Tag Archives: Planning and Zoning in Oakland Township

Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of understanding of Planning Ordinance

At the August 31, 2015 Special Board of Trustees meeting that Supervisor Gonser scheduled to appoint two new Planning Commission members, he demonstrated his lack of understanding of an important element of our Ordinance.  He accused the previous Planning Commission of creating an ordinance that was established to benefit developers.  Nothing was farther from the truth. His ignorance demonstrates the importance of filling the two open Planning Commission seats with people that can add some historical knowledge to the Planning Commission.

In the mid-1980’s, the Township performed a study to determine the impact of what would occur if all of the land in the Township was developed to the full extent allowed under the then existing zoning.  It was determined that since the Township was (and continues to be) serviced by many gravel roads, safety concerns would exist if the properties on gravel roads were allowed to be fully developed.  There were concerns over Fire Truck, Emergency vehicle and Police vehicle access over poor gravel road conditions, in all seasons, due to the future heavy traffic.

With that understanding, the Township Board and the Planning Commission developed what is presently called the “Ultimate Paved Road Density Ordinance”.  This Ordinance decreased the zoning density of over 300 parcels of land that were only accessible on gravel roads.  However, in order to prevent the property owners from legally challenging the Township of a ‘taking’, the Ordinance allows the parcels to revert back to the original zoning classification if the access roads to the parcel(s) are paved by the developer of the property.

This ordinance has been used by a number of developers over the years.  One of the more visible examples is the stretch of Silverbell east of Adams to almost Gallagher Road.  The cost for the paving was incurred by the developer, and the result is the subdivision that exists there under the original zoning.

At the August 31, 2015 meeting, the Supervisor commented that he saw this ordinance as a poor example of Planning in the Township and a reason for why he wanted to change the membership of the Planning Commission.  In his statement he said:

” That (the Ultimate Paved Road Density Ordinance) came out of your last Planning Commission, the previous Planning Commission.  That permitted developers to increase the density if they paved the road.

Now, does that satisfy Oakland Township’s desire to stay rural?

I think not!”

The author of this post, former Planning Commissioner Chairman James Carter, and another citizen who played a significant role in establishing the Ordinance Don Westphal, pointed out to the Supervisor that the Planning Commission and Board action in the mid-1980s was an excellent example of good planning.  The reasons are:

  • It protects the safety of the community by insuring we had roads that could be used by emergency vehicles in all seasons.
  • It protects the Township from being accused of ‘taking’ property rights away from property owners, since they could revert to the original zoning if they met the criteria defined in the Ordinance.
  • It acts as a method to decrease development in the Township.
  • It reduces the amount of money required to maintain the gravel roads that could not sustain the higher traffic from higher density developments.

When confronted with these arguments, Gonser stated:

” I studied that quite well, so I understand completely how it happened.  The bottom line is it gets developed, and it gets developed to a higher density.  So the proof is ‘in the puddin!’ “

Here are video excerpts from the meeting – (please note Gonser’s attempt to limit James Carter’s comments and the citizen’s reactions):

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Supervisor’s ignorance over the reasons for the Ordinance reinforced the need to have knowledgable people on the Planning Commission.  His belief that the Ordinance is bad just because “it (the land) got developed” is contrary to his statement that “private property rights are paramount”. You cannot have it both ways!

At the beginning of each Planning Commission meeting, an opening statement is read where the duties of the Planning Commission are explained.  It states the the Planning Commission is charged with ensuring all plans must:

  • meet the existing Zoning and other Ordinances of the Township
  • meet Michigan State Law & Constitution
  • meet Federal Law
  • protect the property right of the owners of the property.

The Supervisor apparently does not support protecting the property rights of developers who own land.  Apparently he sees a difference between “developers” who own land and “private property owners”.  The law does not differentiate between the two.

The Township must protect against having individuals that have similar opinions appointed to our Planning Commission.  Our Township will be plagued with high legal expenses defending poor decisions by the Planning Commission and the Board.  If the Township loses a “taking” lawsuit, the Township is subject to significant monetary damages which are ultimately paid by taxpayers.

We need experienced individuals on the Planning Commission to offset the lack of understanding of good planning by our Supervisor.

Richard Michalski

Here are some related links that were previously posted on this website:

Did Supervisor Gonser try to mislead the citizens, or was he ignorant of the facts?

Zoning? – Gonser Doesn’t Understand our Master Plan Either.

Supervisor Gonser attempts to influence Planning Commission’s Master Plan

Supervisor Gonser demonstrates his lack of knowledge of Oakland Township Zoning

Supervisor Gonser’s REAL views on trails, pathways, bike paths and environmental protection

 

Planning Commissioner disappointed that Gonser did not add much needed experience to Planning Commission

At the September 1, 2015 Planning Commission meeting, Planning Commissioner Danny Beer expressed his disappointment that the Supervisor did not take advantage of the experienced candidates that submitted their applications for the two open Planning Commission positions.  He acknowledged the need for adding people with Planning experience to the inexperienced Planning Commission and said the Supervisor “missed the boat by not putting some experience on this Planning Commission.”

Danny Beer is a Gonser appointment to the Planning Commission.  He was added to the Planning Commission in 2014.  Danny was present at the September 31st Board meeting where two Planning Commission appointments were to have been made.  As previously reported, Supervisor Gonser wanted to appoint two individuals with no Zoning or Planning experience.  The Board did not accept his recommendations.  Gonser refused to nominate other candidates that did have Planning or Zoning experience.

At the September 1 Planning Commission meeting, Danny Beer stated:

“I was disappointed, personally disappointed, that there wasn’t more consideration given to the applicants who had a lot of experience. There were a a couple of people that were very anxious to be a part of this, with a lot of background, and I am new and have less planning experience than you guys that have at least dealt with it in your other workings.  I never have.

In my opinion, we need some experienced help –  some people to fall back on.  Both of you guys have been very helpful, John and Ron, but we are all new at this, and I really feel we missed the boat by not putting some experience on this Planning Commission! “

Other Planning Commission members expressed their hope that the Supervisor would nominate one or two of the candidates that have the much needed experience and have submitted their applications for the openings.

Here is a video of the discussion at the Planning Commission meeting:

Adding fuel to the fire, Gonser was quoted in an article in the 9/1/15 edition of the Oakland Press as saying:

“I have to talk to people around the community and see who’s interested.  Unless they’ve served on the planning commission, they don’t have experience.”

This statement reveals two things:

  • He does not intend to nominate any of the more experienced people who have applied for consideration.
  • He either doesn’t understand the type of experience being sought by the Board members who spoke on the record  on the matter or he is spitefully misrepresenting their opinions in order to present himself as a victim of the Board’s refusal to support him.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  With six of the seven Board members recognizing the need for adding Planning experience to the Planning Commission, with several candidates having the much needed experience, and with a plea for help from the Planning Commission for that help, why would the Supervisor be reluctant to appoint individuals that have submitted their applications and are very qualified to help the Planning Commission?

If Gonser does not take appropriate action at the next Board meeting, I am afraid the Township may get involved in yet another legal issue that will do nothing but hurt Oakland Township.

The Supervisor needs to accept reality, and do what is right for the Township, not his ego!

Richard Michalski and Jim Foulkrod

 

 

Township Board does not approve Supervisor Gonser’s Planning Commission nominees!

At the July 31, 2015 Oakland Township Board meeting, the Township Board did not approve either of the two candidates that Supervisor Gonser brought forward for consideration for replacing Janine Saputo and James Carter on the Planning Commission.  Saputo was the Planning Commission’s Secretary, and Carter was the Chairperson of the Commission.  Their terms of appointment are up on September 1.  The Supervisor refused to consider other applicants that the Board members felt were more qualified to meet the immediate needs of the Township.

The Supervisor indicated his selection of the nominees was based on gender diversity, where the nominees lived in the Township, and whether they lived on large parcels of property.

The reason the Board did not approve the two nominees was that the nominees did not have any Township experience in Zoning or Planning.  The Board pointed out that with the previous changes to the Planning Commission, and other Planning personnel changes, the Township’s Planning experience has dropped below a critical level.  One Trustee referred to the loss of expertise as a ‘hemorrhage’.

There were 13 residents that supported the Board’s position and their concern for the level of experience on the Planning Commission.  There were only three individuals that supported Gonser’s position.  One of the three was former Trustee Maureen Thalmann, who recently resigned from the Board.  Another was Parks Commissioner Roger Schmidt, who is involved in a lawsuit against fellow Township’s Parks Commission members, and whose wife happened to be one of Gonser’s nominees.

Supervisor Gonser refused to  nominate other individuals that had applied.  Several of these do have Planning, Zoning, or Township subcommittee experience.

By State Law, only the Supervisor can nominate individuals for the Planning Commission.  The Board has the authority to approve or reject his nominations.

When asked, the Township Attorney could not ‘shed any light’ on what procedurally will occur if the Supervisor does not appoint an acceptable candidate.

Here is a link to an Oakland Press article on the meeting:

Oakland Press article on August 31, 2015 Special BOT meeting

Here is a video of the Board members’ comments:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  As previously reported on this website, the level of experience on the Planning Commission is critical to preserving the character of Oakland Township.

The Planning Commission is currently faced with two significant challenges.  One is consideration of a change to our Ordinance to limit oil and gas drilling in our Township to the fullest extent allowed by law, and the other is our new Master Plan.  The Supervisor has already gone on record as not supporting any changes to our Ordinance to control oil and gas drilling in out Township.  He also has repeatedly indicated he wants to change the Master Plan.

The Supervisor clearly wants to change the character of our Township.  Continued vigilance is needed by the citizens to make sure he follows our wishes, not just his own political agenda.

A special thanks goes out to all of the citizens that came to the meeting on August 31.  Your presence and comments give the Board the strength to act on your behalf,

Richard MIchalski

URGENT REQUEST: Please attend special Board meeting on Monday, August 31, 2015

PLEASE ATTEND A VERY IMPORTANT MEETING THAT HAS BEEN SCHEDULED BY SUPERVISOR GONSER FOR MONDAY, AUGUST 31 AT 7:00 PM.  THE MEETING IS AT THE TOWNSHIP HALL.  THE PURPOSE IS TO APPOINT TWO NEW MEMBERS TO THE PLANNING COMMISSION THAT WILL HELP DEFINE OAKLAND TOWNSHIP’S FUTURE.

Some of you are probably aware that two Planning Commission member’s appointments end in September.  They have not requested to be considered for reappointment.  On August 28th Supervisor Gonser asked for a special Board meeting on August 31, 2015 to vote on his nominees for those two positions.  He is nominating:

  • Barbara Schmidt (wife of Park’s Commisioner Roger Schmidt)
  • Jeaneane Landers

The applications they submitted on August 27th and 28th are shown here:

Applications from Schmidt and Landers

Others that had submitted their applications earlier, but apparently were rejected by Supervisor Gonser, include:

  • Dominic Abbate (former Oakland Township Trustee and Planning Commission member)
  • Craig Blust (member of Trails and Pathway subcommittee)
  • Salavatore D’Anna
  • George Platz (former Chairman of Zoning Board of Appeals)
  • Mark Plaza

Two of these candidates (Abbate and Platz) submitted their names for consideration for the open Trustee Position created when Maureen Thalmann resigned earlier this year.  Since they were not selected for the open Trustee position, the Board asked them to consider applying for other positions as they became available.  They clearly followed the Board’s request.  Their applications for the Trustee position, with experience noted, is shown here:

Abbate and Platz applications

Efforts will be made to get copies of the other’s applications and post them on this website so the citizens can review their credentials and experience as well.

AUGUST 31UPDATE:  THE APPLICATIONS FOR THE THREE ADDITIONAL CANDIDATES HAVE BEEN OBTAINED AND ARE SHOWN HERE:

Blust

DAnna

Plaza

A copy of the meeting notice is shown here:

August 31, 2015 Special Board meeting

Supervisor Gonser is the one who nominates the individuals that are to be considered by the Board for the open positions.  A number of people have applied for the positions.  Some of these candidates have Township experience regarding Zoning, Planning, and other subcommittees in the Township, others do not.

It should be noted that, per state law governing Township Planning Commission appointments, if the Board does not approve Gonser’s Planning Commission nominees, the currently seated Planning Commission members may continue to serve on the Commission if they agree to do so.

Over the past two years, Gonser and the Board have replaced 5 of the previous Planning Commission members with new people.  The Commission consists of 7 people.  With the loss of the two that are scheduled to leave in September (Chair Jim Carter, and Secretary Janine Saputo), the most experienced Planning Commission member will only have two years of experience.

In addition to the loss of the experience on the Planning Commission, our Township Planning consultant for many years, Larry Nix, has decided to discontinue his support of Oakland Township.  He will continue to support other communities in Michigan.

One final critical skill loss is that Elaine Leven, who has been our Township Planning Coordinator, has accepted a position as Marine City Manager.

So, all of our experienced Planning people are no longer involved in Township Planning.  This while our Township Planning Commission is responsible for updating our very important Township Master Plan.

When the Board took office in 2012, there was close to (and possibly more than)  100 years of collective Oakland Township Planning experience between the Planning Commission members, the Planning Consultant, and the Township Planning Coordinator. If the Supervisor’s recommendations get approved, and when the Planning Consultant and Planning Coordinator leave. We will have less than 10 years of collective experience working on our Master Plan.

As I stated earlier, there are several candidates that have Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals, Township Subcommittee experience or even Township Board experience that would serve the Township well by being appointed to the Planning Commission.

Your participation in the August 31 meeting is critical in making sure that the Supervisor chooses wisely in his nomination, and that the Board only approves individuals that have demonstrated their knowledge and willingness to add much needed experience to the relatively inexperience Planning Commission as we work on our Township Master Plan.

Here is a link to an Oakland Press article on Monday’s meeting:

Oakland Press article on Planning Commission appointments

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Simply put, the future character of our Township is at stake.  Is Oakland Township such a terrible place that Gonser feels it necessary to use the Planning Commission to redefine ‘what we are’ just to satisfy his ego.

Richard Michalski – Former member of Planning Commission for 26 years

Supervisor Gonser opposes Township establishing ordinance to minimize impact of oil and gas drilling in Oakland Township

As previously reported, the Township Board requested the Planning Commission review and develop potential zoning ordinance changes for the Board to consider regarding the control of gas and oil drilling sites in Oakland Township. The Board also put in place a six month moratorium on new oil and gas drilling sites while the Planning Commission and Board potentially take action.  The Planning Commission will begin their efforts on this request at the August 5, 2015 Planning Commission meeting.

The Oakland Press published an article on this matter on August 4, 2015.  In that article, Supervisor Gonser’s opinion on this issue was stated.  Here is what the Oakland Press wrote:

Township Supervisor Terry Gonser, who, along with trustee John Giannangeli, was absent from the (July 14th) meeting and did not cast a vote in the matter, said he is not in favor of addressing oil and gas exploration at the township level because of state laws regulating the act.

Here is the link to the Oakland Press article:

Oakland Township officials to discuss oil and gas drilling regulations

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Concerned citizens should try to attend the August 5, 2015 Planning Commission meeting and voice their support for having the Township take advantage of neighboring communities learnings regarding oil and gas drilling sites.  The Planning Commission meeting starts at 7 PM, and is held at the Oakland Township Hall on Collins Road.

It is disappointing that Supervisor Gonser is satisfied relying on the State to ‘regulate’ oil and gas drilling in Oakland Township when several of our neighboring communities have put in place a limited level of local protection for their communities. Why would one of our elected officials not try to similarly protect us? I guess the Supervisor’s conservative values concerning individual property rights, big government intervention and regulations also applies to local government regulations, even if those local regulations would protect our residents.  The ‘balanced’ approach that Trustee Ferriolo describes in the Oakland Press article is the more appropriate approach to protecting everyone’s individual property rights.

Here are several previously reported articles on this subject:

Oakland Township Board implements 6 month moratorium on new oil or gas drilling in Oakland Township

UPDATE: Oil and Gas well sites in Oakland Township and Surrounding Communities

Results of June 23, 2015 BOT discussion on Oil and Gas drilling in Oakland Township

JUNE 17th UPDATE: Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township?

Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township?

Richard Michalski

Oakland Township Board implements 6 month moratorium on new oil or gas drilling in Oakland Township

The Oakland Township Board moved quickly to take action to protect our Township from new oil or gas drilling sites at inappropriate locations in our Township.  At the July 14, 2015 Board meeting, the Board approved two motions in  5 to 0 votes.  Supervisor Gonser and Trustee Giannangeli were not present.  

Newly appointed Trustee Frank Ferriolo made the two motions.  One motion directed the Planning Commission to review our Zoning Ordinances and propose changes they feel may be needed.  The second motion placed a 6 month moratorium on new oil or gas drilling in our Township.  

Here are the two motions:

“The matter of zoning oil and gas drilling within Oakland Township be referred to the Oakland Township Planning Commission for review and consideration of amendments to the Township Zoning Ordinance, and that any such amendments or recommendations be provided to the Board of Trustees in writing within 4 months.”

“Pending a review and consideration of amendments to the Township Zoning Ordinance by the Planning Commission and Township Board of Trustees, a moratorium of 6 months be placed on any zoning or permitting approval of any oils or gas drilling within the Charter Township of Oakland.”

These motions were based on recommendations from our Township Attorney in response to the Board’s June 23, 2015 request.

Thanks should go to the many citizens that provided input at the June 23 BOT meeting.  Special thanks should go to  Erin Howlett, from the “Don’t Drill the Hills” group, and Denise Demak from the Shelby “Citizens Against Residential Drilling” group (CARD), for their help in making this issue visible in our community, but more importantly, helping our Township leadership use their communities’ ‘lessons learned’.

Here is a video of the two motions:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  The Board has moved with unprecedented speed in taking action on this issue.  We do not know what the Planning Commission and Board will do over the next few months, but the actions taken at the July 14th meeting give our community the time to put in place defensible ordinances that protect both individual property owner rights and rights of the greater community.

The Board’s quick action is a testament to how our Township can benefit from taking advantage of other communities solutions to regional issues.  No one person or group has a monopoly of good ideas.  Our Board appears to now recognize that.

Time will tell what the Planning Commission and Board ultimately agree upon, but this is a very good first step.

Richard Michalski

 

Results of June 23, 2015 BOT discussion on Oil and Gas drilling in Oakland Township

There were a number of concerned citizens who were at the June 23, 2015 Board of Oakland Township meeting sharing their concerns over the potential drilling for oil and gas in our community.  Their concerns focused on the negative impact that drilling would have on surrounding residential properties, the aquifers that supply drinking water in our community and sensitive environmental parcels.  One of the citizens was a person from Rochester Hills who has become very knowledgable on the oil and gas drilling issue in their community.  She made several recommendations to our Board and offered to work with Staff to help them come up to speed quickly on this issue.

The Board listened to the citizen concerns and suggestions, and asked that the Township attorney investigate the possibility of implementing a ‘moratorium’ on new drilling sites until we have an opportunity to review and potentially update our zoning ordinance.  The Board asked that the attorney provide the Board feedback by the next Board meeting on July 14th.  

A video of several of the key items discussed at the meeting is shown here:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  An aggressive approach by our Board at investigating establishing a moratorium, as several other communities have done, to give the Planning Commission time to look at modifying our Zoning Ordinance for Board approval, could decrease the likelihood of wells being drilled in inappropriate areas.  This will be a challenge given the restrictions that are placed on Township’s in regulating well locations, but the Attorney indicated our Zoning Ordinance is the only way we will be able to control well locations in the future.

One of the Trustees suggested that the residents need to contact their State Legislators to ask them to support measures that would give local communities more control on oil and gas drilling.

The Planning Commission does not need the approval of the Board to begin to study possible changes to the zoning ordinance.  They should consider the advice of the Township Planning Consultant and the Township Attorney.  However, they do not need to wait until the Board makes a decision on a ‘moratorium’.  I recommend that citizens attend the July 7th Planning Commission and request they start the process now.

A special thanks goes out to all the concerned citizens from Oakland Township, and our surrounding communities, that came out to share their perspectives on this issue at the June 23rd meeting.

Richard Michalski

JUNE 17th UPDATE: Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township?

There are several new developments regarding the potential drilling for oil and gas in Oakland Township.  As previously reported, one property owner signed a lease agreement with West Bay Exploration Company.  The property involved in that agreement is 3700 Dutton Road.

It was discovered that West Bay Exploration Company also recorded another agreement on May 11, 2015.  This lease agreement is with the Oakland Christian Church located at the southwest corner of Silverbell and Adams Road.

Here is a map showing the location of the two properties:

 

Dutton and Church lease sites

 

(click to enlarge image)

At the June 15, 2015 Rochester Hill City Council meeting, there were approximately 12 Rochester Hills citizens that expressed concerns over the possible drilling at the Dutton Road location, which is near Musson Elementary School in our Township.  In anticipation of the outpouring of citizen concerns for drilling at that location, Mayor Barnett contacted West Bay Exploration Company earlier that day to understand their drilling intentions.  Mayor Barnett indicated that West Bay said there was “no interest in doing anything at that site” and “they are planning to ‘pull’ all of (their) Northern Oakland County activities”.  Barnett asked that they document that intention in writing.

Mayor Barnett later explained the history behind the volatile issue of drilling in Rochester Hills.  He stated Rochester Hills has taken very aggressive steps to protect the citizens from drilling in Rochester Hills through their recent ordinance changes.  He indicated that their ordinances may be challenged in court.  He went on to explain the delicate balance between the rights of property owners vs. protecting the larger community against indiscriminate drilling in the community.  He feels Rochester Hills has done everything they can do, but have no control over what happens in Oakland Township.

Here is a copy of the Dutton Road lease agreement:

3700 Dutton Rd Lease

Here is a copy of the Oakland Christian Church lease agreement:

Oakland Christian Church Lease

Here is a video of Mayor Barnett’s comments based on his discussion with West Bay Exploration Company:

 

 

Here is a link to a June 16th Oakland Press article regarding West Bay Exploration Company’s intention to pull out of area:

June 16, 2015 Oakland Press article

Here is a video of Mayor Barnett’s comments on how Rochester Hills has done everything they can to control drilling in their community, but has no authority to address the Oakland Township location.  This is a very good description of what the property owner and community challenges are on this issue.  It is 11 minutes long, but well worth the time to become familiar with this issue:

 

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  West Bay Exploration Company’s stated intentions may give Oakland Township an opportunity to ‘shore up’ our ordinances to the fullest extent allowed by law to protect our community from indiscriminate drilling.  Mr. Barnett indicated that the smaller communities, like Oakland Township, have fewer things they can do to protect their communities.  We trust that the Board will work with our Attorney, the Township Planner and our neighboring communities to come up with ordinance changes that maximize our control over these facilities.

We may have bought some time as a result of West Bay’s current position, but there are other oil drilling companies that may not have made the same decision.  Also, when the price of oil goes up, it may be financially advantageous for the oil drilling company to ‘renege’ on their stated current position.

It is hard to understand why West Bay would record their lease agreements with the County and only one month later, indicate that they have no intention of exercising them.  Let’s make sure Oakland Township takes advantage of West Bay’s stated decision by officially making a motion to place a short moratorium on drilling in Oakland Township, much like Rochester Hills and Shelby did, so we have time to work on our ordinances.

The balance between individual property rights and the welfare of the community is one that may pit neighbor against neighbor.  The Board must look at all the options and proactively deal with this issue before the oil drilling companies start operations near sensitive areas in our Township.  The current plan for linking the community water wells for many of the subdivisions in the Southwest portion of the Township could factor into what the Township does on drilling for oil and gas.

If you are a concerned about how Oakland Township handles this issue, please come to the June 23rd Oakland Township Board meeting at 7 PM.  The recent lease filings and West Bay’s announcement may be a ‘warning shot’ for Oakland Township.  Complacency is not appropriate at this time.  Trustee Bailey has asked that this issue be placed on the agenda for next Tuesday, so let’s support him.  Here is a copy of the agenda:

June 23, 2015 BOT agenda

Richard Michalski

Is Drilling for Oil and Gas coming to Oakland Township?

Shelby well rig (1)

Picture of Shelby Twp. drilling rig

Some of you may be aware of the struggles that our neighboring communities have had with Oil and Gas drilling activities.  Shelby Twp. and Rochester Hills are two of our closest neighbors that have been involved in that fight.  A recent filing by West Bay Explorations now may place Oakland Township in the fray.  

What follows is a link to the Don’t Drill the Hills (DDH) website that indicates that the property owner of 3700 Dutton Road made an agreement with West Bay Explorations on July 23, 2012.  The company has now filed the signed oil & gas lease agreement with the County allowing the company the right to put a well on that property.  This parcel is near Musson Elementary School in Oakland Township.  The residents of Oakland Township have not been involved in any discussions with the Township Board on this issue.  

The Board is finally considering changes to our Zoning Ordinance (Ordinance 16).  The citizens need to ensure that our leadership adequately protects us from undesirable wells in our community.

Here are excerpts from Don’t Drill the Hills website:

Don’t Drill The Hills has been actively watching for records filed with the county involving oil and gas leases. On May 11, 2015 West Bay Exploration filed with Oakland County an oil and gas lease which allows surface activities including drilling rigs, pipelines, access roads, and storage tanks on 18.82 acres at 3700 Dutton Rd, adjacent to Musson Elementary school. With a wellhead at this location West Bay can horizontally drill, using an “acid matrix stimulation” method up to two miles away.

If you are concerned about industrial activities being permitted in residential areas, you need to ACT NOW! DDH started warning residents over one year ago about the possibility of drilling activities in the area discussed today.  Contact your local officials, the DEQ, and your state legislature telling them you don’t support drilling near our schools and neighborhoods. The drilling has not yet started. The time to voice your concern is now… before the wells go in!

Here is the link to the website that disclosed this new filing in our community:

Link to “Don’t Drill the Hills” posting

Here is a copy of the Oil and Gas Lease that was agreed upon on July 23, 2012, but only recently filed with the County on May 11, 2015:

Oil and Gas Lease agreement

(click on image to enlarge it)

Here is a map showing the location of the property (the proposed well site is outlined in red):

3700 Dutton Rd Drill Site

(click on image to enlarge it)

Here is a link to a Channel 7 news broadcast pertaining to a well site in Shelby Township:

ABC news report on Shelby well site

Here is a link to a Channel 4 news broadcast pertaining to the well site in Shelby Township:

NBC news report on Shelby well site

The citizens of Oakland Township must demand that our Township Board protect our community from inappropriate drilling sites.  As they make changes to Ordinance 16, they must include wording that protects us to the fullest extent of the law.  A drilling site is capable of horizontally drilling under large acreage parcels, as well as homes and schools, to get to where they have obtained oil and gas access rights.

Why is this important to the citizens of Oakland Township?  Oakland Township has certainly had our share of issues since the new Board was elected in 2012.  The drilling issue may now be heating up to the point where citizen involvement is not only important, but essential to prevent the type of issues Rochester Hills and Shelby have had.  Proper legal wording in our Ordinances may plug some of the loopholes that have recently been created by our State Legislature on this matter.

I suggest that our Board set up a separate public meeting to discuss just this issue.  They should invite representatives from the Shelby Citizens Against Residential Drilling (CARD), and the Rochester Hills Don’t Drill the Hills group (DDH) to educate interested Oakland Township citizens, and Board and Parks Commission members on this subject.  The Board should also send letters to all Home Owner Associations informing them of the proposed meeting.

Fortunately, the Shelby CARD group is willing and able to aid our Township in establishing a group of informed and concerned citizens to help protect our Township using their many ‘lessons learned’.  Since they are a Township, they are familiar with the unique regulations controlling what Township’s can do as compared to cities.  We need to take advantage of their expertise and not ‘reinvent the wheel’.

Our community needs to ‘get out in front’ of this issue.  We also need to support our surrounding communities in their fight over this issue.

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