By Spencer Impellizzeri
Meridian Times staff writer
The Planning Commission of Meridian Township approved the Section 61 review for the new fire station proposed in Meridian Township at the meeting on March 24.
A Section 61 review is an assessment of a site where a public building is to be built that needs to be approved by the Planning Commission in order for construction to be done.
The vote was close, as the chair of the commission, Patricia Herring Jackson, broke a 3-3 tie and approved the review.
The vote came on the heels of a lengthy review of the proposed location for the fire station. Township Manager Frank Walsh and a team of experts spoke on behalf of the township and detailed specifics of the station.
Director of Community Planning and Development Mark Kieselbach explained that the parcel that is to be used covers 28.5 acres, but only 4 of those acres would be used for the station. Kieselbach that just 1.12 percent of the total acreage would be taken up by the building itself.
Former Township Manager Jerry Richards explained the selection process, as he oversaw the process while in charge.
“The southeast corner (of the lot on the corner of Okemos Road and Central Park Drive) in my opinion is the best site for the replacement station,” Richards said.
Richards said that many sites were looked at, but this one was the best option because it was centrally located in the business core of the township and was between the north and south railroad tracks. Richards said that there are very few buildable sites in this area and this site has ample building room and fits the ideal central location.
“Central Park Drive and Okemos Road are Class A, all-weather roads,” Director of Public Works and Engineering in Meridian Township Raymond Severy said. “During spring, these roads aren’t restricted by load restrictions. They are constructed to handle heavy trucks year round.”
Dave Lee, the assessor for Meridian Township, explained that the fire station wouldn’t lower property values of buildings nearby. Lee said that there are two condo developments near the south fire station that still have good marketability. One in particular, Fieldstone Village, compares well to Autumn Park because it is adjacent to a fire station, Lee said. Lee said that Fieldstone village made four sales in 2013, despite being by the fire station and that indicates good marketability.
“I don’t see a basis for denying this based on science,” Tom Bennett, an environmental consultant for Meridian Township, said.
Bennett said that the proposed project wouldn’t affect the wetlands on the parcel.
“The state of Michigan won’t have jurisdiction over the project because the wetlands aren’t affected.” Bennett said.
Bennett also said that Township Wetlands Ordinance wouldn’t be hurt either. The main issue will be making sure storm water doesn’t affect those wetlands, but there shouldn’t be a worry because there is no groundwater impact because the water inside the facility will be sent to a treatment facility, Bennett said.
Walsh explained what could happen to the land if it is not used for the fire station.
“With a special-use permit, 140 apartments and 300 parking spaces could be built on the 14 buildable acres,” Walsh said.
“This is a very significant project for this community,” Walsh said. “We are here to save lives and nothing is more important to this township.”
Several citizens voiced their opposition to the proposed station, but they were unable to sway the Planning Commission to their side.