Tag Archives: Federal investigation

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

Blossom Ridge consent judgment proposal up for review

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

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

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

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

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

THE PROPOSED CONSENT JUDGEMENT INCLUDES THE FOLLOWING:

ON ORIGINAL PROPOSED BLOSSOM RIDGE PROPERTY:

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

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

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

OTHER AGREEMENTS:

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

OPTIONS DISCUSSED BY BOARD MEMBERS:

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

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

 

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

BLOSSOM RIDGE AND CARILLON CREEK DEVELOPMENT SUMMARY

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

Blossom Ridge Consent Judgment Plans

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

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

Richard Michalski

 

 

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

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