Farmington council moves two Maxfield contenders forward

With a 3-2 vote, Farmington city council members on Monday asked staff and consultants to collect more information from two firms interested in the Maxfield Training Center property.

River Caddis Development, based in East Lansing, included a 124-unit apartment complex concept in its Request for Qualifications (RFQ) response. Bloomfield Hills-based Robertson Brothers Homes sees 59 owner-occupied townhomes on the 3-acre site.

Before their discussion, Rick Gundlach, who lives near the site, presented a petition signed by 84 Farmington area residents who favored owner-occupied townhomes.

“High density would be out of scale, overbuilt, and … create significant traffic, parking, and safety issues for the downtown area,” he said. “We feel (owner-occupied developers) are best qualified to build a new, exceptional townhome community in Farmington.”

Mayor Sara Bowman asked council members to name their top two choices, with a motion to follow if one received a majority of first-position votes.

Robertson concept plan
Robertson Brothers owner-occupied townhome design.

Council member Steven Schneemann said he wanted to see more financial detail in future presentations. In particular, he said, three of the developers showed public amenities but not how much of the cost the city would pick up.

“I think council needs to understand that all the awesome things the developers are showing, the costs are not necessarily borne by the developer, nor do we want the developer to handle design and implementation,” he said.

Consultant Eric Helzer of Advanced Redevelopment Solutions said developers also face the cost of road improvements, sidewalks, and other infrastructure. He said cities typically look to developers to cover those costs, then allow them to recoup dollars through tax increment or brownfield financing. There will also be significant demolition and environmental remediation costs.

Council members David DeLind and Maria Taylor both favored the Robertson Brothers proposal. Taylor also preferred the River Caddis multifamily concept, but felt single-family housing was most appropriate for the site.

This view of the River Caddis plan shows trails and a pocket park. 

While Schneemann named River Caddis and Robertson Brothers in no particular order, he said the Robertson Brothers design “seems to be not nearly as compelling… as the River Caddis Design.”

“I do think this site warrants a significant step up with attention to design and detail and connectivity,” he said. “I would want to make sure we, as a city, had assurances they would step up their design game.”

Mayor pro tem Joe LaRussa also preferred River Caddis and Robertson Brothers. He urged a focus on qualifications, rather than the concept drawings included in the RFQ.

“Using the proposals as a litmus test, as opposed to taking a holistic look… would shortchange those who have worked so hard to prepare this material,” he said.

Bowman said River Caddis would bring a type of housing that has been missing in Farmington, and Robertson Brothers is “tried and true”.

“I think either one of those two would be able to follow along with the hopes, wishes and dreams of our town,” she said.

LaRussa offered the motion to move forward with River Caddis and Roberston Brothers. Helzer said new information could include the developer’s needs and what they can commit to for the city. He said consultants could use their previous work to come up with revenue projections based on actual numbers.

“That’s going to help them determine what they’re willing to commit to or finance,” he said. “We’ll get granular for you.”

Bowman, Schneemann, and LaRussa voted for the resolution. Taylor and DeLind opposed, citing resident preference for single family homes. Taylor said the Robertson Brothers concept is more like what council members have discussed since purchasing the property.

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