City Council Hears of Planned Use Development Plan
By Dianne Alward-Biery
Cleaver Staff Writer
HARRISON – The first visitor to speak at the Sept. 10 Harrison City Council meeting was Brian Rowley, engineer/manager from Fleis & Vandenbrink, who presented a development plan which had been done at the request of the Harrison Area Economic Development Corp. The plan addresses use of property on Old County Farm Road which also is known as the Weldon Property.
Rowley said his group had taken the roughly 53 acres and overlaid the topographic mapping which contained neighboring properties and rights of way, which resulted in a plan to do a future development that has many different aspects. A projected graphic showed Council the breakdown of those aspects, which include core facilities for assisted living on five acres with 120 beds, and a medical center on seven acres which could include an Urgent Care, clinics/treatment; research and offices.
Potential uses on the property’s perimeter are [numbers are approximations] clustered senior living condominiums with 26 dwelling units; multi-family town homes with 40 units on six acres; 17 single family detached homes on .4-acre lots; a 9,000 square-foot general office space; a 40,000 square-foot medical clinic/office space; a nature reserve and storm water management area; and potential space for Veterans Affairs which cold include clinics, administration and housing.
One issue for site development is access, which would mean not only two curb cuts on Old County Farm Road but also a need to extend Weldon, creating access from N. Clare Avenue on the east over to Old County Farm on the west. It was noted that the property, which has long been vacant, abuts residential properties along Weldon along and on the western edges of the Alpine Village Subdivision. Rowley noted the single-family dwellings units would serve as a transition onto the property from the existing subdivision, and further transitioning the additional housing segments.
“What we tried to do is use the property to its full potential, while accomplishing many community needs” Rowley said.
He pointed out the natural pond that currently exists and assured the intent was to retain it and use it as a natural feature of the property.
Rowley said the proposed area for assisted living was based in part on conversations with a developer who would like to build an assisted living facility.
“From the sounds of it, he’s ready to go,” Rowley said. “The issue becomes: how do you allow that type of growth to happen yet do it in a planned way such that it doesn’t limit what you can do on the rest of the property.”
He further described the plan as a medical campus and residential support property, noting the city’s new Zoning Ordinance with planned use development standards. Rowley said that as the city has not been through a planned unit development yet, Council should “strap up your boots, because that’s a fun process.”
He went on to explain the zoning for the Weldon property is Residential 3 and Agricultural, and that the original intent was to have it be an industrial park. When that didn’t materialize, the zoning was changed to accommodate an assisted living facility. Rowley said the main idea of the plan was to avoid having a single builder develop five acres and leave the rest of as a “waste of space potential,” which could happen if the property was developed one piece at a time.
“Planned unit development will allow the planning commission and the developers of the property to modify everything about the plan to make it fit with what the vision is for the property,” Rowley said. “It just gives the planning commission the ability to negotiate with the developer”
He said that means property setbacks would still apply and easement along the property line would be taken into consideration, but the real beauty of the plan is that it allows flexibility to change as the property develops and preferred uses become apparent.
Rowley said development would need to be done with a phased approach, including the city’s construction of roads, sewer and water to service the property.
Connelly said grant funding could be sought through USDA for the sewer/water portions and that USDA loans could be sought for the road building as well [estimated at just more than 2 percent over 40 years]. She further suggested the cost burden could be made more manageable by phasing the projects. Connelly also said the nature preserve portion of the property could be taken on by the city and used as an asset, such as a walking park for seniors. An additional area of concern is the short-sight intersection at Weldon and N. Clare Avenue which Connelly said would need to be addressed, but that it is simply another opportunity for improvement.
Also addressing Council was Lori Phelps, Clare County Community Director, who emphasized the acute need for an Urgent Care or similar round-the-clock clinic. She also spoke of the community’s need for senior housing, especially an assisted living and nursing home-type facility.
“There are some goals that we have in mind for the area,” Phelps said. “One is an Urgent Care and one is an ambulance service that will actually be here and serve us. Those are things we’re really seeking -- hard.”
When asked if Phelps had any current interest from MidMichigan Health or McLaren or any other entity about putting in an Urgent Care, she said talks had begun.
She said the PACE [Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly] program would be brought in through Presbyterian Villages of Michigan.
“It’s an all-inclusive program for seniors where they will take them on as their primary care giver, do prescriptions,” Phelps said. “It’s a complete wrap-around program, and we want to make sure we can bring that here into the Harrison area. The Area Agency on Aging is partnering with us and has given us money to set aside to start.”
Phelps said development would necessitate looking for lots of different types of funding.
Connelly noted there was a developer who wanted to start on the property in June but didn’t want to be in it as a lone developer. That’s where the comprehensive plan brings value.
Council member Dave Rowe asked about the city’s water processing capability in the face of the extra demand such development would demand and was told the system was capable of nearly double its current demand.
Connelly reiterated the need for assisted living, citing the fact that anyone who has a relative who has to be in a facility has to leave town to find it.
“Any improvement is great,” Rowe said. “I just reiterate that we went through The Rising Tide because we were proactive. We’re done with Rising Tide, but I still think we could use some of those ties to do this project, which even makes us better.”
He said the project won’t develop exactly as currently defined, but that the plan provides everything needed to move forward.