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
- Oakland Township contains no land zoned to allow specialized multifamily housing for the elderly or disabled.
- 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.
- 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).
- Numerous Oakland Township residents, including candidates for positions on the Township Board, vocally opposed the development before and after this meeting.
- Despite the opposition, at its August 14, 2012 Meeting, the Township Board approved the rezoning.
- 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.
- 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.
- Oct 2012 Board Meeting The Township Supervisor recommended approval of the development as a reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance.
- The Board voted to table determination on the request for reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance until after a vote on the referendum.
- 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.”
- 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 Township’s discriminatory housing practices for injuries caused by Oakland Township’s failure 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.