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.
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.
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:
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
So what does that Township get out of this agreement?
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.
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,
It will take you to the 4:50 (minute:second) point in the meeting.
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.
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:
THE PROPOSED CONSENT JUDGEMENT INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:
ON ORIGINAL PROPOSED BLOSSOM RIDGE PROPERTY:
ON 30+ ACRES SURROUNDING OAKLAND CHRISTIAN CHURCH (ADAMS AND SILVERBELL)
OPTIONS DISCUSSED BY BOARD MEMBERS:
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
Here are the proposed plans for both the Blossom Ridge property as well as the property around the Church:
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.
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
“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”
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:
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.
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):
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.
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.”
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|
WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court:
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.
At the November 11, 2014 Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser had a proposed Oakland Township Veterans Memorial presentation given to the Board and the public. The Veterans Memorial proposal was met with positive feedback. The less than positive feedback from the public came from two issues. One was Gonser’s proposed location, the other was his method of bringing this concept forward. Fortunately, the Board requested that, before the Township take any further action on this topic, a nonprofit organization (501c3) be created to pursue the details (including financing) for this project.
At the November 11 BOT meeting, Supervisor Gonser had Steven McKay, an architect that Gonser stated had been working with ‘the Township’, present three conceptual drawings for a Oakland Township Veterans Memorial. The proposed location was in the Paint Creek Cider Mill parking lot near Paint Creek and the recently redone bridge over Orion Road.
There were many citizens present who supported the desire for a Veterans Memorial in Oakland Township. However, several people were opposed to what was being presented. The major issue raised was the proposed location. Several citizens thought that the location was inappropriate, and wanted other locations to be considered.
Several citizens expressed concern that this was another project that Gonser was bringing forward without input from others. Gonser stated that he did get help from other citizens, but did not disclose their names. He did not acknowledge getting input from either the Parks Commission, Historic District Commission or other Township staff. One citizen shared his concern that this project would result in failure, just like another project Supervisor Gonser initiated without any other input from Township Board members or Commissions.
Supervisor Gonser stated:
“This site was chosen with the help of others.”
“There is no reason that this memorial can’t go forward more quickly than subcommittee and process would permit.”
He did not apologize for how he brought forward the project, and then suggested that the Board approve the use of this property or let the concept die. It was a childish display of ‘my way or the highway!”
Fortunately, the Board requested that, before taking any action on this concept, a nonprofit organization be created that would take the lead on working through the details. Their proposals would then be reviewed by the Township Board and other Commissions, ensuring that it was truely what the entire community desired.
As a reminder, Supervisor Gonser, during the August 13, 2013 BOT meeting, stated “Process is everything!” when a proposal he did not support was rejected because it had not followed the approved township process. Apparently processes are not necessary when HE wants to do something. Here is his statement:
Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township? This is yet another example of Supervisor Gonser’s approach to unilaterally taking action on items without soliciting input from others. The idea may be a good one, but his approach to getting things started on projects seems to be centered about making sure that his name, and his alone, is associated with the idea. He stated that the architect “had been working with the Township”, yet the only Township personnel who he had been working with was Gonser. In Gonser’s eyes, HE is the Township. His continued efforts to change the political structure of Oakland Township to a ‘Strong Supervisor’ form of governance is consistent with his behavior.
This proposal was, not accidentally, introduced on Veterans Day. It appeared to be a political display by Gonser. Prior to the meeting, the author of this post overheard one individual tell the person who presented the proposals, “I was asked by Gonser to come out and speak in support of the memorial.” Clearly there is nothing wrong with this, but Gonser’s real motives come into question.
During the discussion of this proposal, the author of this post pointed out that he found it ironic that the Supervisor and the Board appeared to support a memorial to veterans, but were not supportive of the Blossom Ridge development that would have provided housing for crippled veterans in Oakland Township. The Crippled Veterans of America – Michigan Chapter was part of the Housing Discrimination complaint against Oakland Township over the Blossom Ridge Development.
The Board’s decision to reject the Blossom Ridge Special Accommodation Request was clearly a political one. Their future support for the Memorial will probably also be based on politics.
What follows is a letter I have written to the editor of the Oakland Patch. It is in response to a number of letters Francis P. Hughes has written and has had published. I do not know if the editor will publish it, but because of the time sensitivity of an upcoming decision the Township Board must make, I am posting the letter here:
Letter to the Patch Editor,
Hi, my name is Richard Michalski. I am writing this letter in response to several letters that Francis P. Hughes has written to you calling me (and others) “shills”. I will refrain from making personal attacks but will ask for greater citizen involvement on a very critical issue facing Oakland Township.
Let me begin by saying that I am a 35 year resident of Oakland Township. I served on the Planning Commission for 26 years until 2008, when at my choosing I retired. Earlier this year, there was an issue facing the Township that got me ‘re-engaged’ as an ‘active’ citizen. Over the past several months I have witnessed a number of things that our Supervisor and Board have done that I believe are possibly illegal, but definitely contrary to some of the principles that have guided the Township in the past.
Arguably, the biggest issue facing our Township right now is the upcoming decision by our Board on whether to grant the Blossom Ridge Senior disabled development a “Special Accommodation Use”. The way Oakland Township has handled this development over the past 15 months is currently under review by the HUD and the DOJ for possible housing violations against a protected class of citizens. On December 10 there will be a public hearing on the Special Accommodation Use at the Township hall starting at 7 PM.
A fellow citizen of Oakland Township told me – “The outcome of the Blossom Ridge Special Accommodation Use decision places our Township’s “soul” at risk!” What the person went on to say is that if Oakland Township does not approve the request, and the DOJ comes in and forces Oakland Township to provide the needed Senior Disabled housing for our residents, Oakland Township will become known as THE exclusionary community in South East Michigan, and possibly all of Michigan.
The developer and the Township have made attempts at a compromise that meets the demands of some of the residents. On October 8th a revised plan was presented to the Board and the citizens. The group of citizens present was not satisfied. Mr. Hughes is part of the group that is opposed to the development. He is now suggesting that the developer cut the number of units in half again. He has referred to the development as “a huge Warehouse with cubbyhole sized apartments”. The developer reduced the number of proposed units from 342 to 282, then to 238, and now to 228. Mr. Hughes suggests the right number is 126. He has no basis for selecting that number.
I would encourage the citizens of Oakland Township to come to the December 10th Board meeting to learn more about the proposed development, the legal implications of the Board’s decision and voice your opinion – one way or the other. The Township’s “soul” may be at stake!
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:
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.