(Publisher’s note: This story has been corrected to reflect Council Member Rod Anderson’s confusion with the first revision to the plan. Please see a comment he sent. My apologies.)
The redevelopment of the Federal Screw Works property by Magellan Properties is inching forward as the Chelsea City Council on Monday, April 7, unanimously agreed to the distribution of draft language amendments to the city’s comprehensive plan.
“The comprehensive plan is the community’s plan of what you want to see in development,” said Christine Linfield, the city’s engineer and zoning and planning official, who added, “It’s a living document” and it is expected to change over time.
To view the city’s current comprehensive plan from 2008, click here.
She told the City Council that the goal for the redevelopment of the Federal Works property was originally a mixed use – commercial, office and residential, and that the Planning Commission is looking at a request from the developer to change the current industrial zoning to Planned Unit Development (PUD) zoning.
A PUD allows for, among other things, variations and creativity in where, how and what kind of buildings can be situated on a property.
The first step in changing the zoning designation for the 2.5-acre parcel, however, are amendments to the comprehensive plan, which state that “areas designated for mixed-use should include both residential and business uses.”
According to letter sent previously to various local entities by Planning Commission Chairman George Kizer, “The primary change will be to remove the residential component from the list of allowed mixed uses, cluster more commercial uses near Main Street, reduce the impact along Congdon Street and encourage a redevelopment that will be supportive of the neighboring residential character.”
The former owner of the property placed a deed restriction on the Federal Screw Works site at 500 South Main St. that disallowed housing.
Plus, due to contamination issues on the site, cleaning it up to Michigan Department of Environmental Quality standards to include housing, made developing the site cost prohibitive for the developer.
So, the city’s Planning Commission has drafted potential changes to the city’s comprehensive plan for this property that state: “Redevelopment areas designated for mixed-use should have a selection of uses that are appropriate for existing conditions of the site and that will be compatible with existing and future conditions in the surrounding area.”
Council Member Rod Anderson questioned this change, saying, “I have no idea what this says.”
In addition, the planners are proposing this change: “Federal Screw Works: the site should be redeveloped with mixed uses consisting of office and neighborhood commercial uses that will be compatible with maintaining the stability and integrity of the residential neighborhood. Commercial uses should be oriented toward the interior of the site and Main Street (M-52). Service operations, such as deliveries and trash pick-up should be conducted only from the interior of the site. The Congdon Street frontage should be generally free of any indication of the presence of commercial uses. Buildings should be designed and the site should be landscaped to create an environment that will be visably and functionally consistent with the existing residential character of the existing neighborhood. The site should be designed and developed as one undivided parcel of land.”
Linfield said the planners wanted this section to be left “as broad as possible so the Planning Commission’s hands are not tired.”
These amendments must now go through a 95-day review process, Linfield said, during which any interested neighboring communities, businesses, and other entities can weigh in on those potential changes.
Council Member Jim Myles said he was concerned about the contamination on the site.
He said that he wanted to be sure that the city didn’t leave itself “vulnerable to citizens out there bordering this property … the clean-up is OK for commercial, but will it compromise the value of neighboring properties?”
Linfield said that the MDEQ is the regulatory agency on the contamination and there is a work plan that’s been created for the clean-up for a commercial development and the city is not part of that process.
Council Member Frank Hammer said he’s been in touch with the MDEQ a number of times and when he last spoke to officials there he was told that “they have already gone out to neighboring properties and found no contamination but what they didn’t know was how badly contaminated the property that Federal Screw was on. They thought there would be enough Brownfield money to clean it up, but when the estimate came in, (and they haven’t put the test wells in, yet) it was just excessive.”
The good news is, state official have not found any contamination outside the boundaries of the Federal Screw Works property, he said.
Council Member Melissa Johnson asked about the orientation of the buildings on the property and was told by Linfield that “We don’t want any appearance of any commercial from the Congdon Street view so no outside dumpsters, no delivery doors, no front doors to any businesses. Everything has to be accessed internally from the site, the M-52 side, so it doesn’t scream commercial from the Congdon Street side.”
So, the next steps include a land use plan, a preliminary site plan, and then a final site plan. In addition, planners have asked for a traffic study as well.
“The site may change a little bit” from the start of the process to the end, she said.
The Planning Commission’s next regular meeting is April 15 at 7 p.m.