Brewer townhome site plan approved, developer prepares to break ground

SWARTZ CREEK — The long-awaited and much-debated Brewer Townhomes project will begin to take shape this year with the first sales expected this summer.

Developer Brett Jory of RBF Construction received planning commission approval for a modified site plan last week.

The plan differs from the original version in that Jory proposes to build the condominiums on crawlspaces rather than basements.

Jory explained that the cost of materials has skyrocketed in recent months, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic and in part because of the February storm in Texas. The change in plans is an effort to keep costs around the $220,000 to $240,000 range.

“Esthetically, we want something to be proud of in the city,” he said, adding that he didn’t want to compromise the visible features of the 15-unit development planned for Fortino Drive.

Jory said if buyers want to cover the cost of a basement in unbuilt units, they will have that option. Installing a basement could add about $15,000 to the final price tag, he indicated.

The planning commission’s approval is contingent upon Jory providing some sort of storm shelter.

“We decided, years ago, not to allow homes to be built without basements because of the number of tornadoes we get in Michigan,” said Mayor and planning commission member David Krueger.

Although City Manager Adam Zettel pointed out that the ordinance requiring basements only applies to single-family homes, the commissioners were determined to make the safety feature a condition of their approval.

City officials began pursuing a development on Fortino Drive in 2016.

Supporters have said it will provide more housing options in the high-demand downtown area, and create a more vibrant atmosphere in the central business district.

Opponents say they’re concerned that the location, adjacent to Swartz Creek Area Fire Department Station #1, will deter potential buyers.

In addition, the development will take away the greenspace where visitors park to attend events at the Veterans Memorial and the Pajtas Amphitheater.

They’ve also objected to the fact that the city paid about $100,000 for the two parcels of property, and paid to have the homes demolished, and later sold the land to RBF for $10,000.

Supporters have countered that the development will generate tax revenues that will add about $30,000 to the city’s coffers every year.

The city also owns undeveloped property between the U.S. Post Office and the Swartz Creek Cemetery, which will provide an alternative for parking. In addition, owners of the former Sports Creek Raceway have said the city may utilize track-owned land adjacent to the amphitheater site.

The two-story townhomes will measure 1,700 square feet and include two-car garages.

The development is named in honor of Brigadier Gen. Margaret Brewer, a Swartz Creek-area native and the first female general in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Brewer grew up on a farm in Bristol Road and attended the Ryno School that once stood at Miller and Van Vleet roads. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in geography from the University of Michigan in 1952, and joined the Marine Corps that year.

Brewer achieved the rank of brigadier general in 1978, receiving her star by special appointment from President Jimmy Carter on the approval of both Congressional houses.