Salem Twp. could see growth spike
One of the hottest area of development in Metro Detroit, Lyon Township, may be spilling over into its Washtenaw County neighbor, Salem Township.
A real estate developer hopes to build a subdivision with nearly 600 upscale houses north of M-14 between Gotfredson and Napier roads in the township's southeastern corner.
The mostly rural Washtenaw County community is about 31 miles northwest of Detroit and covers about 34 square miles. It shares boundaries with Ann Arbor, South Lyon, Plymouth and Northville.
Gary Whittaker, Salem Township's supervisor, said the Planning Commission has reviewed the developer's plans and recommends the Board of Trustees approve it, which could happen in the next few months.
"Hopefully, we can work something out that's nice as you exit M-14 into the township," he said. "And what they've brought forth looks nice and will be an upscale neighborhood on the township's south side."
Over the last 14 years, Lyon Township in southwest Oakland County has been one of Metro Detroit's fastest-growing communities.
Its population jumped 57.6 percent from 11,041 in 2000 to 17,408 in July, according to the U.S. Census.
Lyon Township also had the third highest number of new residential building permits in Metro Detroit this year with 340, according to the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Macomb and Clinton townships took first and second place, with 435 and 355.
From 2000 to 2014, Lyon Township had 2,809 residential permits.
By contrast, a few miles to the south, Salem Township's population barely budged during the last 14 years, rising 1.3 percent, from 5,562 in 2000 to 5,636 in July, according to census data.
Salem Township had 16 new residential building permits this year and 265 since 2000, according to SEMCOG.
But the proposed subdivision may change that.
Livonia-based Schostak Brothers & Co. Inc. plans to build 570 homes and condos on the 350 acre site. Its plans also include commercial and multi-family developments nearby.
Officials for the development company could not be reached for comment.
Established in 1920, Schostak Brothers develops shopping centers and mixed-use commercial and residential developments, and provides management, leasing and consulting services. The company operates commercial properties in 24 states.
At one time, the site of the new Salem Township subdivision looked like it had a completely different future.
Johnson Controls Inc. purchased the site early last decade and considered building a $160 million technical center campus there. The Milwaukee-based company, which makes automotive parts, building ventilation and air conditioning systems, and lead-acid batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles, scrapped the plan in 2004, citing costs and time constraints.
Schostak Brothers bought the land from Johnson Controls at the end of last year.
However, the developer's plans for the project, dubbed Salem Springs, haven't been without snags.
The developer and the township engaged in a two-year legal battle over the zoning of 92 acres of the project's site.
In 2012, township officials agreed to rezone the 92 acres from agricultural-residential to general commercial, which allows general retail, service and repair businesses to use the land.
However, a group of residents collected enough signatures to get the issue on that November's ballot, and voters repealed the zoning board's decision.
Early last year, township trustees voted to rezone the 92 acres as residential-office park, which was its designation in the community's master plan.
Schostak sued to have the referendum overturned, claiming the petition's organizers had missed the deadline to submit signatures. The Washtenaw County Circuit Court and the state Court of Appeals rejected Schostak's request.
The company took its case to the Michigan Supreme Court, which declined to hear it.
But the case was sent back to the Washtenaw Circuit Court, where a judge this summer ruled the petitions and the referendum election were invalid, according to Whittaker. The judge also ruled his order was final and closed the case.
In June, Schostak asked to rezone the 350 acres to planned unit development, which allows for a range of zoning types.
Under the developer's plans, Schostak Brothers will cover the cost of constructing the subdivision's infrastructure and utilities, Whittaker said.
Kathy Aznavorian, co-owner of the Fox Hills Country Club in Plymouth, which is about two miles west of the proposed project, said she looks forward to the project.
"We'll welcome the subdivision's new residents and we look forward to having them as part of the community," she said.
Ralph Robinson, who owns property that abuts the development on Napier Road, seems to have changed his mind about the project. Robinson was a member of Concerned Citizens of Salem, a grassroots group that pushed to get the election referendum on the ballot.
He said the situation was contentious five years ago, but isn't any longer. "It's much better than it was," he said.