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  • Kevin Elliott

Development for Rochester Hills dumping ground

An agreement to clean up and develop a former illegal dumping grounds near Adams and Hamlin roads in Rochester Hills received initial approval on Monday, February 5, by the Rochester Hills City Council.

The property, known historically as the Christiansen Adams Landfill, was the site of an illegal dumping grounds that operated from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s. Located on Hamlin Road, across from the recently renamed Innovation Hills city park, pollution at the site included thousands of contaminated barrels left at the site, some of which caught fire in the 1980s before being removed.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) conducted $4 million in remediation work at the site before eventually running out of money and stopping work. While a subsequent environmental study found the contamination hasn't leached into the adjacent city-owned property, thousands of cubic yards of contaminated soil remain on the 28-acre site.

In the mid-2000s, a developer proposed conducting cleanup operations at the site and rezoning the land to allow for a mixture of commercial office and retail developments at the site and along Hamlin Road, but the city initially rejected the plan, resulting in a lawsuit and consent order issued to allow for cleanup and rezoning to allow for about 100,000 square feet of office development and approximately 72,600 square feet of retail space, said Rochester Hills Planning Director Sara Roediger.

In March 2017, the Goldberg Companies announced its intent to purchase the land and approached the city with an alternative plan that would include more extensive environmental cleanup operations and the construction of a luxury apartment development, Legacy Rochester Hills, consisting of about seven buildings and nearly 400 apartments.

Roediger said that because Goldberg is proposing residential use at the site, it would require much more extensive remediation. Under the proposed plan, the developer would increase cleanup costs from $3.5 million to $12.67 million; and extend the tax capture of the Brownfield Development from 15 years to about 17 years. The plan would result in lower traffic counts at the site than a retail/commercial development, with estimates of about 2,500 per day, down from about 10,000.

The proposed plan calls for about $50 million in total investments, with seven buildings ranging from 1.5 stories to three and four-story buildings, resulting in about 368 units, as well as several detached garage buildings, a pool amenity area, playground, dog park, retention pond, underground stormwater detention area, and an open space area. The plan also calls for an outdoor exercise equipment area near Innovation Hills, which would be accessible to the public.

In terms of cleanup operations, the plan would split the site into two main parcels, with Parcel A cleanup taking about three to four months, and consisting in the removal of about 43,668 cubic yards of contaminated soil, associated groundwater, and backfilling the soil; removal and disposal of another 1,500 cubic yards in specific hot spots; the installation of a passive vent system below all residential buildings; and a longterm maintenance and operation plan.

Parcel B, where the contamination is the highest, would take about seven years to complete, and include the removal of an additional 23,185 cubic yards of soil, groundwater and backfilling; the installation of a 1,400-foot hydraulic barrier around the landfill; a clay backfill wall on the western side of the landfill; a 2-foot thick clay slurry wall on the eastern and northern sides; a 2-foot thick clay cap over the landfill area; and a 30-year operation and maintenance plan. The plan also calls for landscape buffers to adjacent residential properties.

For the plan to move forward, Roediger said council would have to approve the amended consent order, which is essentially an agreement between the city, the developer and the court to amend the original order issued by the court in 2006. Council unanimously agreed to amend the consent oder, with some minor changes and engineering information to be included before granting final approval.

Council in a separate motion agreed to terminate the existing brownfield plan that was approved in the original consent judgement, which will be replaced with the new consent agreement.

Council is expected to review final changes to the amended consent agreement at its next meeting. However, additional steps would still be needed before final approval for the project could move forward. Those steps include executing the finalized amended consent agreement; review of the developer's site plan by the city's planning commission and approval by city council; and review and approval of a finalized Brownfield Plan by the city's Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and city council.

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