Category Archives: Board vs. Blossom Ridge

Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America issue press release on Blossom Ridge

The following is a link to a press release from the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America regarding the Blossom Ridge settlement in our Township.  They were one of three plaintiffs in the lawsuit against our Township.

Press Release – Michigan PVA Settles with Oakland Township

Richard Michalski

Blossom Ridge (and Carillon Creek) development approved by Township Board

On February 2, 2016, the Oakland Township Board voted to approve a proposed Consent judgment settlement regarding the Blossom Ridge Senior development. The agreement also included a second parcel on the corner of Adams and Silverbell (by the Church). The Blossom Ridge issue has had many posts on this website over the years. It has been a contentious issue during this Board’s entire administration. In fact, every member of the Board played a role in having this issue proceed to a referendum vote in the summer of 2013.

The legal advice from our Township Attorney, and Judge Howard, clearly played a role in having the majority of the Board vote to approve this Consent Judgment. The vote was five to two, with Treasurer Langlois and Clerk Reilly being the dissenting vote.  Their objections centered on the fact that they did not think that the agreement should have included the second parcel (Carillon Creek parcel), even though our Township Attorney stated that a mutually agreeable solution to the Blossom Ridge parcel was not possible without consideration of the second parcel due to demands made by the Board on the Blossom Ridge parcel.

Most of the Board members shared the rationale for their decisions in great depth (exception being Clerk Reilly), and can be seen by visiting the Township website link included below.

Trustee Buxar summarized her decision by using a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King:

“Cowardice asks the question – Is it safe?

Expediency ask the question – Is is political?

Vanity asks the question – Is it popular?

Conscience asks the question – Is it right?

And there comes a time when one must take a position that is not, safe, political, or popular, but must make it simply because it is right!”

Here is a link to the Township’s website:

http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T02627

Once you go to the website:

On Playlist tab, click on Board of Trustees 2016
On Video tab, click on February 2, 2016 BOT meeting
On Chapter tab, click on Chapter 3

The following link to a press release provides additional information on the agreement

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/settlement-agreement-provides-expanded-housing-152100205.html?soc_src=mediacontentstory&soc_trk=ma

So what does that Township get out of this agreement?

  • A Senior Assisted Living development that meets our ordinances and community needs.
  • A Senior Health and Wellness Center that meets our ordinances and community needs.
  • Eliminates the burden of Township having to prove it has provided ‘reasonable accommodations’ to a protected class of citizens.
  • Eliminates the potential $17M in delayed damage.
  • Eliminates the loss of being covered by our Insurance Company.
  • Decreases the potential density on the Research Laboratory zoned parcel.
  • Eliminates the potential for oil and gas drilling and cell towers on the parcels.
  • Accessible parkland available to the public in the portion of Township with the highest residential density.
  • Protects the Township against future similar lawsuits if the Carillon Creek parcel gets rezoned to the zoning districts as proposed by our attorney.
  • Township continues to have Engineering Control over the proposed developments.
  • Plan includes a restaurant in our community that our recent survey indicates is a desire of our residents.
  • Developer contributes $400,000 for a water storage facility to help improve seasonal water pressure issues (location will be determined by County water resource commission.)
  • Developer contributes $200,000 for an Advanced Life Support vehicle.
  • Developer contributes up to $125,000 in matching funds for a Veteran’s Memorial facility.

Finally, the biggest win for our Township is that we get this divisive issue behind us and heal the rift in our Township.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The passage of this consent Judgment puts this contentious issue behind us.  The five Board members who voted to approve the agreement made their decision concluding that it was in the best interest of the Township.  Their decision was made in spite of their earlier concerns over the initial proposed development.  They need to be commended for taking that action.

Citizens should consider whether the decisions made by two of our top Township officials, (Treasurer Langlois and Clerk Reilly), really were made in the best interest of the Township.

Richard Michalski

 

Key Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment information discussed at January 26, 2016 BOT meeting

The January 26, 2016 Oakland Township Board meeting was very informative regarding the proposed Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment that the Board is considering. There were many facts and opinions shared.  Our Township Attorney also corrected many inaccurate claims that have been shared by some of the citizens opposed to the development.

Because the issue is so complex, it is difficult (and almost impossible) to accurately summarize the points made by the Attorneys, Consultants and citizens at the meeting.  As a result, I recommend that citizens who have an interest in this issue, and are willing to spend time understanding the many complexities involved in this decision, visit the following Township website and watch the meeting proceedings.

Once you go to the website,

  • On Playlist tab, click on Board of Trustees 2016
  • On Video tab, click on January 26, 2016 BOT meeting
  • On Chapter tab, click on Chapter 5

It will take you to the 4:50 (minute:second) point in the meeting.

http://vp.telvue.com/player?id=T02627

  • The Former Oakland County Chief Judge Barry Howard, who was the arbitrator in this case, gives his presentation until the 27:40 point in the meeting.
  • Between 27:40 and 52:20, Oakland Township Planning Consultant, Dick Carlisle, discusses the proposed development from a planning perspective using our zoning ordinance as a guide.
  • Between 52:20 and 96:00, Township attorney Dan Kelly give his report on the legal implication of this case.

The rest of the meeting primarily shares citizen inputs on this issue – some in support and some in opposition.

As I stated, it is complex and not easy to simplify for this post, but only by watching the reports will you understand the legal and planning issues our Board must consider.

The Board is scheduled to make a decision on this matter on February 2, 2016 at a 5 PM meeting at the Township Hall.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  This issue has been a divisive one in our Township for years.  I apologize for not being able to give you a ‘Reader’s Digest’ version of this issue, but I feel it is important for those who want to form their own objective position on this issue to watch the video.

Richard Michalski

Board of Trustees should follow the advice of attorneys on the Blossom Ridge Settlement Proposal

On Jan 26th the Board of Trustees will discuss and invite public comment on the proposed consent judgment to settle the Blossom Ridge lawsuit.  see our recent post on this topic

Dan Kelly has said that all the attorneys advising the township in this matter recommend approval of the proposal.

Attorneys recommending acceptance:

  • Dan Kelly – Township Attorney
  • Judge Barry Howard – Facilitator
  • Dale Stuart – Township Manager
  • Carol A. Rosatti – Attorney for the Township’s insurer

I urge the Board to follow the recommendations of the attorneys knowledgeable about this case and to be aware that the opinions of people that are not as knowlegable can contain errors about legal meanings.

A case in point: A letter from 18 residents contains legal fallacies

The board has received a letter from Eighteen individuals, all of whom live near the Blossom Ridge property, citing reasons that they are urging the board to reject the proposed agreement. They put forward a very important fallacy regarding legal precedence which they use many times in different forms and contexts.  It  is asserted by them that:

“The precedents established by this Consent Judgment”:

  • “will essentially eliminate building size restrictions for future multi-family (R-M) high density developments”;
  • (will have) “impact on future lawsuits”;
  • (undermine) “the confidence of the Oakland Township electorate in the local government for future zoning decisions”;
  • “will establish a new minimum lot size standard for multi-family (R-M) zoning”;
  • “The precedent set by compromising the zoning ordinance standardwill make it more attractive for non-conforming future high density R-M development in the Township”;
  • “will make it more attractive for non-conforming future high density R-M development in the Township”;
  • “the Zoning Ordinance… needs to be defended and not weakened through this Consent Judgment”.

The fallacy of consent judgment precedence:

The problem with these arguments is that a consent judgment agreement between parties to a lawsuit does not establish legal precedence.  Only published opinions of a judge’s decision in a trial establish precedence. In my 20 years on the Planning Commission and 12 years on the Zoning Board of Appeals I have never seen any alteration,  reduction, weakening or compromising of our zoning ordinance by  consent judgments.  The language, meaning and effect of our ordinance have remained intact and in full force.

If the township loses, the Federal Court could force changes to our Zoning Ordinance:

This is a very real likelihood in that if this matter goes to trial and violations of the Fair Housing Act are found the Federal Court may order changes to our zoning ordinance to force compliance with the Fair Housing Act.  That is when citizens will experience a loss of control.

Jim Foulkrod

 

Blossom Ridge consent judgment proposal up for review

As many of you know, there has been a significant legal issue that our Township has been dealing with for over 3 years.  That issue is the Federal case against Oakland Township regarding the Blossom Ridge Senior Development proposed at the corner of Adams and Dutton (see tab at top of page for more historical information). 

A Federal court requested ‘facilitation’ took place in the hopes that an agreement could be achieved eliminating the need for a trial. A proposal that involved just the Blossom Ridge parcel was not achieved, so the developer offered an option that included more than the original Blossom Ridge property.  Judge Howard, the negotiation facilitator, supported the proposal and asked that the proposal be reviewed by the entire Board and made available to the public.  

A final decision by the Board IS REQUIRED by January 26, 2016, or the issue will go to trial in July. Specific information on the proposal has been made available to the public.  The plans are available for review at the Township Hall, on the Township website, and in the two links shown below on this website. This topic has been added to the January 26 BOT meeting agenda.

Here are the various iterations of the Blossom development that had been previously publicly considered and rejected:

  • 282 total units including 126 congregate units with building having > 2 stories (original proposal)
  • 238 total units including 126 congregate units with building having > 2 stories
  • 228 total units including reduced number of  congregate units with building having 2 stories

THE PROPOSED CONSENT JUDGEMENT INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:

ON ORIGINAL PROPOSED BLOSSOM RIDGE PROPERTY:

  • 189 total units including 100 congregate units with building having 2 stories

ON 30+ ACRES SURROUNDING OAKLAND CHRISTIAN CHURCH (ADAMS AND SILVERBELL)

  • Downzone the property from current “Research Laboratory” zoning to one that is more restrictive
  • 6,800 square foot ‘fine dining’ restaurant on Southwest corner of Adams and Silverbell on two acres
  • Single story Health and Wellness residence with 56 studio apartments on northwest  portion of property on 6.33 acres per site plan
  • 84 two to three bedroom units in a two story structure on 14 acres
  • Donation of 8 acres along Adams road to Township
  • Moceri would build a fire/ambulance facility on the site 
  • Moceri would donate up to $200,000.00 for the purchase of a new emergency (ALS) vehicle
  • Matching contribution of Moceri of up to $125,000.00 toward the construction of a Veteran’s Memorial on the property

OTHER AGREEMENTS:

  • No damages will be pursued by the developer (estimated at $17million)
  • Lawsuit will be dropped eliminating potential court finding that Township’s zoning violates Federal Law & potential federal fines

OPTIONS DISCUSSED BY BOARD MEMBERS:

  • Agree to the proposed consent judgment settlement
  • Reject the proposed consent judgment and go to trial in July accepting all the uncertainties of potential outcomes
  • Agree that Oakland Township has violated Federal laws, with the resulting approval of original proposed plan and exposing Township to damages claimed by developer.

Here is video of the lengthy report given by Township Attorney, Dan Kelly:

 

Here is the Township’s summary of the proposed consent judgment posted on Township website

BLOSSOM RIDGE AND CARILLON CREEK DEVELOPMENT SUMMARY

Here are the proposed plans for both the Blossom Ridge property as well as the property around the Church:

Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment Plans

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  This issue has been a divisive one in our Township for years.  The consequences of making the right decision will have a long term impact on our Township.  If the Board agrees with the consent judgement, it will restrict the Township in their ability to review the proposed developments being proposed on the parcel near the Church.  However, the developer has demonstrated through the years that his developments are compatible with our Township, and we hope that the developer will consider any site concerns the Township raises if that is the Board’s decision.  The potential financial implications of making the wrong decision by the Board are VERY SIGNIFICANT.

We encourage all citizens concerned about this issue to visit the Township Hall prior to January 26th and review the proposed plans.  After viewing the plans, make your views known by either attending the January 26th meeting, or sending a letter to the Board members.

Richard Michalski

 

 

Oakland Township – Now On The National News Stage

Bloomberg News has put the national spotlight on Oakland Township with its Feb 18th Newswire report on Oakland Township’s official response to the lawsuit brought by the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA) alleging discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law.  The Township’s response to the suit claims that the MPVA has no “standing” to bring such a suit against Oakland Township.  The full content of the report is reproduced below

Jim Foulkrod

“Michigan Veterans Vehemently Respond To Oakland Township’s Stance Against Paralyzed Veterans Housing Project

DETROIT, Feb. 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ —  Michigan veterans issued a vehement and stinging response to Oakland Township’s motion to deny paralyzed veterans fair housing.

“As a Veteran, I find it absolutely outrageous that the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America have to sue an affluent community like Oakland Township in order to get them to approve a senior housing project which would provide some of the needed housing for the more than 2,000 Service Disabled Veterans in the area,” said Keith King, President, Veterans Support Foundation, United States Armed Forces Association. “As the President of a national foundation that provides funding and care for homeless veterans, and funds other foundations supporting Veteran causes, I see no justification for Oakland Township’s cowardly stance.”

The Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America in December filed a lawsuit against Oakland Township in Federal Court contending the Township had engaged in discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, by aggressively blocking approval of a housing project that would accommodate paralyzed veterans and the elderly.

In responding to the Federal Court complaint of the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA), the Township doubled down on its lawlessness, claiming the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of American have no right to protect its members’ rights in court.

“I applaud and fully support the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans of America (MPVA) in their Fair Housing lawsuit against Oakland Township,” said decorated disabled veteran Army Ranger Frank Campanaro. Campanaro is also the President and Founder of VETPOWER.org, a Michigan-based 501(c)3 charity dedicated to helping veterans transition from military service.

“These are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, who served our country in the military with honor, and who have returned with service related disabilities,” Campanaro said. “There are more than 36,000 service disabled heroes in Southeast Michigan, with more than 7,600 in Oakland County alone.

“Oakland Township’s contempt against the Fair Housing Act is clearly evident when they denounce the freedom of elderly and disabled persons, which includes many MPVA members’, to choose where they want to live.

“It’s despicable that this community would look for ways to stop, rather than help, these valiant men and women who have protected our country. These Veterans have paid the price for our freedom with their blood, flesh and bones.

“The attempt to use a legal technicality to throw out the MPVA from a “standing” issue is demoralizing and the slightest use of any unintended pun is not humorous.

“Oakland Township should help them create more housing solutions that will accommodate their needs, and not be standing in their way,” Campanaro said.

To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/michigan-veterans-vehemently-respond-to-oakland-townships-stance-against-paralyzed-veterans-housing-project-300037968.html

SOURCE Keith King; Frank Campanaro”

Parks Commission action may have prevented Township Board from violating Michigan’s Elliott-Larson Civil Rights Act

As reported recently, the second lawsuit against Oakland Township over the Blossom Ridge Development was filed on December 11, 2014.  One of the claims made in the filing is that:

“The Township’s disregard of and seeming inability to comprehend its FHA obligations is systematic and pervasive”

The above claim is based  a Board decision at the December 10, 2013 Board meeting to have the Parks Commission ‘refrain’ from making an offer to a potential caretaker for the Lost Lake Park.  This individual was the choice of the Parks and Recreation Commission.  The Board’s concern was the potential liability of extending this job to the recommended person since the family had young children.    

Fortunately, the Parks Commission had performed their ‘due diligence’ in getting input from the Township’s Insurance company as well as the Park Commission’s Attorney, and proceeded with their selection.  Had the Park’s Commission rejected the selected caretaker based on the Township Board’s concern, the Township could have been charged with violating the Elliot Larson Act for using familial status as a reason for not hiring the caretaker.

Here is the information included in the Moceri/DM investment LLC and Joan Buser vs. Charter Township of Oakland filing – 12/11/14:

  1. The Township’s disregard of and seeming inability to comprehend its FHA obligations is systematic and pervasive as evidenced by the following illustration.
  1. The Township owns a park with a house on a lake.
  1. For years the Township leased the house to a caretaker who lived in the house and maintained the house and park.
  1. In 2013 the Township Parks and Recreation Department hired a new caretaker and as usual agreed to the caretaker’s occupancy of the house.
  1. On December 10, 2013, twenty minutes after voting to deny a reasonable accommodation for the disabled prospective residents of Blossom Ridge, Board of Trustees Member and Township Treasurer Jeanne Langlois moved to set aside the Parks Commission’s hiring of the caretaker because the caretaker has a family including two young children, starting the following exchange:

Treasurer Langlois:   Move that the Board make a review of that potential situation [a lease of Twp property to a Family with Minor Children]…and make a motion to authorize the Township Supervisor to formally request that the Parks and Recreation Commission refrain from entering into a caretaker contract until the liability issues can be reviewed by the Township insurance agent and Township legal counsel.

Trustee Bailey:  Is this the first that you’re aware of that we have done such a thing [lease to a family with minor children]?

Treasurer Langlois:  Yes, I understand there was a caretaker in the past, there were no minor children that I know of and then the initial approval recently was for a new caretaker that did not involve a family with minor children and when that fell through this apparently prompted the Parks [commission] to look at family with 2 very small children.

Trustee Bailey:  How small are they?

Treasurer Langlois:  Six and two.

  1. The Langlois motion was approved unanimously.
  1. No Board Member mentioned the protection of families with children against housing discrimination under Federal and Michigan law. No one ventured a thought as what this action’s impact on the caretaker and his family. The caretaker would be deprived of both housing and employment. The Board wondered whether their insurance rates might be affected. They did not consider that children play in the park everyday. The Board thoughtlessly assumed that landlords of properties fronting Michigan’s 11,000 inland lakes and thousands of miles of Great Lakes shoreline are exempt from Federal and Michigan laws prohibiting discrimination against families with children.
  1. The foregoing episode illustrates the current Township Board’ impenetrable indifference to its fair housing obligations. To its credit the Parks Commission ignored the Board.

Here is a copy of the Michigan Elliott-Larson Civil RIghts Act.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Only the court will determine if the example shown above will have an impact on the final decision regarding Blossom Ridge.  However, another conclusion can be made from this example.

Ever since early 2013, the Township Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission have had separate law firms providing legal guidance.  The decision by the Parks Commission to retain their own counsel was based the Board’s confrontational actions toward the Parks Commission (some of which are involved in legal actions BETWEEN the two elected bodies).

Examples of the Board’s confrontational actions against the Parks and Recreation Commission can be seen by scrolling through the articles in the following link (this article is the first one shown, so please scroll through the entire list):

“Board vs. Parks”

Trustee Thalmann consistently points out, during her “Trustee Comments” at Board meeting, the legal expense that the Parks Commission has incurred for the month.  The contract with the Board’s legal team technically includes legal support for the Parks and Recreation Commission. She claims that the Park’s legal expenses are not necessary, since they would be covered by the contract with the Board’s legal team. It should be pointed out the the Board’s legal team did not advise the Board against making their December 10, 2013 motion.

It appears that the Parks Commission’s legal counsel, and the decision by the Parks Commission to proceed with extending the offer to the family with children, may have prevented the Township from a lawsuit involving a Elliott-Larson civil rights violation.

Oakland Township’s legal expense has increased dramatically since the new Board has come into office.  The legal fees incurred by the Parks Commission are totally eclipsed by the legal fees incurred as a result of lawsuits our Township is involved in since the new Board took office.

The Township should be grateful for the actions taken by the Parks and Recreation Commission based on the legal advice from their separate legal counsel.

Richard Michalski