A couple of feet is making all the difference for a planned Richmond subdivision.

Trademark Construction requested the Richmond Advisory Plan Commission approve a primary plat request and two variances for a six-residence subdivision at 315 Garwood Road. One of the variances would make lot sizes 38 feet wide instead of the required 40.

Plan commission members indicated May 24 that they would reject that request, making it impossible for Trademark to divide the 1.099-acre property north of Backmeyer Road on the east side of Garwood into six lots. When a poll of members showed a lack of support, Trademark requested the matter be tabled until the commission’s June meeting. The seven commission members in attendance voted to do just that.

With three of the commission’s 10 members absent, six of the seven in attendance needed to support Trademark’s requests for them to pass. Only three members, though, indicated they supported the project as proposed. For the June meeting, the commission’s leaning could swing if the absent members support Trademark’s requests, or Trademark could adjust its plans for the Villas at Garwood.

Commission members opposing the width request were reluctant to have six houses on the lot, following concerns expressed by Hughes Lane residents opposing the project.

Trademark plans one drive at the north end of the property that would wrap behind the six houses. Each house would have a detached garage that forms a courtyard between the house and garage. The drive causes the 38-foot width for five of the six plots. 

It also causes the second variance request. City code requires the drive be 150 feet from Hughes Lane; however, its planned placement is only 109 feet from the road.

Trademark bought the property during December 2022, and activity on site May 24 included demolition work on an existing house. A barn also would be demolished to clear the way for the new houses. Trademark is finishing five additional homes around a cul-de-sac in the subdivision behind the Garwood Road property. It expects all 11 residences to sell for $300,000 to $325,000. The expected market is empty-nesters, retirees and young professionals who do not want extensive outdoor maintenance. 

Valerie Shaffer, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Wayne County, and Melissa Vance, president and CEO of the Wayne County Area Chamber of Commerce, spoke in favor of the development because it provides needed housing. A 2021 county housing study showed Wayne County needed an additional 65 single-family homes each year for five years, according to Shaffer. She and Vance said residents moving into the new homes might sell larger homes to families struggling to find proper housing.

Paul Witte, the president and COO of First Bank Richmond, also supported the project because of Trademark’s previous work and its capital and capacity to complete the project.

Residents of Hughes Lane, which is north of the proposed development, offered a variety of complaints, including: six homes crammed into the property, water pressure problems that extra homes could exacerbate, the drive so close to Hughes Lane, the houses blocking visibility at the Hughes-Garwood intersection, the possibility that buyers would turn the houses into rentals, safety impacts of extra traffic, property value impacts and incompatibility with the neighborhood.

“I don’t think it is an appropriate development for our neighborhood,” said Steve Fosler, adding it’s more appropriate for areas with on-street parking and alleys.

Plans for the new houses, including a street view, were displayed during the meeting. Kris Rieder agreed with Fosler the narrow houses would not fit with the neighborhood.

Commission members were also sympathetic to resident concerns about vehicle traffic exiting Hughes Lane onto Garwood Road. Greg Stiens, a commission member and the city’s director of public works and engineering, said no matter which way a vote went, he would request the city study whether stop signs are needed on Garwood at Backmeyer and whether Garwood needs road improvements.

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A version of this article appeared in the May 31 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.

Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.