Saline Planning Commission gives initial approval to proposed Maple Road senior assisted living facility
Reenders Inc. is asking the city to approve site plans and rezone the property, which is currently owned by Saline Area Schools and utilized for youth soccer fields.
The Commission unanimously approved the plan. Commissioner Walt Byers and City Council Member Brian Marl abstained from the vote because of their affiliation with a competing assisted living home.
Final site plans will go before the planning commission after they are submitted sometime in June.
By the same vote, the commission also approved recommending the City Council approve a special land use permit for the project. That will go before council at its May 7 meeting.
The purchase agreement between the school district, which has owned the property for about 40 years, and the developer, is for $550,000 and requires the planning commission's approval as one of its contingencies.
If the project’s plans are approved, Thomas Higgins, a representative for Reenders, said he is hopeful construction could be completed by early next spring.
The proposed 52,000-square-foot, 112-unit complex would be built in two phases. Higgins said part of the building would house what he described as independent living seniors while another part of the building would serve seniors with memory issues.
The biggest concern several commissioners had was how the development would fit into the surrounding area, which has public institutions on several sides.
“It is highly visible to the community,” Commissioner Gretchen Driskell said, adding that the community seems to like that the land is currently used for youth soccer. “Let’s make it as attractive as we can.”
The only speaker during public comment was Saline resident Ayn Luther. She said she thought the project would fit better on the west side of the city, where there's already a hospital and medical facilities and suggested utilizing the abandoned Houghton School.
“I think that would make it a much nicer place for the (Reender's residents) and it would keep the continuity of the city more in mind,” she said.
The Planning Commission approved three variances for the project that would allow the facility to be built with greater density and smaller rooms than is permitted by code. The building will also take up a slightly larger footprint than permitted.
A staff member explained that guidelines for assisted living facilities were developed a long time ago and with a different type of facility in mind.
"I like the project and I think the location is good," Secretary Bill Beardsley said. "I think we have to let the buyers and sellers figure out where they go as long as they're compliant ... but I would like to make sure finished materials are harmonious."
He added that he wants assisted living centers built well because “some of us may need them in 35 years.”
Saline Area Schols Superintendent Scot Graden previously said the sale money would provide unrestricted funds for the district and “replenish” the fund balance.
Reenders has built 15 assisted living developments in Michigan and Indiana.
In December 2010, the Grand Haven developer proposed $12.5 million, 100-unit assisted living and memory care facilities on former service center property at 7605 N. Maple Road. That facility never came to fruition.
Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. For more Saline stories, visit our Saline page. To contact the news desk email firstname.lastname@example.org.