Tag Archives: Blossom RIdge

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

Blossom Ridge – A Compromise is on the Table

At the 10/8/13 Board of Trustees Meeting Mr. Ed Kickham, Attorney for the Developer of the proposed Blossom Ridge senior living center presented the outlines of a compromise that has been presented to Supervisor Gonser.  The highlights of the proposal are:

  • The partial 3rd floor of the main building is removed causing a decrease in the units in the building;
  • The number of ranch and duet units on the grounds is increased;
  • The net total unit count is reduced to 228. Note: the plan approved by the Planning Commission had 282 units.

The negotiations are a response to the ongoing investigation by the Department of Housing and Urban Development into allegations of housing discrimination in Oakland Township.

UPDATE:  It has Been reported to me that the minutes for this Meeting do not even mention that Mr. Kickham’s presentation even occurred. The minutes say only that Supervisor Gonser updated the Board on the SAU.  This is not an innocent oversight. Why try to hide an attempt at compromise?

Jim Foulkrod

Supervisor Gonser’s conflict of interest vote

As discussed on a previous post on this website, the Township Board agreed to pay for Supervisor Gonser’s personal legal fees for his unauthorized efforts to obtain an Attorney General opinion on the Blossom Ridge matter.  The results of the vote was 5 to 2.  Supervisor Gonser participated in the vote.  He was one of the 5 votes agreeing to have the Township pay that expense. 

At the October 22, 2013 meeting, the author of this post requested Supervisor Gonser explain to the citizens of Oakland Township why he felt it was appropriate for him to vote on an issue for which he personally benefitted.  He refused to disclose his reason in public.  He ended by saying:

“Fortunately, I do not answer to you!”

“This Board speaks through our motions”

“That order of business is done!”

The author’s question was raised on behalf of the citizens of Oakland Township.  He DOES answer to all of us!  His lack of action and comments reflect his arrogance and authoritarian style that has been documented in so many other issues on this website.  The Supervisor’s comments clearly implicate the entire Board in their complicity to this unethical behavior.

Here are the video elements from the October 22 meeting on this matter:

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  If an elected official votes on an issue that he/she personally benefits from, it is a conflict of interest.  Supervisor Gonser’s open denial to answer the question raises serious questions on his ethics and hidden motivations or “agendas” on other issues before the Board.  Once again, this action is  coming from someone who ran on a platform of transparency.

Richard Michalski

Could the Federal Government determine the Blossom Ridge outcome?

An earlier post on this website gave an example of how the Federal Government took actions against a community in Missouri for discriminatory housing practices.  Attached is a link to an article that describes some recent actions that the Department of Housing and Urban Development may take against communities that demonstrate discriminatory practices.

As stated in earlier posts on this website, there is a Federal investigation of Oakland Township underway regarding alleged discriminatory practices regarding the Blossom Ridge development.

At the last Oakland Township Board meeting, Supervisor Gonser indicated that there have been ongoing discussions with the Blossom Ridge developer to resolve some of the concerns of the  citizens.  At that meeting, the developer’s attorney described revisions to the plan that they were willing to make to arrive at a mutually agreeable plan.  Citizen comments at that meeting were not supportive of the proposed changes.

If the Board of Oakland Township is not successful in coming up with a mutually agreeable plan, and the Federal Investigation determines that Oakland Township has demonstrated discriminatory practices and policies, we may be subject to the Federal government’s decisions as described in the attached web article.

The citizens of Oakland Township need to encourage the Board to come up with a mutually agreeable plan for the Blossom Ridge development.  

The Board is playing “Russian roulette”.  We may lose total control of what is developed, and the Township may have to pay fines if the investigation finds the Township guilty of discriminatory practices. 

Here is the link to the October 14, 2013 website article:

http://m.weeklystandard.com/articles/hud-s-power-grab_759151.html

Richard Michalski

Trustee Elect Thalmann sets up “Ambush” for Blossom Ridge

Trustee Elect Thalmann withheld information from the Previous Board of Oakland Township in order to thwart the Blossom Ridge Development.

In an email sent by Trustee Maureen Thallmann on November 22, 2012 to Supervisor Gonser, she states:

“I have found a loop hole in how the last Board of Oakland Township had handled the rezoning and researched it through Brooks Patterson’s office.  Marty (McQuade) asked me not to tell anyone about my find so as not to give the last Board of Oakland Township, and the developer, a chance to act.  It will be interesting to see how Moceri responds.”

Here are the events that lead up to Trustee Thalmann’s statement:

  • On August 14, 2012, the previous Board approved the rezoning for the Blossom Ridge Development.
  • On August 21, 2012 Robin Buxar, who ran for Trustee, signed the intent for the voter referendum to potentially invalidate the Previous Board’s approval.
  • On September 18, 2012, Trustee Elect Thalmann discovers that the previous Board failed to have the County Coordinated Zoning Committee provide input on the Blossom Ridge Project prior to the Township Board’s approval, since it borders Rochester Hills.
  • Trustee Elect Thalmann shares this information with Robin Buxar, Marty McQuade (another resident of Oakland Township opposed to Blossom Ridge), and Attorney Gregory Need.
  • Between September 18th and when the new Board took office on November 20th, the four of them did not communicate Trustee Elect Thalmann’s “discovery” stating:

“We need to continue to keep the information confidential so as not to allow Moceri to learn of the issue until the Board is ready to take action” – Marty McQuade – November 21, 2012

“We still need to keep it between ourselves.” – Robin Buxar – November 21, 2012

“Marty (McQuade) asked me not to tell anyone about my find so as not to give the last Board of Oakland Township, and the developer, a chance to act.  It will be interesting to see how Moceri responds.” – Trustee Thalmann – November 22, 2012

  • At the November 27, 2012 Board meeting, Attorney Need shares the issue with the public after having sent a letter to Supervisor Gonser on November 20th.
  • From November 27th until the referendum on August 6, 2013, the Board took actions that delayed the referendum in the hopes of obtaining a decision from the State Attorney General on the procedural issue described above. (Please read post under “Ethics” that describes attempts by Board to get Attorney General Opinion)
  • On February 26th, Attorney Need’s company was one of a few legal firms interviewed as possible Legal Counsel for the Township at the request of Supervisor Gonser.

Here is the supporting documentation on this subject:

Thalmann’s “Ambush”

As stated on another entry on this website, since the Blossom Ridge Development borders Rochester Hills, the approval process was to have included a review by the Oakland County Coordinating Zoning Committee prior to the Township Board approving the rezoning.  The review did take place in early 2013, and they unanimously approved the plan. This is the step that Trustee Thalmann “found” had not taken place in the proper sequence.

However, Trustee Thalmann’s actions in withholding her findings were not in the best interests of the Township.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  We expect integrity in our elected officials.  An elected official, that was about to take office, withholding information that would have allowed the Township to deal with an issue in a timely manner, may ultimately result in higher fines being placed on Oakland Township if the Department of Justice determines that Oakland Township has discriminatory zoning practices.

Do you think Trustee Thalmann’s withholding information was the right thing to do?

Do you think it was appropriate to include Attorney Need’s firm in the “short list” of possible firms to represent Oakland Township?

Do you agree with “the end justifies the means” approach our leadership has – and is – taking on issues?

Richard Michalski

Township’s past planning to prevent Legal issues regarding Assisted Living Facilities

The past Planning Commission and Township Board took action to prevent the Legal issues that are now facing Oakland Township regarding discriminatory land use and Zoning ordinances. 

Back in the early part of the last decade, the Township recognized that the Township did not have any zoning that would allow for a Senior assisted living facility.  They knew that we were vulnerable for a Housing Discrimination issue if we did not at least identify some parcels of land that COULD be used for that usage.  As a result, the Planning Commission studied the possible land areas that could support the intensity of that type usage (sewers, water, roads, and surrounding zoning).  There were two locations identified as possible locations for that type usage.  One was the parcel that has the proposed Blossom Ridge development; the other was located on the Northeast corner of Adams and Gunn.  The Planning Commission and the Board approved the MASTER PLAN to indicate that those areas were POTENTIAL sites for High Density Conservation.  The Master Plan does not cause rezoning to occur.  It does indicate where that type usage COULD exist, if the property owner wanted to have it rezoned to that Zoning.

The Moceri Corporation purchased the land on Adams and Dutton, and requested that it be rezoned to the HDC from the MRD as the master plan indicated.  At the same time as the rezoning request, they indicated the development would use the PRRO option.  This defines EXACTLY what the developer is planning, and quite frankly is in the Township’s best interest so there is no “bait and switch” by the developer after the Zoning is changed.

The Zoning request was approved by the old Board, and then placed on hold because of the referendum request.  Moceri also requested the Special Accommodation request, which is allowed by our Ordinances for meeting the special needs of citizens with disabilities.  The old Board placed that request on hold by a 4 to 3 vote until after the referendum.

The new Board delayed the referendum until August of this year by repeated “on again-off again-on again” requests for an opinion from the Attorney General.

The Board’s August 13 action (or inaction) on the Special Accommodation request was VERY IMPORTANT.  If the Board had approved it, the development could go forward.  Many of the residents who voted in the referendum would be VERY UPSET, but the law must be followed – referendum or not.   By not taking action, they have further exposed the Township to delays in providing the “special accommodation” needs for a ‘protected’ portion of our population.

At the August 13th Board meeting, the Board claimed that all the criteria for making a Special Accommodation request were not satisfied. The minutes from the October 9, 2012 Board meeting show that that information was provided in the motion made by Trustee Edwards (this motion was rejected by a 4 to 3 vote).  The information was presented as part of the presentation material at that meeting. At the subsequent meeting, the Board members, opposed to development, voted to have portions of Trustee Edwards motion removed from HIS motion. It is highly unusual and inappropriate to have the Board remove content of a motion that was recorded and rejected.

Since the Special Accommodation request has been on the current Board’s “to do list” for months, raising their recent concerns NOW is another example of their ‘delay strategy”.

In the future if the Board turns the request down, or continues to delay making a decision on the Special Accommodation request, the Township may be found guilty of discrimination for the following reasons:

  1. The Master Plan allows for this type usage at that location
  2. The Developer requested the appropriate rezoning and PRRO for the plan to be developed
  3. The size, height and traffic issues are not valid based on the information that is posted on another portion of this web page under Blossom Ridge.
  4. In March, the County Zoning Coordinating Committee warned the Township that if the development is rejected, the Township would probably be found guilty for discrimination.

The past Planning Commission and a minority of the previous Board did everything they could to prevent this legal issue from causing damages to the Township.  The 4 to 3 vote to defer the Special Accommodation request, and the current Board’s delays place the Township in a very difficult and possibly expensive position.  Please look at at the Recent Post on this webpage titled “Possible ‘vision’ of what could be in store for Oakland Township” to see the fines imposed on a city in Missouri for discriminatory practices.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  If the Federal Investigation that is underway determines that the Township has performed discriminatory practices, the current Board will have to accept full responsibility for the actions that they have taken on this issue, and the Township may have to pay fines as a result of their actions.

Richard Michalski – Former Oakland Township Planning Commissioner for 26 years, and Chair for a number of them.