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Major Development Would Transform Erwin Orchards
Michigan Ag Connection - 02/07/2019

Proposals have been shot down over the years but Howard Fingeroot said his plan is something different.

Fingeroot, a Oakland County-based developer, pitched his mixed-use development proposal to the Lyon Township Planning Commission Wednesday night.

The proposed development, called Cider Mill Village, would transform the nearly century old Erwin Orchards property in Lyon Township, a family-run cider mill and u-pick apple orchard at the corner of Pontiac Trail and Silver Lake Road. The proposal includes housing, retail, an event and recreation center, restaurants, community garden, nature trail, and community event buildings.

In order to maintain the property's heritage, the proposed development would maintain operation of the cider mill and 12-acres of the u-pick orchard. The proposal also includes the rehabilitation of three existing orchard outbuildings to support various community functions, events and programs.

"We want to keep the heritage of the cider mill," said Fingeroot. "It's a great amentity for the whole township. Township residents have come to know and love the Erwin Cider Mill. We wanted to first and foremost preseve the orchard and mill the best we could. I think we have done a good job of that."

Fingeroot told The Oakland Press that he spoke with Bill and Linda Erwin about his proposed development.

"I think they (Bill and Linda Erwin) of very supportive of my plan," said Fingeroot. "They have a done a wonderful job in the community and I think they are looking forward to retiring and enjoying what they've created. They are excited because they see the project as something the community could embrace. Preserving the heritage of the property is important to them as well."

Fingeroot knows that many developers have come before him in looking to redevelop the property. That's why he said the development will be more than just a subdivison, but that of a community village with a different mix of amentities.

"I'm hoping that residents will look at this project with an open mind and really understand what's being proposed," said Fingeroot. "We want to make this an area that is walkable where people can live, play, and work. This will very different than just a subdivision. We are going above and beyond with this project due to the property's size and location."

Fingeroot did say that some of the village's ammentities, such as the recreation center, would be available only to people living in the village who paid homeowners association fees.

According to the Oakland County Equalization Division, the 2018 assessed value of the property was $900,730 while the taxable value was $454,470.

The proposal also includes relocating and re-aligning Kent Lake Road and connecting it directly to Pontiac Trail, with the goal of alleviating traffic congestion and concerns.

According to the township's 2012 master plan, the existing alignment of Kent Lake Road is seen as a roadway interchange needing improvement.

After reviewing the development proposal, the township's planner, Patrick Sloan with McKenna, determined that the development would not have an adverse impact on the township's master plan and would not have a "unreasonable" negative economic impact on surrounding properties.

Sloan did note that the development proposes a density of 2.3 units per acre, which exceeds the master plan's desired density of up to 1.25 units per acre.

Christine Archer, the township's economic development coordinator, said the township always has density concerns when it comes to residential developments.

She made clear that the township does not recruit developers to specific properties, but does respond to developer interest in a community that is growing.

"It's about honoring yesterday and building tomorrow," said Archer. "This developer sees a benefit in creating a product that is more than just a pocket park and homes. The preservation of some aspects of the orchard would be of interest to this community."

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