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Published: Friday, 7/2/2004

Roadblocks still remain for massive development

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

If Bernie Glieberman has his way, Milan Township will someday be home to one of the country's most innovative and livable housing and commercial developments.

Mr. Glieberman, president of Novi, Mich.-based Crosswinds Communities, and a partner, Tomyn Enterprises of West Bloomfield, Mich., have acquired options on 4,880 acres near the Cone Road/U.S. 23 interchange - or 21 percent of the township's land - for their yet-to-be-named development that they say is in the exploratory stage.

"It's unique," Mr. Glieberman said, adding that it would benefit the township in two ways. "The water quality in the community is a problem. Having someone to bring in utilities is important. It would take a major project to do that. The other benefit is if you look at land-use recommendations, in order to eliminate sprawl you try to put higher density and more services in one area and leave the rest farmland. Milan is the perfect opportunity [because] it's almost completely undeveloped."

Area officials, though pleased with the attention, remain skeptical about the project and are concerned with its impact on their rural community.

"It seems rather ambitious," said V. Lehr Roe, District 1 county commissioner. "I question whether they really want to develop it or is it about speculation and part development. I think the people in the township are going to have a lot to say about this."

With so many rumors circulating about the project, township administrators held a public meeting last week during which Mr. Glieberman and several of his partners answered questions, said Daryl Lukasik, the township's treasurer.

"I thought the meeting was conducted very well," he said.

Among the largest concerns is the effect such a development would have on traffic and road conditions.

Mr. Lukasik said the U.S. 23 interchange at Cone, which is exit 22, is inadequate and likely would have to be re-designed, a tall order given the state's strapped resources for such

projects.

Milan city Mayor Owen Diaz said a number of the township's roads would have to be widened and that new roads would have to be added. He also is concerned that the new development could impact the city's water supply.

Mr. Lukasik also laments the loss of such a large amount of farmland should the project move forward.

"It's some of the best farmland in Michigan, maybe even the country," he said. "What we really need to be done is for Lansing to have more concern about preserving good quality farmland."

Mr. Glieberman said Tomyn acquired the three-year land options in 30 transactions, some of them involving the same seller. The development will include a retail center, industrial parks, schools, parks and recreational trails, lakes, and a yet-to-be-determined number of housing developments with everything from condos, town houses, and single-family homes.

The project will be similar to popular all-inclusive developments near Phoenix and in southern California, said Mr. Glieberman, whose company developed the 2,000-acre planned community of Brambleton near Washington.

"These are complete communities where you can walk to schools and stores," he said.

Mr. Glieberman cited state demographic figures showing that the area's population will increase by 114,000 people over the next 20 years as the reason for the development, which would be located about 15 miles south of Ann Arbor.

"With this growth, it is essential that development is not haphazard but well planned, thought well into the future with an eye toward environment, the preservation of open space, and pedestrian friendly walkways," he said.

Mr. Glieberman said his company did not yet have a time frame for the project. First on the list is to develop an infrastructure plan, including a water source, which will determine how many homes will be built.

Mr. Lukasik said if the project moves forward it eventually will be reviewed by the township and county planning boards before being voted on by the township trustees.

"They can approve it, deny it, or ask them to modify it," he said.

Mr. Roe said he'll reserve judgment until the project moves along.

"At this point I'm in the wait-and-see mode. I'm not holding my breath," he said.

Mr. Glieberman said one way or the other the township's farmland will give way to housing and commercial development.

"That's where the growth is going; you can't stop it. It's a natural progression. The thing we have to sell the community on is it's better to [plan] for it now and control your own destiny," he said.

Contact George J. Tanber at:

gtanber@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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