By Jessica Mathews /

The Howell City Council is moving forward with the potential sale of property for a new upscale housing project.

The City has been marketing an 8-acre parcel at 1211 West Grand River, which is next to Howell Fire Station #20, and received two letters of interest and conceptual plans for different multi-family housing projects that were reviewed during a packed meeting Monday night.

Both Lockwood Development and Arco Construction Acquisitions LLC offered $1 (m) million to purchase the land and develop multi-family housing projects.

The plans had similar concepts but Arco’s was a straight cash deal and taxes would be paid on the property as it is ultimately developed. It offered more upscale townhomes with various amenities at market rates.

Lockwood was geared toward more affordable housing restricted to workforce housing for residents who make 60% of Livingston County’s median income. The proposal would have been financed through Michigan State Housing Development Authority or MSHDA funding and a PILOT ordinance or payment in lieu of taxes, which would have resulted in a long term reduction in taxable revenue to the City.

Council ultimately voted to go with Arco’s conceptual plans calling for 70 units; consisting of two-story, 2 and 3 bedroom townhomes.

The majority of members who favored that proposal expressed that there is already affordable housing in the area and projects coming to other nearby areas. They noted the City’s pressing budget issues and a desire to have money coming onto the tax rolls. Some stated it could be argued there is a demand for higher-end, luxury developments and they want to attract higher income families to the community, with others noting the City has finite resources and need to be fiscally responsible.

Many stated both were great proposals and had promise.

The site had been considered before for a new USPS Post Office but plans fell through, in part due to historic issues with the site. A number of neighbors who live behind the property were present and again raised concerns about the need to address serious standing water and ponding issues and storm water management. They also want the City to make sure any project doesn’t make problems worse on their properties, which already have historic problems with water and flooding.

Resident Suzy Hill commented that if the citizens have any input, she preferred the Lockwood proposal. Hill said she didn’t want the City to become Brighton, which she likened to “a little Northville”. She thought affordable but attractive housing is a good idea, adding there’s a lot of stuff going on Eager and Latson Roads. Hill said she wants “the downtown area to stay downtown” and Arco’s project looked “more fancy and not as affordable”.

Although the vote was unanimous; Mayor Bob Ellis, Mayor Pro-Tem Steve Manor and Councilman Nick Hertrich favored the Lockwood proposal due to a lot of employment needs and the current housing situation, expressing that jobs don’t pay enough for a person to live reasonably in the community.

Arco President David Cohen told WHMI after the meeting he was very excited to be selected and work with the City to redevelop the parcel into a wonderful housing community there with close proximity to downtown. He said they want to offer additional housing opportunities for residents to live downtown, which he thinks is much needed.

Staff was directed to work out a purchase agreement with developers that would include a due-diligence period and timeline to make sure a project is feasible or to what degree. It was stated that concerns with the site and water issues would be addressed during the development process.

Both proposals presented are attached.