Monthly Archives: November 2013

Township’s alleged FOIA and OMA violations reviewed in Circuit Court

EthicsIcon

On November 13th, there was an Oakland County Circuit Court hearing on a civil suit raised by Mr. Marc Edwards, a former Township Board Trustee, against Oakland Township. The suit alleges that the Board of Oakland Township violated Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) legal requirements in their response to Mr. Edwards’ request for documents.  The suit also alleges that there was an Open Meetings Act (OMA) violation that occurred during the development of the terms and conditions included in the Paint Creek Cider Mill concessionaire’s agreement signed earlier this year. 

Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris was the presiding Judge at this hearing.  She approved a motion to give the attorney’s representing the Township and Mr. Edwards 30 days to come to some settlement agreement.  If no settlement agreement can be agreed upon, the case will come back to the court.

The results of the negotiations and possible court proceedings will be reported on this website.

There is a separate criminal investigation underway by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department regarding Open Meeting Act violations by our Township Board.  This website will also report on the status of that investigation as it unfolds.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Civil and Criminal charges against the governing body of our Township are serious matters.  The judicial system will determine the merits of the allegations.  However, one wonders – Why would a Judge recommend that an out of court settlement be attempted if there was no evidence supporting the claims?

Richard Michalski

Township Board appoints Robin Buxar to fill Judy Keyes’ seat

As stated in an earlier post on this website, the Oakland Township Board’s November 7th meeting had an agenda item to appoint a temporary replacement for Judy Keyes, who resigned from the Board on October 21st. More can be read about her resignation by going to:

https://oaklandtownship.info/2013/10/24/trustee-keyes-resigns-at-october-22-oakland-township-board-meeting/

The Board had 30 days to replace Judy Keyes after her resignation.  If they did not fill the position by a Board appointment, the seat would have to be filled through a special election.  The appointment is only official through November of 2014.  

An election will have to take place in November of 2014 in order to elect a replacement to fill the seat for the remainder of the term, which is November of 2016.  There will be primary election taking place in August of 2014 to determine the candidates that will run in the November 2014 election.  

At the November 7th meeting, Trustee Thalmann made the recommendation to appoint Robin Buxar.  They did not announce the names of all the other people that had submitted their names for consideration for the position.  Robin’s nomination was unanimously approved.

Buxar Application2013_11_07 .

Robin Buxar has been very active in participating in various Township meetings.  She has been a very vocal supporter of the current Township administration.

Based on a request from one of our readers, Patricia (see below), I have added copies of all the applications from citizens that were interested in the open Board seat.  Here is that link:

Trustee Applications 2013_11_07 .

You can read more on Buxar’s involvement in Trustee Thalmann’s attempt to “ambush” the Blossom Ridge development by reading an earlier post on this website. Here is the link:

https://oaklandtownship.info/2013/08/28/trustee-elect-thalmann-sets-up-ambush-for-blossom-ridge/

After Trustee Thalmann nominated Robin Buxar, and citizen comments, Thalmann said “I am glad to call her friend!”

An example of “who you know – not what you know????”

Richard Michalski

Francis P Hughes’ objectionable comment re: Blossom Ridge

Mr. Hughes recently commented on Blossom Ridge.   His is the least lucid statement that we have dealt with here.  It does not belong among the normally thoughtful comments contributed to this site by many others .  I decided to present it here, in a post, as an example of the kind of contribution that, if they continue to fill these pages, will drive the many contributors of intelligent discourse from this site.  This noise is not welcome here.   My response to his contribution is at the bottom of the page.

“Foulkrod and Michalski are SERIAL SELF-APPOINTED GADFLIES AS IS Marc  Edwards. The last things they want the residents to hear are the facts about what is a reasonable size for a senior housing development in Oakland and Macomb Counties. It is about 100+ living units not 200-300.  All three of them were around when the Fogler BOT totally ignored/violated our Zoning Ordinance and Master Plan. Instead of protesting that Board’s majority actions like Trustees Bailey and McKay did, they deliberately joined in the effort to build a huge Warehouse with cubbyhole sized apartments , all in violation of our carefully crafted Zoning Ordinance. Would someone please show them the EXIT DOOR?”

Francis P. Hughes

Note – Nov 26, 2013:  There was a poll here but I stopped displaying it because, for whatever reason,   it recently showed that 77%  of respondents were  supportive of Mr. Hughes negative attitude towards the proposed senior living center.  The Federal investigation into Oakland Township’s bias against fair housing is ongoing.  I feared that, regardless of whether that statistic reflects reality, it could lead to a negative perception by the authorities of our community’s attitude about the Federal Fair Housing Law  and that could hurt us all.

FRANCIS Hughes is an attorney (retired).  Mr. Hughes was, at one time, employed in the field of municipal law for the cities of Rochester Hills and Gaylord. From my layman’s view it appears that Mr. Hughes’ statements violate Fair Housing Laws, especially when uses the term “warehouse” and also when he has previously stated that Blossom Ridge would cause a reduction of neighborhood property values.  He should know better.

Further, Mr. Hughes’ statements echo the actions of the current Board of Trustees who dispute the professional advice of the Township Planning Consultant, Traffic Engineers, the former Township Fire Chief, County Zoning Committee and Charlotte Burkhardt (President of American Planners Association).

I was the Planning Commissioner who made the motion to recommend the approval of the Blossom Ridge proposal to the Township Board.  In my motion I clearly stated how the proposal met every one of the many standards of approval in our Zoning Ordinance and Master Plan.  Nobody should be impressed by Mr. Hughes’ ignorant accusation that I “totally ignored/violated” the standards contained in those documents.

Jim Foulkrod

Does Oakland Township need Senior Disabled housing?

There appear to be some residents of Oakland Township that question the need for Senior Disabled housing in our Township.  Several years ago, the developer of the Blossom Ridge development used SEMCOG data to demonstrate to the previous Oakland Township Board that this type of development is needed in our community.  

At the November 7, 2013 Board of Oakland Township meeting, Supervisor Gonser indicated that he does NOT recommend approving the Special Accommodation use for the proposed development on the Northwest corner of Adams Road and Dutton Road in our Township.

The link below is a copy of the report that the developer provided the Township back in 2011 to demonstrate that there is a real need for this type housing in our township:

A Case for Senior Housing Compiled

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The citizens of Oakland Township need to understand the data that demonstrates the need for such a development in our community.  They may then be in a better position to influence the Board in rejecting Supervisor Gonser’s recommendation to NOT approve the Special Accommodation request. This report will likely be used by the Federal Government in their investigation into discriminatory zoning practices in Oakland Township if the Board rejects the request.

Richard Michalski

Supervisor Gonser recommends NOT approving Special Accommodations for the elderly disabled in Oakland Township!

At the November 7, 2013 Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser recommended NOT APPROVING the Special Accommodation request submitted by the Blossom Ridge Developer in August of 2012.  This request has been on the Board’s ‘table’ since they took office in November of last year.  Supervisor Gonser reviewed the reasons for his recommendation.  Here is his recommendation:

2013_11_07 Supervisor Recommendation

The issues raised by Supervisor Gonser are ones that should not have taken a year to identify.  He and the Township Attorney spent months working with the developer trying to revise the plan.  There were significant changes proposed to the plan.  Gonser felt comfortable enough with the revised plan to have it reviewed at a Board meeting on October 8th.  The citizens present were not satisfied with the changes.  He now is recommending a rejection of the Special Accommodation Use request.  

In his recommendation, he says “the community has no RM (Medium Density Residential)”.  That statement is wrong.  Yes, we do not have any RM (Multifamily Residential), but we do have Medium Residential Districts (MRD).  This error leads me to believe that Gonser’s recommendation was not reviewed by our Township Attorney.  THIS ISSUE IS TOO IMPORTANT TO OUR TOWNSHIP TO HAVE THE RECOMMENDATION NOT FULLY REVIEWED BY OUR TOWNSHIP ATTORNEY.

Here are several counter-points to the issues he raised:

  • Age is protected under Michigan State Law:  The Elliott-Larson Act of 1976.
  • Oakland County Planning Department has warned Oakland Township that our housing ordinances may be considered exclusionary.
  • The proposed housing for the elderly disabled is not a “business” but a residential use.  This has been confirmed by Oakland Township’s planning consultant, former Township Attorney and the County Zoning Committee.
  • The statement that the neighborhood is “currently upscale single residential” is a red flag that the Federal Government will likely use in their investigation into Oakland Township’s alleged exclusionary zoning.
  • The taxes generated by the residents in the development will offset the costs for services.  However, Gonser reasons that since disabled seniors MAY cost the Township more (example EMS runs), the Special Accommodation should be denied.  This forces other communities to incur the POTENTIAL added cost for the elderly disabled citizens that had to move out of Oakland Township since we have no Senior Housing facilities in our Township. This logic is evidence of another exclusionary action by Oakland Township.
  • At the June 12, 2012 BOT meeting, Supervisor Fogler read a letter from Fire Chief Benoit stating – “Any development, including single family units, increases the burden on the Fire Department.” He goes on to say “It also generates tax revenue and ambulance fee revenue  for use of the emergency services.”  Gonser’s recommendation does not comprehend this fact that came from the Township expert in that field. 
  • Gonser further reasons that since there MAY be increased noise due to the EMS runs to support disabled senior citizens, the Special Accomodation request should be denied, forcing other communities to bear the POTENTIAL increased noise level. This logic is evidence of another exclusionary action by Oakland Township.
  • The traffic study that was validated by the Township’s traffic consultant, the Oakland County Road Commission and the Oakland County Planning Department indicate that the traffic generated during peak traffic hours by this development will actually be less than if the land was developed as single family residential.
  • The decision to NOT include nursing home facilities within the proposed development was based on the TOWNSHIP BOARD MEMBERS’ REQUEST.
  • The ‘end of life’ services afforded the residents of the development are the same as those who choose to live in private residences.
  • The applicant has provided an alternate plan that was reviewed with Gonser and the Township Attorney in private meetings.  That proposal was later reviewed at the October 8th Board meeting.  The minutes for that meeting interestingly do not mention that proposal.  However, a description of the proposal can be seen by going to: 

https://oaklandtownship.info/2013/10/26/blossom-ridge-a-compromise-is-on-the-table/

  • The 2005 and 2011 adopted Master Plan indicate that this parcel of land is suited for Senior housing use.
  • Supervisor Gonser admits that “no specific ordinance may exist” to accommodate the disabled elderly, but suggests that the developer come up with a modified plan and submit a rezoning request to (R-M) Multifamily Residential.  Under the R-M zoning, the number of units allowed would be 342.  The developer has made repeated reductions from 342 to 282, then 238, and most recently 228.  Getting the Board to approve 342 units is highly unlikely.  It is questionable if the developer’s proposal of 228 is still an option, given comments made at the October 8th meeting.

For a complete “side by side” comparison of Gonser’s points and counter points, please look at the following file:

Response to Gonser’s SAU recommendation

The legal implications of this decision must be fully understood by the citizens of Oakland Township.  Having a recommendation that is based on a campaign promise, may not be in the Township’s best interest.

A public hearing on this subject has been set for December 10, 2013.  Resident participation is VERY important at that meeting.  

PLEASE MARK IT ON YOUR CALENDAR AND ATTEND!

For those interested, a copy of our Township’s Special Accommodation Ordinance can be reviewed here:

Special Accommodation Use Ordinance

Why is this important to the Citizens of Oakland Township?  The upcoming public hearing is very important.  The consequences to the Township could be significant if the Federal Government concludes that the Board’s actions have been discriminatory.  The citizens and the Board must be fully informed.  Whatever your vote was in August on the Blossom Ridge referendum, it is in our best interest to make sure our Township Attorney explains the potential consequences of this decision.

Richard Michalski

IMPORTANT Board Meeting – Thursday, Nov. 7th, 7pm

ATTENTION : This Thursday there will be a special meeting of the Board of Trustees. Their agenda deals with three of the most important issues facing the Township: Agenda 2013_11_07 BOT Special Meeting

  1. The Supervisor’s recommendation on Blossom Ridge
  2. Supervisor/Superintendent duties
  3. Appointment of a new Trustee to replace Judy Keyes

1. Supervisor Gonser’s recommendation is to turn down the Special Accommodation Use Application that would allow Blossom Ridge to be built.  Read his recommendation here: 2013_11_07 Supervisor Recommendation.

2. The Board will discuss which statutory duties should be given to Supervisor Gonser and which duties should be the responsibility of the professional municipal manager who is yet to be hired to fill the vacant Superintendent position.  Here is our current ordinance which defines the duties of the Superintendent position: Superintendent Ordinance 97.

3. Nine people have submitted applications to fill the vacant Trustee position:

  • Dominic Abbate
  • Robin Buxar
  • Jack Elder
  • Jim Foulkrod
  • Tony J Gallo
  • Keith Hahn
  • Adam Moore
  • Michael Sinclair
  • Francis P Hughes

Read their applications here: Trustee Applications 2013_11_07 .

Attendance at Board meetings has been declining and I am afraid that the Board of Trustees feels that very few residents care about what is going on. It would be great if a large number of people attended this meeting to show that they are concerned.  I hope to see you there.

Jim Foulkrod

Denial of Service Attacks Aimed at This Site?

Since Oct. 30th it seems that someone has been making futile attempts to do some harm to this site.  Maybe we made someone afraid on Oct. 28th when we added a hit counter to the site showing that this site had more than 14,000 page views.  Soon after that, our site statistics began going through the roof as a program started coming here and rapidly change from one page to another faster than once per second.  It has no effect on this site. But, the corporation that owns the servers that host this and 72 million other sites may not have a sense of humor.  I have contacted them and they are following up.

Ineffectual or not, this nuisance behavior may be properly classified a “denial of service attack”.

In the US, denial-of-service attacks may be considered a federal crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act with penalties that include years of imprisonment.

So, again in these pages, it is necessary to inform someone of the legal consequences of their behavior.

Jim Foulkrod