Tag Archives: Blossom RIdge

Supervisor Gonser creates controversy over proposed Veterans Memorial

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.

Richard Michalski

Is Oakland Township’s ‘soul’ at risk?

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!

Richard Michalski

Does Oakland Township need Senior Disabled housing?

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:

A Case for Senior Housing Compiled

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.

Richard Michalski

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