By Jessica Mathews /

A committee has been formed to work out issues with a proposed senior citizen housing project in Oceola Township.

The Board of Trustees met Tuesday night and heard a presentation about the two-phased project geared toward seniors on the property totaling 23.6-acres about a quarter-mile west of Latson Road on the north side of M-59. The project is proposed by Brida LLC and the land is zoned multi-family residential or R-PUD. The top of the property was said to be a flat plateau but then goes downhill with some steep drops.

The first phase would be down the hillside with attached ranch housing and the second phase on top of the hill would be a 3-story apartment complex with 127-units. There would only be one point of access to exit and entrance off M-59, but a point was identified for a secondary emergency entrance.

The project abuts the Arthur Pasinski Nature Preserve, which is managed by the Livingston Land Conservancy. During the call to the public, Conservancy President Sara Thomas raised various environmental concerns about the project and asked for something less intensive - noting the preserve contains rare unique plant communities of flora significance and a variety of ecosystems. She commented the habitat is also prime for the rare eastern massasauga rattlesnake, which is shown to have an occurrence in the township. She said the snake is a rare species on the state’s threatened list – adding Michigan is the last stronghold for the species so it’s important to protect the habitat.

Thomas raised concerns about the amount of grading and site topography, erosion, a large number of trees to be removed, increased sunlight, a large detention pond at the edge of the property that could eventually flow into wetlands during rain events.

A motion to approve plans in principle was approved 4-3, with Treasurer Christine Andrews and Trustees Bob Henshaw and Lance Schuhmacher opposed. A project committee was set up to work with developers consisting of Schuhmacher, Andrews, and Supervisor Bill Bamber, and three planning commissioners.

Schuhmacher commented that he felt the development was way too big for the property with 226 homes. He cited the tree clearing, a lack of wetland protections, a detention pond that would likely overflow into wetlands during big rain events that are happening more frequently, and traffic problems with only one entrance off M-59. He said traffic is already bad at Latson Road and M-59 and it would be “crazy” trying to get out of the development especially with all homes.

Bamber told WHMI the project is still in the very preliminary phase and has now gone to the committee to start working out details - commenting that two on the committee voted against it so it will be a tough go.

Developers noted during the meeting that they attempted to purchase property or an easement but nothing worked out and they have met with the conservancy and fire department officials. It was noted that wetlands won’t be disturbed and an erosion survey will be done. Retention, detention, and discharge were discussed and developers stated a meeting is being set up with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy or EGLE.