Federal Fair Housing Complaint Yields Lawsuit in Federal Court

The MICHIGAN PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA (MPVA) have filed a lawsuit against Oakland Township in Federal Court after filing a complaint with the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and  Urban Development in 2013.  There is a link to the entire complaint document at the end of this post. I have summarized its 42 pages here. The suit complains that:

Oakland Township has “engaged in one or more discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law, 42 U.S.C. sections 3601-3619″

“Oakland Township violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to approve the reasonable accommodation requested pursuant to the SAU Ordinance”

“Oakland Township acted intentionally, willfully, and in disregard for the rights of others.”

Their summary allegation, which is about the Proposed Blossom Ridge development, is that:

“Oakland Township has refused a reasonable accommodation to allow development of a multi-family housing development for the elderly and disabled”.

As background to this complaint the suit’s states that :

“The prior Township administration, consisting of a Board of Trustees, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals approved rezoning that would have permitted the development.”

Given that background, the primary act by the Township cited in the suit by that gives rise to this allegation is:

“An application was made for a reasonable accommodation pursuant to a special use accommodation provision that had been added to the Township’s zoning ordinance specifically to comply with the FHA. The application for special use accommodation was recommended for approval by the Township Supervisor, but was later denied by the new Township leadership who opposed the development.”

The suit supplied some evidence of the local need for housing for the elderly and disabled

Recent U.S. Census data provides data about people who may require this kind of housing
the total adult disabled population within an approximate 10 mile radius of the proposed development is approximately 38,000
persons age 65 and over with a disability within a 10 mile radius of the proposed development. 16,800
persons with a service-connected disability within a 10 mile radius of Oakland  Township. 2,400

The complaint gives a narrative of events leading up to the denial of the Blossom Ridge project.  The narrative is summarized and presented in chronological order below

  1. Oakland Township contains no land zoned to allow specialized multifamily housing for the elderly or disabled.
  2. Oakland Township adopted a Master Plan in 2005 and reaffirmed in 2011 that recognized that the Township must provide housing  options for the disabled and the elderly.
  3. In February 2012, consistent with the recommendation of the Township’s planning consultants, Oakland Township’s Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning under a Planned Residential Rezoning Overlay (“PRRO).
  4. Numerous Oakland Township residents, including candidates for positions on the Township Board, vocally opposed the development before and after this meeting.
  5. Despite the opposition, at its August 14, 2012 Meeting, the Township Board approved the rezoning.
  6. On or about August 15, 2012, an application was submitted for a reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance for the Blossom Ridge housing development for seniors and the disabled.
  7. On or about September 19, 2012, Ms. Buxar and other opponents of the project filed documents requesting a referendum, which put the rezoning on hold temporarily.
  8. Oct 2012 Board Meeting The Township Supervisor recommended approval of the development as a reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance.
  9. The Board voted to table determination on the request for reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance until after a vote on the referendum.
  10. Following the 2012 election that transformed the Board into one solidly opposed to the development, and a referendum spurred by project opponents new Township Supervisor Gonser recommended denial of the development. He included these among his reasons: “…the proposed housing development will definitely produce a fundamental alteration in the nature of the neighborhood which is currently exclusively upscale single family residential…”  “The community is fundamentally comprised of large, upscale single family homes in a relatively quiet neighborhood.”
  11. At a meeting held on December 10, 2013, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously (6-0, with one Trustee having recused herself) to deny the reasonable accommodation request under the SAU Ordinance “for the reasons stated in Supervisor Gonser’s recommendation to the Board.”

Edited Summary of  RELIEF REQUESTED

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court:

  • Enter orders finding and declaring that Oakland Township’s actions alleged above constitute violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Michigan’s Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”)
  • Order Oakland Township to grant the reasonable accommodation requested pursuant to the SAU Ordinance;
  • Enjoin Oakland Township, its agents, employees, assigns, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from discriminating on the basis of disability in violation of the FHA, ADA and (“PWDCRA”) ;
  • Enjoin Oakland Township, its agents, employees, assigns, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from refusing to approve the accommodation requested pursuant to the SAU Ordinance and ordering them to allow the development of the Blossom Ridge project;
  • Order monetary damages in an appropriate amount to fully compensate each person aggrieved by Oakland nship’s discriminatory housing practices for injuries caused by Oakland Township’s fa ilure to comply with the requirements of the FHA, the ADA, and the PWDCRA;
  • Order Oakland Township to pay attorney fees, costs and expenses involved in bringing this litigation;

LINKS TO VIEW RELATED MATERIAL

Use this link to view the 2014_12_05 PVA Federal Complaint.

Use this link to read Detroit Free Press editorial – Free Press Editorial

Use this link to read Oakland Press article – Oakland Press Article

Author’s note:  This is an important event for Oakland Township citizens.  This could involve a great deal of our taxpayers’ money in compensation and attorney fees. It will occupy our elected officers and board members with things other than their official duties.  It could negatively affect the reputation of our community.  The Board needs to hear from  our citizens so please voice your opinion by phone calls, emails and attending Board meetings.  The next Board meeting is Tuesday the 9th 7PM in the Township Hall.

Jim Foulkrod

18 thoughts on “Federal Fair Housing Complaint Yields Lawsuit in Federal Court

  1. Pingback: Michigan Disabled Veterans Sue Oakland Township in Federal Court | Oakland Township Sentinel, LLC

  2. Marty Rosalik

    They filed a law suit. Threats of doom and gloom. Yes this will cost more in lawyers. However it will mostly rest on what the court thinks is “reasonable accommodation “. In my opinion it is threats and intimidation designed to terrify the citizens into calling for a huge un-reasonable development.

    Since a senior development of smaller scale can still be built there and welcome, I doubt this will yield any of the desired results. It will be divisive and nasty, but that appears to be the desired result.

    Reply
  3. disappointedresident

    There WAS room for a compromise here. Unfortunately, Gonser is void of all integrity and saw this as an opportunity to score some sorely needed brownie points with a hand full of his campaign supporters. His incredibly arrogant and “in your face:” SAU recommendation in now what is the cornerstone of this lawsuit. He blew it it big time. He has put the entire Twp. at risk and we will lose, as we should. It took leadership and integrity to get through this SAU. A compromise could have been reached to satisfy the builder and most of the residents. Gonser didn’t want that. He wanted to play hero. Something he is not and will never be cut out to do. This lawsuit rests on his shoulders and the board brainlessly followed him unanimously. Laws have to be followed, even when you don’t like them. What a mess this board is leaving for the next clean sweep in 2016. All we can do, is do better next time to elect more vetted candidates, no more wild cards.

    Reply
  4. Paul Morales

    Marty,
    Please facts are as follows:
    In October 2012, Robin Buxar, John Giannangeli and others wrote a letter with threats of intimidation and coercion (an action clearly in violation of the Fair Housing Act Title 24, section 100,400) to personally sue any board of trustees member who voted in favor of a reasonable accommodation.
    Now it is yourself together with Anna Lisa Rogers Hollenbeck (BOT meeting 9/10/2013) who make accusations that a housing provider for the elderly and disabled are terrorizing the neighborhood.
    Quite singlehandedly housing for the elderly and disabled is considered “not keeping in character of the neighborhood”. Hmmmm, Mansions, schools (both public and private), country clubs , churches, and mausoleums that are all in residential zones of which several dozen are longer, higher and not screened with landscaped berms are acceptable.
    The BOT actions in patronizing this distorted rhetoric is why the Charter Township of Oakland is in jeopardy.
    Marty your comment in the Oakland Township Patch (July 22, 2012) after stating that ” From a purely engineering perspective the site is perfect….. from my personal perspective , I don’t want it….Right now if I want to shoot a gun and target practice in my backyard , I can. If I want to air dry laundry , I can.” Later you state that Blossom Ridge somehow “threatens my freedoms and lifestyle.”
    The heroes of the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America protected our freedoms and lifestyles. They help grant us the freedom to live where we choose. Should not they have the same choice?
    Regards,
    Paul Morales

    Reply
  5. richardjmichalski

    The opinion (not to mention ethics) of one of our Township Trustees, Maureen Thalmann, on this issue can be seen by clicking on the August 2013 link on the right of this web page. On August 28, 2013 a post was entered titled “Trustee Elect Thalmann sets up “Ambush” for Blossom Ridge”. It explains how Maureen, prior to being officially being elected, but after her primary victory, withheld information in order to “Ambush” the Blossom Ridge proposal. This is governance at its finest (at least in Oakland Township with our current elected Board). I am sure the attorneys will use this in part of their argument. 2016 cannot come soon enough!

    Reply
  6. Marty Rosalik

    I knew that posting my opinion would draw personal attacks. Thank you Paul for proving that. Exactly where did I accuse anybody or group of being a “terrorist”? You are making a pretty gutsy accusation on a public forum. Threats of law suits were made and now true. Intimidation within the filed complaint is prima fascia evident.

    So how does that amount to terror? This was never about a senior development or NOT. This is about the size and scope of such a development. When a developer submits plans within and close to existing zoning, let the construction BEGIN.

    No amount of trying to paint me as anti veteran is going to stick. Especially on December 7th.

    I have far too many veteran relatives for you to pull this kind of “stuff”. It’s insulting and you know it. Especially on December 7th.

    Reply
    1. Paul Morales

      Marty,
      Read what Marty Rosalik wrote at 10:42 am Dec 6, 2013 : “In my opinion it is threats and intimidation designed to terrify the citizens into calling for a huge unreasonable development.”
      My My…..you seem quite appalled by your own words.
      Date of letter from Buxar, Giannangeli et al 10/7/2012 . It’s available at Township hall. It was also read into the record by, Gregory Need, their attorney at the Board of Trustees meeting during the SAU public hearing on October 9, 2012.

      Unreasonable development?
      There are over 16,800 persons within a 10 mile radius of persons 65 years and older with a disability. In addition, there are over 2400 service – connected disabled veterans in the same radius.
      You tell those persons that their residency needs are unreasonable.
      They fought for your right to be foolish in a public forum.
      Be well in your backyard shooting your rifle at trees.
      Peace,
      Paul Morales

      Reply
      1. Marty rosalik

        Paul calling a group a terrorist is much more direct. Stating an opinion that threats and intimidating appear designed to terrify has a semantic difference. If my semantics somehow make your twisted points, go ahead.

  7. francis P. Hughes

    This proposed oversized development, 2/3 of which is cubbyhole sized 650 square feet one bedroom apartments in a 3 story building would violate our zoning ordinance which requires living units to be at least 800 square feet in size and it further violate our zoning ordinance in terms of width, height, etc. A fire would likely cause heavy loss of life for the second and third floor occupants as each would have to be carried down the stairways. The 248 living units proposed far exceeds the 98-100 average number of living units in existing senior housing developments in Michigan and likely the entire Country. Linking this proposed warehousing of seniors to Disabled Vets is even more ridiculous taking into consideration that there are very few disabled veterans among Oakland Township’s 300-500 veterans and most of them have disabilities that are not service connected. Like non veterans, if they are now unable to climb stairs in their 2 story large homes, they sell and buy a one story ranch type home or a ground floor condo. Most would not be interested in these $3000-4,000.00 a month cubbyhole apartments especially if they have a living spouse or even a dog.The bottom line is that the developer and former township supervisor sold a tall tale to the Free Press that does not exist, and the developer and former township supervisor have now linked their tale to ” disabled ” veterans which is not surprising especially when neiither one has ever served in the U.S. Military.

    Reply
    1. Paul Morales

      Mr Hughes, You es,
      It lis the crap you say, as to why this Township is in Jeopardy.
      * cubbysize apartments
      * warehousing of seniors
      * buy a one story ranch or condo [Where , and for how much? Clearly outside of Oakland Twp? One story ADA compliant ranch condos don’t exist in the TWP] Ranch home on a large lot with significant maintenance costs
      * assuming that veterans or the disabled can’t afford or desire to live in the Township
      * Those with spouses and pets [could be service animals] would especially not be interested in living in a congregate setting
      * sold a tale to the press (assumes payoff)
      * military service has additional credentials when filing a Fair Housing Complaint

      Thank You for making the Court’s Job Easy.

      Thank You for no longer practicing law. But if you are still practicing, we should all pray for your clients.

      Regards,
      Paul Morales

      Reply
      1. francis P. Hughes

        it is a what is known as a crap lawsuit I) most veterans could not afford the high rent
        for these cubby hole apartments, nor want to be in one during a fire. keep in mind local vets regard the lawsuit as a farce financed by some one other than this “on the other end of the County” veterans group which could not get a Better Business Bureau approval and was given a grade of ” F ” by a charity rating service. Please go away you tired, whining supporters of the Trustees who were voted out of office, get a life, join a service club or move further North or write letters to yourself and pretend they came from someone else.

      2. richardjmichalski

        Judging from the pain and anguish detected in Mr. Hughes’ comments, the saying “The truth hurts!” comes to mind.

        Ignoring the inappropriate actions of the current Board will not make them go away. Making the actions visible to the citizens of Oakland Township will make THEM go away in 2016.

  8. francis p. hughes

    Why do you think the plaintiff in this lawsuit is not the VFW, the American Legion, or the DAV? Because it has no merit nor at $3,000- to $4,000.00 a month it is certainly is not affordable housing. The average disabled veteran has a monthly income of $1,500-$2,000.00 a month and if you check the rates of the 35-45 senior housing developments in the surrounding communities you will find monthly rates for one bedroom units at $3,000-$4,000.
    a month and $5,000 and up for 2 bedroom units. Remember too, that many veterans like Michael Harris for example, have disabilities that are not service connected. Harris’ disability is from an automobile accident. Many of these veteran groups raise a lot of money but only a very small percentage goes to the veterans, and when they use a celebrity, keep in mind that just like Robert Wagner, Fred Thompson and Henry Winkler, their paid endorsements do not make a reverse mortgage a good thing for seniors.

    Reply
    1. foulkrj Post author

      Mr. Hughes,
      I am glad to see you offer an information based comment. It is a change from the stream of personal attacks that you have offered recently.

      On November 13th 2013 I wrote this comment;
      “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.”

      Dick and I agree that comments from you in your former style will drive people away from this site and will not be welcome. Any future personal attacks from you will not be published here.
      Jim Foulkrod

      Reply
    2. Paul Morales

      Mr Hughes,

      Your unmitigated arrogance is beyond reproach. The manner by which a fellow citizen becomes disabled has but no relevance except for that the person is disabled and, or worse, paralyzed. The Paralyzed Veterans of America advocates for the ENTIRE disabled community.

      The disabled population of persons 65 years or older within 10 miles of Oakland Township is greater than the entire population of Oakland Township of 16,750 persons . Your idea that fulfilling the fair housing needs of our friends, neighbors and relatives as ‘warehousing’ is repugnant and is additional evidence for the Federal complaints levied against the Township. The animus reflected in the ‘warehousing’ term has also been echoed in writing by Zoning Board of Appeals member John Markel , appointed by the Township Board of Trustees. That animus has a discriminatory effect, plain and simple.

      The links below provide information regarding the PVA’s mission for civil rights and fair housing protections for all persons.

      Furthermore, the members of the the PVA fought to protect the rights under ‘Freedom of Expression’ regardless of how distorted your views, Mr Hughes.

      https://www.congress.gov/congressional-record/2014/2/14/extensions-of-remarks-section/article/E216-3

      Paralyzed Veterans of America – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
      http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paralyzed_Veterans_of_America

      Reply
      1. Marty Rosalik

        Paul Morales, if that is your real name please repost my ENTIRE un-edited Patch post. You obviously have it to be used as evidence. Your reference to it in the boilerplate in the newest law suit and numerous references here leaves something… well… OUT!

        Could that out-of-context purposeful omission NOT fit your narrative?

        I’m still trying to figure out what your connections to all this are. Are you just a minion for DM? Are you DM using a phony name?

        Anyway, please post the WHOLE thing I wrote and let’s see if it is so bad.

        thanks in advance

        Marty Rosalik

  9. Stella Slimko

    Where is this going now. Could this project blossom ridge possibly begin in spring of 2015 and could it be affordable to us seniors. I believe the original duets were priced at 229,000! Would that still be available.

    We need this senior community. I am a 75 year widow and lost my husband in 2005. My big house 3500 sq ft is getting harder to maintain.

    I love moceri’s beauty and design and the way he incorporates the use and the beauty of the land.

    Those Oakland county residents that are objecting will become older some day.

    We all get a turn.

    Blossom ridge would be an asset to the community. Amen

    Let me hear from you!!

    Reply
  10. Marty Rosalik

    Stella, the duets you cite were NEVER a problem, at least to me. The extra-large building on the south east portion of the plan is and has always been the point of contention for me.

    By all means build those duets. They will be an asset to the community.

    Reply

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