By Rosemary K. Otzman
Three certificates of occupancy will be withheld by Van Buren Township from the developers of Walden Woods subdivision as leverage to get Morton Taylor Road paved.
At the Jan. 13 meeting of the VBT Board of Trustees, Joseph Oliver of Robson Road, a neighbor to Walden Woods, returned to again talk about his fears that the original developer is getting ready to walk away before doing the paving because his three final houses are almost done.
The Planned Residential Development agreement with Walden Woods Development LLC of Farmington for Walden Woods also promises lighting and sidewalks in Phase 5, which are not completed.
Oliver said the McKenna Associates planning consultants said the road paving was put off with a “backdoor handshake deal” between the supervisor and the developer.
Current VBT Supervisor Linda Combs said she talked with the township’s new Director of Planning and Economic Development Jack Knowles and they agree there is nothing in writing to change the PRD agreement.
The township will withhold the certificates of occupancy for the last three homes until the terms of the PRD agreement are fulfilled, Supervisor Combs said.
“This was nothing I knew of before I took office,” she said.
She said when the housing market tanked, things slowed down for the developer and he wanted to wait to pave until the commercial corner, at Tyler and Morton Taylor, was developed.
“Now they are down to three and this is the only leverage we have left,” Combs said.
Trustee Phil Hart asked about a “backhanded agreement” since any agreements have to go through the process and come before the board.
Combs clarified that the agreement wasn’t with the former supervisor, but with a former planning director.
“They had a handshake deal they could wait to pave,” Combs said.
“That’s more feasible than saying it was the former supervisor,” Trustee Hart said.
Oliver clarified the for-sale signs are on the vacant lots, not on homes that are 75% done.
Oliver said he also uncovered a stub road from the subdivision that comes out on Robson Road.
Combs said that is a construction access road that the county allowed during construction and it was supposed to be closed off. Combs said she will look into that and it may or may not be something allowed. She said she realizes that road brings extra traffic to Robson Road.
Trustee Hart voiced concerns about what would happen if the developer sold those last lots to somebody else who wouldn’t have to fulfill the requirements of the PRD.
There are no bonds and so the three certificates of occupancy are the only leverage the township has, Combs repeated.
“We will call them and we expect them to honor the agreement,” Combs said, adding, “This is a viable company.”
“You could put a lien on this vacant property,” said Oliver. That’s what I would do. That would stop him in his tracks.”
Combs said the PRD is built out except for the commercial and multiple dwellings not constructed, with some single lots around.
Tia Williams, treasurer of the Walden Woods Homeowners Association, came to the lectern to tell of the homeowners’ concerns.
She listed addresses of the three houses almost done and three vacant lots with for-sale signs as: 43518 and 43640 S. Timberview Drive and 44000, 44001, 44046, and 44078 Timberview Court.
She said Walden Woods was built in five phases and the developer will be leaving soon and there are no street lights and sidewalks in Phase 5.
“We’ll assist in any way we can in the planning department,” Combs said, adding she will send a township employee out to review the property for completion of the required projects.
At the board’s Oct. 7 meeting, Oliver first told of his concerns about the infrastructure of Walden Woods near his home. He said the development started in 1993 and there were just a few lots left. He said for the 300 homes, two of the three entrances are on dirt roads.
Oliver told the board then that the agreement called for Morton Taylor to be hard surfaced from the subdivision entrance to Tyler Road prior to occupancy on Phase 4 and they are now on Phase 5.
In other business at the Jan. 13 meeting, the board:
• Witnessed years of service awards announced for 18 employees, with only eight present to accept their certificates and pins;
• Held a public hearing on moving $77,800 in Community Development Block Grant funds from the 2012 and 2013 CDBG budgets to be used for buying four outdoor emergency sirens. No member of the public spoke at the hearing and the board unanimously approved using the funds for the sirens;
• Held the first public hearing on proposed use of the $124,895 expected in 2015 CDBG funds, with 75% of it ($89,921) for improvements to Van Buren Park, including demolishing the stage and a cabin. There was no public comment. It was explained that HUD has new maps to show the township’s low- and moderate- income areas and now the park is in one of those areas and so the CDBG funds can be spent there. The second public hearing required on this budget will be held Feb. 3;
• Approved the 2015 Board of Review Poverty Exemption Guidelines which are less restrictive than the federal guidelines;
• Approved a resolution accepting the South Huron Valley Utility Authority Consolidated Service Agreement;
• Confirmed the supervisor’s reappointment of Amos Grissett to the Board of Zoning Appeals with a term to expire Oct. 1, 2017. Trustee Hart asked about Robert McKenna’s seat on the BZA and Combs said that is a planning commission appointment to the BZA, not a board appointment; and
• Heard a letter from Dr. Paul Bostwick of Maranantha Baptist Church in Denton praising the work of September Days Senior Center.
By Rosemary K. Otzman