Tag Archives: discriminatory practices

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

Unbelievably, Supervisor Gonser refers to the east side of Oakland Township as ‘the ghetto’ – in a public forum!

On February 25, 2015 the 2015 Community Outlook Breakfast and Press Conference took place.  The leaders of Oakland Township, Rochester Hills, Rochester and the Rochester Community School System were given opportunities to respond to questions from the participants.  This is an annual event, and is intended to provide some insight into the current status of each of the communities and the Rochester School system.

During a response to one of the questions, Oakland Township Supervisor Gonser referred to the east side of Oakland Township as “the ghetto side of the Township”, to the shock of the other panelists. Gonser continued by stating that when he moved back into the Township, a realtor told him NOT to move on the east side of Rochester Road and that this area was not desirable.  

He did admit that he does live on the East side of the Township but added:

“but it is a very beautiful area. We’re across from Stony Creek Park.  But I say that (apparently the ghetto comment) in  jest.”

You may recall, as previously reported on this website, Gonser’s reference to people who live in subdivisions as ‘subdivision rats’.  That post can be watched by clicking here.

Gonser’s previous ‘subdivision rat’ comment

I will not attempt to capture all the words Gonser used in his most recent statement.  You must watch the following link to get a complete appreciation of our Supervisor’s opinions.

At the end of the meeting, there were even jokes about having the video team ‘edit out’ Gonser’s “Ghetto” comment.  If you listen carefully at the end, the video editor obviously DID edit something out when Gonser responded by saying:

“That will save my (edited out)”

The moderator responded by saying:

“It should.”

Why is this important to the Citizens of Oakland Township?  I think the answer to that is self evident!  Our Supervisor’s poor attempt at humor, with an apparent self deprecating comment, at the expense of the Township, in a public forum, clearly does not help the image of our Township.

At a minimum, the Supervisor should apologize to the community.

At this point, he can best serve the Township by resigning, saving all of us the embarrassment of his questionable leadership, damaging actions and comments.

Unbelievable!!!!!

2016 cannot come soon enough!!!

A person's actions tell you everthing you need to know

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

 

 

 

2nd Federal Suit Filed – Moceri/DM Investments & Joan Buser file Fair Housing Complaint against Oakland Township

Thursday, 12/11/14, Developer Moceri/DM Investments and former Township Supervisor Joan Buser filed suit in Federal Court against Oakland Township for Discrimination under the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This complaint is different from the Paralyzed Veterans suit  in that it has increased the focus on the actions and words of not only our township government but, also people in our community.  It also extends the time frame of the evidence back to 2005 with our community’s reaction to the Harvest  Corners development proposal.

The suit’s “Factual Allegations” section lists evidence that the Township’s Fair Housing responsibilities were well known and the new Board of Trustees  actions did not live up to those responsibilities:

  • No land zoned for multi-family housing
  • No Land zoned for housing the elderly and/or disabled
  • The Residential Multiple zoning limitations make any development of affordable congregate care and assisted living housing for the elderly and/or disabled impracticable.
  • The Township’s need for and lack of housing opportunities for the elderly and disabled have been acknowledged by the Township’s planning consultant, Planning Commission and the former Board of Trustees
  • The Master Plan recognizes the need for housing the elderly and/or disabled
  • The Township’s need for and lack of housing opportunities for the elderly and disabled have been acknowledged by the The Oakland County Zoning Coordinating Committee has cautioned the Township that the Township’s zoning ordinances are exclusionary and in violation of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act and that the Township needs to provide housing opportunities for the elderly and disabled.

The suit provides an overview of applicable law:

a) The lawsuit explains that Americans with Disabilities Act:

“provides that no qualified individual with a disability shall, by reason of such disability, be excluded from participation in or be denied the benefits of the services, programs, or activities or a public entity, or be subject to discrimination by any such entity.”
“Under the ADA, a governmental entity engages in a discriminatory practice where the entity refuses to make a reasonable accommodation to rules, policies, practices or services when such accommodation may be necessary to afford a person with a disability equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling.”

b) The lawsuit explains that The Fair Housing Act:

“forbids discrimination against the disabled in housing and further states: It shall be unlawful for any person to refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices, or services, when such accommodations may be necessary to afford a handicapped person equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling unit, including public and common use areas.”

c) It is important to understand that, while we, as individuals, may think of the word “disabled” mostly in terms of wheelchair accessibility and blindness, the Code of Federal Regulation law takes a much broader view that greatly expands the group of people who are protected:

“Physical or mental impairment means (A) any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more of the following body systems: neurological; musculoskeletal; special sense organs; respiratory, including speech organs; cardiovascular; reproductive, digestive, genitourinary; hemic and lymphatic; skin; and endocrine; or (b) any mental or psychological disorder, such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities. [42 C.F.R. 84.3(2)(i).]”

The lawsuit has a strong emphasis on discriminatory intent by the Township and its residents

“Notwithstanding the Township’s lack of and need for suitable housing for the elderly and disabled, the Township’s current residents have rebuffed repeated efforts to modify or gain exceptions to its extremely restrictive zoning regime. A relatively small and uninformed, but impassioned and vocal, minority of residents have repeatedly taken control sufficiently to stymie all efforts to introduce fair housing to the Township. That minority of residents are determined to reserve the opportunity to reside in the Township only to those who can afford to live in and own the luxury housing which currently characterizes the Township stock of housing.”

Harvest Corners.

The suit talks about the failure of past fair housing efforts – Harvest Corners.

During the years 2005 – 2008 Dominic and Frances Moceri affiliated companies proposed the Harvest Corners development which included various types of single family housing, some retail stores and housing for the elderly and disabled. After almost 3 years of hearing public comment and deliberating the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees approved the rezoning to allow the Harvest Corners development. The suit explains what happened next:

“An impassioned and misinformed minority of residents demanded a referendum on the zoning change and submitted the required petition. Predictably, in an off-cycle vote those who opposed the rezoning came to the polls in greater numbers than did those who supported the plan. The referendum reversed the decisions of the Planning Commission and Board of Trustees and preserved a zoning regime which bars the elderly and disabled from the Township unless they can live in a large luxury home and hire their own assistance.”

The suit reports that a number of Oakland Township residents have voiced opposition to Harvest Corners

a)   “We don’t need senior development. If people want condos they can go to Auburn Hills, it’s not that far away.”
b)  “I don’t think it’s the responsibility of citizens of Oakland Township to bring policemen, firemen, displaced persons from Detroit or New Orleans, whatever out to Oakland Township to live.”
c)  “… I sell a national brand; I am with Mr. Fox. This is low income housing, basically, compared to what we worked for.”
d)  “We don’t have a requirement to be inclusive. We can be exclusive.”

Blossom Ridge

The lawsuit describes the citizen’s and Township’s actions before the 2012 election regarding Blossom Ridge the current fair housing effort.

“Township residents who filled the Township meeting room and made dire predictions about wandering Alzheimer’s patients, “workers” from outside the Township, traffic congestion, diminished property values, and the loss of the Township’s special character and exclusivity.”

“Some of the most vehement fear mongers have since become elected or appointed Township officials”.

The Lawsuit quotes citizens publications and public comments in Township meetings:

Township Treasurer candidate, Jeanne Langlois, has said the Township residents are not asking for this type of senior housing and are content to look outside the Township for this.

Another Board of Trustees candidate said that lack of senior housing is “one of the things that make Oakland Township special – that it doesn’t have a lot of things other communities have.”

“six in ten people with Alzheimer’s disease will wander.”

“will be a rental development, a business masquerading as senior housing.”

“Recent neighboring property sales continue to fall – your home’s value – and potential buyers are now factoring in BLOSSOM RIDGE.”

“This type of development changes the whole temper of this area.”

“Your neighborhood could be next.”

“This request is based on greed, not need. We do not need a senior center in this area. My message to the Township Board is do the right thing and reject this proposal.”

“Mr. Moceri and the planning committee need to know that we will take all necessary steps to make this proposal fail. We do not need this type of development in a high scale residential area as it will continue the drop in home values that is already taking place.”

“this proposal did not fill a void and does not do anything towards keeping the prosperity and integrity of why the residents moved to those subdivisions.”

John Giannangeli commented at the May 8, 2012 Board meeting, saying the project “is a commercial 24/7 business in the middle of the most populous part of the township,” and a “bait and switch senior housing to assisted living.”

“I believe that Oakland Township never intended for such a development as it is a “commercial” development and it is not appropriate for our lovely community.”

At the September 10, 2013 Board of Trustees meeting, AnnaLisa Hollenbeck stated that the developer, HUD and DOJ are terrorists and terrorizing the citizens of Oakland Township with their discrimination complaint and investigation.

 Events prior to the 2012 election

The Township Planning Commission recommended approval of Blossom Ridge with 282 mixed density units in February, 2012.

Prior to the final hearing before the Board of Trustees, Dominic J. Moceri met with persons claiming to represent the hostile residents. He agreed to lower the Blossom Ridge unit count from 282 units to 238 units, and they agreed to drop their opposition.

The rezoning with a PRRO for 238 units with more than 50% open space was then approved by the previous Board of Trustees on August 14, 2012.

August 15, 2012  the developer filed an application for Special Accommodation Use.

On Oct. 9 2012 Recommended granting the Special Accommodation Use (SAU) application made by the developer.

The Board delayed its vote on the SAU until after the referendum.

The 2012 Election is described in the suit:

“In an off cycle election angry residents voted from office all the Trustees who had voted for Blossom Ridge and replaced them with some of the most vehement opponents of Blossom Ridge. The new Township Board has stacked the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and two new Board of Trustee appointments so that all the Township’s governing bodies are comprised solely of persons opposed to Blossom Ridge and congregate housing for the elderly and disabled.”

“Some residents, including one later appointed to the Township Board, filed a petition for a referendum to cancel the previous Board’s rezoning. By Michigan statute the petition alone is sufficient to block the Blossom Ridge rezoning until a referendum is held.”

“The newly elected Township Board sought five legal opinions before reaching the decision to submit the rezoning to the Oakland County Coordinating Zoning Committee (“County Zoning Committee”) for review and  recommendation.”

“The County Zoning Committee staff reported that Blossom Ridge would be consistent with the Township Master Plan, was a residential use and not a commercial use, would create less traffic than alternate uses, and would be in harmony with surrounding residential uses in Oakland Township and in neighboring towns. The staff also observed that Oakland Township’s zoning regime’s exclusion of multi-family housing violates Michigan law. The County Zoning Committee recommended approval of Blossom Ridge by a unanimous vote.”

The Lawsuit discusses the Township’s referendum on the Blossom Ridge re-zoning:

” The County Zoning Committee approval left the Township Board with no more excuses for delaying the referendum, which was then held on August 6, 2013, in an off cycle election. ”

” Of the Township’s roughly 12,000 eligible voters, about 2800 voted. Approximately 2,000 voted to strike down the previous Board’s rezoning, and 800 voted in favor of Blossom Ridge. ”

“The Constitution’s Due Process and Equal Protection provisions and the anti-discrimination statutes cited in this Complaint protect individuals from the oppression of majorities. That Blossom Ridge was defeated by a referendum adds nothing to the strength of the Township’s position. The disabled are entitled to protection under law despite the notion of the “will of the people,” frequently cited by Blossom Ridge adversaries”

“As a result of the referendum petition and then referendum the Township remains as it was, a Township of thirty-six square miles burdened by a zoning regime which effectively bars all possibility of community housing providing the special services needed by the elderly and disabled.”

The Plaintiff discusses their Application for Special Accommodation Use on Aug. 15, 2012

“The Township’s Special Accommodation Use ordinance states: This section is intended to authorize the grant of relief from the strict terms of the ordinance in order to provide equal housing opportunities particularly suited to the needs of persons entitled to reasonable accommodation under law and to encourage innovation in land use and variety in design and layout.”

“The new Board then delayed the referendum… more than a year later,… on November 13, 2013 the Supervisor recommended denial.”

“The Recommendation lacked any hint that the Defendant is bound by the FHA or that its governing body and residents must set aside their  convenience and personal preferences so that the disabled can participate fully in the community.”

“At a meeting held on December 10, 2013, the Board of Trustees… voted unanimously (6-0 with one Trustee having recused herself) to deny the reasonable accommodation request under the SAU Ordinance “for the reasons stated in Supervisor Gonser’s recommendation to the Board.””

“Neither the Supervisor nor any Board member offered any reasonable evidence that the requested accommodation was “unreasonable” or imposed  any significant burden on the Township or its residents.”

The Plaintiffs are asking the Court to:

  1. Declare that Defendant’s exclusionary zoning regime is unlawful in its entirety;
  2. Enjoin Defendant from enforcing its zoning with respect to the Land;
  3. Order that a reasonable accommodation be made permitting construction of 282 units of mixed density multi-family housing in accordance with the plans approved by Defendant’s Planning Commission in February, 2012;
  4. Enter judgment against Defendant for all amounts of compensatory and punitive damages to which Plaintiffs are entitled;
  5. Award Plaintiffs their prejudgment interest, costs and expenses of this action, including reasonable attorney and expert fees;
  6. Retain jurisdiction post judgment to assure that the intent of the Court’s judgment is fulfilled; and
  7. Award any other appropriate relief.

This is a very much summarized recounting of the contents of the lawsuit the full text of which 2014_12_11 Moceri Buser Complaint.

Jim Foulkrod

 

Federal Fair Housing Complaint Yields Lawsuit in Federal Court

The MICHIGAN PARALYZED VETERANS OF AMERICA (MPVA) have filed a lawsuit against Oakland Township in Federal Court after filing a complaint with the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and  Urban Development in 2013.  There is a link to the entire complaint document at the end of this post. I have summarized its 42 pages here. The suit complains that:

Oakland Township has “engaged in one or more discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law, 42 U.S.C. sections 3601-3619″

“Oakland Township violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to approve the reasonable accommodation requested pursuant to the SAU Ordinance”

“Oakland Township acted intentionally, willfully, and in disregard for the rights of others.”

Their summary allegation, which is about the Proposed Blossom Ridge development, is that:

“Oakland Township has refused a reasonable accommodation to allow development of a multi-family housing development for the elderly and disabled”.

As background to this complaint the suit’s states that :

“The prior Township administration, consisting of a Board of Trustees, Planning Commission, and Zoning Board of Appeals approved rezoning that would have permitted the development.”

Given that background, the primary act by the Township cited in the suit by that gives rise to this allegation is:

“An application was made for a reasonable accommodation pursuant to a special use accommodation provision that had been added to the Township’s zoning ordinance specifically to comply with the FHA. The application for special use accommodation was recommended for approval by the Township Supervisor, but was later denied by the new Township leadership who opposed the development.”

The suit supplied some evidence of the local need for housing for the elderly and disabled

Recent U.S. Census data provides data about people who may require this kind of housing
the total adult disabled population within an approximate 10 mile radius of the proposed development is approximately 38,000
persons age 65 and over with a disability within a 10 mile radius of the proposed development. 16,800
persons with a service-connected disability within a 10 mile radius of Oakland  Township. 2,400

The complaint gives a narrative of events leading up to the denial of the Blossom Ridge project.  The narrative is summarized and presented in chronological order below

  1. Oakland Township contains no land zoned to allow specialized multifamily housing for the elderly or disabled.
  2. Oakland Township adopted a Master Plan in 2005 and reaffirmed in 2011 that recognized that the Township must provide housing  options for the disabled and the elderly.
  3. In February 2012, consistent with the recommendation of the Township’s planning consultants, Oakland Township’s Planning Commission recommended approval of the rezoning under a Planned Residential Rezoning Overlay (“PRRO).
  4. Numerous Oakland Township residents, including candidates for positions on the Township Board, vocally opposed the development before and after this meeting.
  5. Despite the opposition, at its August 14, 2012 Meeting, the Township Board approved the rezoning.
  6. On or about August 15, 2012, an application was submitted for a reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance for the Blossom Ridge housing development for seniors and the disabled.
  7. On or about September 19, 2012, Ms. Buxar and other opponents of the project filed documents requesting a referendum, which put the rezoning on hold temporarily.
  8. Oct 2012 Board Meeting The Township Supervisor recommended approval of the development as a reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance.
  9. The Board voted to table determination on the request for reasonable accommodation under the SAU Ordinance until after a vote on the referendum.
  10. Following the 2012 election that transformed the Board into one solidly opposed to the development, and a referendum spurred by project opponents new Township Supervisor Gonser recommended denial of the development. He included these among his reasons: “…the proposed housing development will definitely produce a fundamental alteration in the nature of the neighborhood which is currently exclusively upscale single family residential…”  “The community is fundamentally comprised of large, upscale single family homes in a relatively quiet neighborhood.”
  11. At a meeting held on December 10, 2013, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously (6-0, with one Trustee having recused herself) to deny the reasonable accommodation request under the SAU Ordinance “for the reasons stated in Supervisor Gonser’s recommendation to the Board.”

Edited Summary of  RELIEF REQUESTED

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff respectfully requests that the Court:

  • Enter orders finding and declaring that Oakland Township’s actions alleged above constitute violations of the Fair Housing Act (“FHA”), the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Michigan’s Persons With Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”)
  • Order Oakland Township to grant the reasonable accommodation requested pursuant to the SAU Ordinance;
  • Enjoin Oakland Township, its agents, employees, assigns, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from discriminating on the basis of disability in violation of the FHA, ADA and (“PWDCRA”) ;
  • Enjoin Oakland Township, its agents, employees, assigns, successors, and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from refusing to approve the accommodation requested pursuant to the SAU Ordinance and ordering them to allow the development of the Blossom Ridge project;
  • Order monetary damages in an appropriate amount to fully compensate each person aggrieved by Oakland nship’s discriminatory housing practices for injuries caused by Oakland Township’s fa ilure to comply with the requirements of the FHA, the ADA, and the PWDCRA;
  • Order Oakland Township to pay attorney fees, costs and expenses involved in bringing this litigation;

LINKS TO VIEW RELATED MATERIAL

Use this link to view the 2014_12_05 PVA Federal Complaint.

Use this link to read Detroit Free Press editorial – Free Press Editorial

Use this link to read Oakland Press article – Oakland Press Article

Author’s note:  This is an important event for Oakland Township citizens.  This could involve a great deal of our taxpayers’ money in compensation and attorney fees. It will occupy our elected officers and board members with things other than their official duties.  It could negatively affect the reputation of our community.  The Board needs to hear from  our citizens so please voice your opinion by phone calls, emails and attending Board meetings.  The next Board meeting is Tuesday the 9th 7PM in the Township Hall.

Jim Foulkrod