of stand-alone single family homes. “We had low income apartments. We had some that wanted to build one unit at a time to see if it sells so neighbors would be looking at a muddy lot for years,” he said. “Other developers would not be here doing this. There are developers who couldn’t care less what you think, they just do it.”
One resident asked about the increasing reductions, and wanted to know how few units could be build without taking a loss. “What is your bottom line number,” they asked.
“This is it,” Clarke said.
Robertson Brothers will bring their final plans to the Planning Commission for approval at an upcoming meeting. The agenda has not yet been set, but it could be at the June 21st meeting. For the most up to date meeting agendas and minutes, visit the City of Ferndale website at https://ferndalemi.civicweb.net/Portal/