Planning Commission approves PUD eligibility for Downs redevelopment
Posted on 04/17/2019
Photo furnished by CVMediaThe Northville Planning Commission voted unanimously at a packed April 16 meeting at Hillside School to approve PUD eligibility to Hunter-Pasteur Homes, with conditions, for the redevelopment of the Northville Downs property. The area extends from 7 Mile midway up S. Center, from 7 Mile and River St. to Griswold and Cady, and two parcels on the west side of S. Center.

It was the third meeting to consider PUD eligibility, with developer Randy Wertheimer, CEO of Hunter Pasteur Homes, coming back to each subsequent meeting with changes he hoped would meet the approval of Northville’s leaders and residents, many of whom voiced their concerns and disapproval, while others spoke in favor of the project.

The PUD plan calls for 53 homes, 183 townhomes and 300 apartments, more than 18,000 ft2 of commercial space, a parking deck and public parking lot. (This plan could change at further stages.) Public benefits feature daylighting the Rouge River and creating a park along the riverbed; making traffic improvements around the development; expanding space for the Farmers Market, and extending City streets through the project to keep the area connected and walkable to downtown, Beal Town and Hines Park.

Speaking on behalf of his client, Wertheimer, Attorney Robert Carson noted that “change is hard” and despite hurdles to cross, the company wanted to get through the initial gate. He said the PUD will “complement the character of Northville” and “welcome the future.” Pending final site approval, he said the PUD would be constructed in stages, with the Cady St. portion of apartments and a parking deck being done first.

City planner Sally Elmiger, principal of Carlisle/Wortman, guided the audience through the process of how the PUD works. She said there are three portions that each must be approved by both the Planning Commission and City Council. The first, approved at the meeting, is PUD eligibility. Based on nine criteria that pertain to ordinances, the commissioners agreed that all of those criteria have been met. (They had some conditions, which are noted below.)

The second stage is the preliminary site plan, where the Planning Commission works out design details, including conceptual utilities and traffic improvements. The third stage is the final site plan, where design, utilities, road changes and public benefits such as daylighting the Rouge River and adding parking are finalized. Each of these meetings will be open to the public. Commissioners listen intently to what the public has to say about the project, incorporating those concerns into their decision-making.

Some of the commissioners’ strongest concerns about PUD eligibility came when comparing the plan to the Master Plan and noting the homes had smaller lot sizes and the townhomes and apartments were three stories rather than the recommended two and one-half stories. Parking, traffic flow and the specific financials of daylighting the river and the cost of new infrastructure were also concerns, but commissioners expressed confidence that those details could be worked out as the process continues.

Many of those who attended spoke against the PUD, raising concerns about whether the City has the infrastructure – sewer, water and roadways – to accommodate approximately 1,000 more residents that this project will bring. Others questioned whether the schools would have room for the additional students. Several brought up the historic horse-racing aspects of the site and want to preserve that legacy.

Elmiger responded to these concerns, point by point. She said the utility master plan addresses the infrastructure and that Wayne County is responsible for the storm water reconfiguration and changes to 7 Mile Road, among other streets. She also noted that the treasurer of the Northville School Board (Matt Wilk) stated at the last meeting that there was plenty of room in Northville Schools to enroll more students.

Approximately a dozen letters and emails regarding the plan had been submitted prior to the meeting and are available on the Planning Commission page of the website.

The next step is for City Council to discuss the Planning Commission’s recommendation for PUD eligibility at a future meeting. The public will be notified when that item is on the agenda through the City’s website, social media and City News.