The Howell Township Planning Commission reviewed a site plan that would add a memory care facility to an existing assisted living home.

The Willows at Howell is a long term care, assisted living nursing home on Highland Road at Byron. Tuesday night, planning commissioners from the township performed a site plan review that would add a 35 bed care facility from persons suffering from Alzheimer’s and other memory illnesses. While this 21,000 square foot expansion was known to be coming when the main building was constructed, changes to township ordinances now require it to hold a special use permit.

Two issues of note held the commissioner’s interest longer than others. Chairman Andrew Sloan was concerned about the new parking lot addition and an insufficient setback distance. Under ordinance, the new addition needs to meet a setback of 75feet, but dips to only 48 and 56 feet in a couple spots. Methods that could help the zoning board of appeals grant a variance for the setback tied into their second problem, landscaping between the lot and Byron Road. The commission was concerned about both the types of vegetation to be used, and how many shrubs and trees were to be planted. Sloan was adamant against the use of proposed blue spruce trees, citing their high rate of developing fungal diseases 10 to 15 years down the road. The commission was also against a solid row of shrubs, instead wanting to see a broken up pattern to help reduce monotony.

The commission also asked for sidewalks to built around the perimeter, as they are trying to make walkability from development to development easier throughout the township. They tabled the discussion on recommending approval of the site plan until these items were rectified, but did schedule a public hearing for the required special use permit. That hearing will take place at their next meeting, February 27th. (MK)