A unique development proposal on the site of a popular Lyon Township orchard has been met with concerns over housing density.

Bill and Linda Erwin, owners of the Erwin’s Orchard property in Lyon Township have been attempting to sell the land for more than 10 years so that they may retire. At special meeting of the Planning Commission, Wednesday night, the Erwin’s gave their blessing to developer Howard Fingeroot for his proposal that would preserve the heritage of the orchard while adding in a variety of new elements and improvements.

Fingeroot presented a conceptual review that he said would be unlike any other development in the country. The planned development (PD) would offer mixed housing options; commercial and retail opportunities; and community and municipal buildings, while also keeping 12 acres of orchards to preserve the heritage. Four miles of walking trails and paths would help make it pedestrian friendly. 52% of the development would be open space.

Traffic and especially density were the top 2 concerns of many Planning Commissioners and residents in attendance. The conceptual review for the PD proposed 579 dwelling units over the 264 acre property, averaging roughly 2.3 units per acre. Most of the property is designated to allow a density up to 1.25 acres, with ways to get up to 2, or even beyond, if significant community benefits are met along with approval from the Township Board. Benefits of Fingeroot’s plan are to re-align Kent Lake Road with Pontiac Trail and to provide funding for a ladder truck for the fire department.

Trustee Patricia Carcone said the orchard is a special piece of property, but she can’t get past the density, and that for her approval it would need to change significantly. She suggested that Fingeroot re-evaluate the plan before taking it to the Board because she doesn’t think this is what they are looking for. Planning Commissioner Carl Towne didn’t like the concept, stating that it wasn’t compatible with the surrounding area and didn’t meet with the Master Plan. He said they had no obligation to accept the PD, and that as it stands now, he wouldn’t.

Stephan Hoffman, a commissioner who is also an architect, like it and called the concept a home run; saying that how it was designed decimates the density issue. Other Commissioners, like Jim Chuck, Kurt Radke and Ron Pennington all liked certain aspects, but agreed with the side that thought the density was too much for the area.

Despite a public hearing not being scheduled, the Planning Commission opened up the podium for 15 minutes at the end of the meeting for residents to make comment or ask questions. Concerns over the density, traffic, property values, and infrastructure were voiced. Residents were also worried about losing the rural character of the area and didn’t want to become a community like Livonia or Novi. One woman asked for the price point on the homes, to which Fingeroot later answered would likely start in the low $300,000s. Another lady was all in favor of the project.

Being a conceptual review in the earliest of stages, no action was taken or required by the Commission. Fingeroot will next present the plan to the Lyon Township Board at a future meeting. (MK)