Revisions made to Coolidge Place housing development site plan; Senior community’s concerns remain

Brian Farkas, director of workforce housing for Allen Edwin Homes, presents a revised site plan for the proposed housing development at 611 Coolidge Pl. in Three Rivers during a presentation at Tuesday’s Three Rivers City Commission meeting. (COMMERCIAL-NEWS | ROBERT TOMLINSON)

By Robert Tomlinson
News Director

THREE RIVERS — Allen Edwin Homes is giving it another go with a proposed housing development on the north side of the city.

At Tuesday’s Three Rivers City Commission meeting, representatives from the housing development company presented a revised site plan for its proposed housing development at 611 Coolidge Pl. to commissioners and a packed audience at City Hall, explaining the revisions that were made to the plan.

However, in spite of the new plans, many of the same concerns remained among neighboring residents about the entire plan, mainly concerns about the connection the main road has to The Meadows senior living development and the tax money that would be going away from the city.

The presentation comes two weeks after the City Commission shot down a TIF funding plan at their June 18 meeting by a 3-2 vote. Many of the concerns had to do with financials, including nearly $2.9 million in taxes, including $1.2 million in school taxes, that would go to Allen Edwin over a period of 15 years, but also to do with the logistics of the plan itself, including the width of its main road, parking, and space for vehicles at the properties.

In what was a relatively short presentation, Brian Farkas, director of workforce housing for Allen Edwin, said the company made some changes to the site plan based on feedback, noting that they’ve “taken concerns seriously.”

In the revised plan, the main road, Bush Boulevard, would be expanded to be 27 feet wide from curb to curb, 3 feet larger in width than the previous plan, that the size of the driveways at the houses would be increased from 14 to 18 feet wide, and added six more off-street parking spots at the curve of Bush Boulevard going toward the far cul-de-sac on the east side of the development. He noted that, with the revised plan, there would be 161 parking spots in total between the off-site parking and at-house parking.

First District Commissioner Pat Dane asked about where excessive snow would go in the winter with the new setup, and Farkas explained that there are catch basins on either side of the south off-site parking space, as well as space along the side to have snowbanks.

“There’s space to use on-site for snow management,” Farkas said.

Mike West, who handles site plans for Allen Edwin, said the revised site plan was formally submitted to the city on Friday, June 28, and is currently in administrative review. Once the review is completed, West surmised, it would be determined whether or not the site plan would go back to the Three Rivers Planning Commission or whether it would be administratively approved.

“Nothing’s changed on the layout, other than the individual driveways and we added off-street guest parking. Everything else remains the same; same number of units, same stormwater areas,” West said.

Comments during the public comment portion of the meeting were still largely critical of the plan. Jean Wilkins, a resident at The Meadows, said while Allen Edwin made “commendable changes,” the new site plan still “ignored” the entrance road concerns residents had, as that road connects directly across with the main road in The Meadows complex.

“You’re going to have about 80 cars every morning leaving that place to go to work, and the straightest distance between two points is still a straight line,” Wilkins said. “They’re going to shoot down that road and come right down our private drive. … We have no sidewalks, so we have elderly walking in the street with walkers and canes, and people come shooting down the road, and they don’t see them until they make the curve. It’s still very dangerous. I question why the driveway can’t be in the middle [of Kennedy Road]. … The road is still of the utmost concern to all of us here.”

During a later public comment, West refused to believe that people would go straight across the intersection of Bush Boulevard and Kennedy from the proposed development and go through The Meadows on their drive, noting that Kennedy/Coolidge was the main road in that area and that Bush Boulevard in the Meadows was a few feet narrower in width. The entire notion drew audible bafflement from the audience, which Mayor Tom Lowry had to calm down.

Lynn McLeod accused the city in her comments that the developers and the city were not following state laws regarding the master deed for the property, claiming the master deed had not been changed, as well as brought up a possibility The Meadows could claim the Coolidge property via eminent domain because the property has been dormant, something City Attorney TJ Reed claimed could not be done because it was government property – the two had a brief back-and-forth about that subject.

In all, McLeod said what it all came down to was that residents in the area still did not want the development.

“Whether you put a pilot program in there … or you call it a Brownfield project, it’s not wanted by people that have lived there and have invested there, and especially not good for the schools to have that much property income lost,” McLeod said.

Waneta Truckey shared several concerns she had, including the amount of taxes being taken away from schools because of the plan, concerns about the proposed rent prices on the houses in the development, and the traffic situation with regards to both developments.

“Our school district cannot stand to lose that kind of money over the number of years that they would be losing this, which will amount to over $1 million, which is a lot of kids’ books, a lot of teachers’ wages, it amounts to a lot of people coming to our community. People aren’t going to come to our schools if they continue to lose that kind of revenue,” Truckey said. “The traffic situation, if there’s only one road out of this, why aren’t we considering an exit road for this? We have the sports park, and it seems to me with all the traffic from that and now with all the traffic from these houses, we need to have an exit road there, if for no other reason than our first responders. If we have a fire or catastrophic event, how’s that going to work if they’re one way in and one way out?”

Tom Meyer, who has property in The Meadows, asked a number of questions about stormwater, and whether the street would be city-maintained or private – West said the road would be private. In the end, Meyer had one piece of advice for those living at The Meadows.

“Despite what you say about people won’t take that narrow road, I wouldn’t, but a lot of people are going to. My recommendation to the people in The Meadows is to put a gate across there, because that’s a private road too,” Meyer said. “If you put a gate across there and keep it closed, then it’ll get everybody in the habit of going out the bigger, well-developed city street.”

No action on the revised site plan was taken by the commission following the presentation.

In other business…

  • Commissioners approved the acceptance of $750,000 in reimbursement funds in the form of a Rural Housing Community Facilities Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The money, according to City Manager Joe Bippus, is reimbursing the city for demolition work done at the Old Hospital property, and comes via an earmark through Sen. Gary Peters’ office routed through the USDA.
    Related to the property, some residents asked whether the city had a plan for what to do with the property. Bippus said there was not at the moment, however after it was brought up by McLeod that senior housing was in the works, Bippus said that when they submitted, the city wasn’t “committed to any specific plan.” St. Joseph County Housing Coordinator Clayton Lyczynski, who was specifically mentioned in McLeod’s remarks, said in a text Tuesday that while affordable senior housing is “strongly being pursued” for the property and is an option being considered, there are no confirmed plans in place at this time.
  • Commissioners approved a resolution to enroll in the Michigan CLASS local government investment pool, which Finance Director Bobbi Schoon explained offers shorter-term investments that offer daily liquidity.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 or robert@wilcoxnewspapers.com.



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