Friday, May 31, 2013

Back Again/ Proposal to CHANGE ZONING to B-2/ Break Legal Agreement

Hi All,
Planning Commission meeting on MONDAY,  JUNE 3, 2013 @ 7 pm.
Two Public Hearings
One site Plan

In typical Township fashion, issues will come back and back until the desired outcome is reached, or the public is so worn down or not notified that the outcome happens by default.  I see no local paper, either in print or online that really covers all sides of government issues/actions.  Writing about the results of an issue instead of notifying the public of upcoming meetings and Public Hearings is not covering local government for the people.  A standard "legal notice"  is not really covering issues.

BACK ON THE AGENDA:  4145 Maple... a one + acre  parcel of the shopping center at the SW corner of Telegraph and Maple Rd. that is ZONED  O-1  requesting to be REZONED B-2.
The current O-1 zoning is to protect the adjacent residential properties and there is an agreement that the land/property will stay that way. There is a vacant existing bank building on that parcel.  The rest of the property is parking, also adjacent to the residential area.

Back in October 2012, the shopping center owners requested a ZONING CHANGE to B-2.  That was NOT recommended by the Planning Commission.  It went to the Board of Trustees as NOT recommended and NO CHANGE was the result.

Now, it is quietly BACK on the AGENDA.  This time the developers are claiming they have a retail POTENTIAL tenant.  Therefore, a "claim" as to why they need to request the zoning change.  Mind you, there is VACANT retail all over town and more vacant spaces in this shopping center at Telegraph and Maple already zoned B-2.  In fact, the proposed tenant is actually saying they are going to move from their existing spot in the same shopping center into the old bank building (next to the Maple Theater)  IF the zoning change is approved.  Maybe.  It doesn't have to happen.  Once the zoning is changed....ANY accepted B-2 zoned business MAY go on that property. 

However, stick around for another agenda item:  there is actually a proposed site plan for that bank property. I didn't see any details in the board packet.  Guess we all get to be surprised? does NOT have to happen... the developers just want the zoning change and this is one way to try and get it.  According to the Township Planning director:

Supervisor Savoie, often talks about the RIGHTS of each property owner.  Not liking a business can NOT stop it for the most part.  Once a property becomes zoned B-2, that owner has the right to have a fast food restaurant, for  instance.  A property owner does not have that right if it is zoned O-1.
Remember the Tim Horton issue at Woodward and Square Lake?  Despite overwhelming objections from the public, the property adjacent to residential....the township attorney said basically that the developer had the RIGHT to use the B-2 property and it's parking spaces in a B-2 way.   De ja vu?  The Tim Horton's restaurant was put in the PARKING Spaces and the main section of the parcel fronting Woodward is now the Rusty Bucket Restaurant.  Two separate businesses on the same lot, in different buildings, sharing parking.

In the Tim Horton case, the developers provided "perks" for some residents to their property.  In the case of the recently approved commercial development at the SW corner of Telegraph and Square Lake, some residents will also be getting "perks" on their property.  I guess if you take away some of the adjacent resident complaints.... the rest of the community be damned.  Can developers "buy" support?

What will be interesting to see is how the Township manages to "amend" the AGREEMENT that protects the adjacent residential community.   After all, what's a 50+ year old legal document worth these days?  It has protected the residents...why end it now?
Look for words that that seem to protect the residents rights forever....Does "forever" go away at the whim of the township leadership, developers and attorneys?    See the PC (Planning Commission June 3) Packet pages 38-43 to read the Consent Decree from August 24, 1962.

I mentioned this parcel requesting the change in Zoning from O-1 to B-2  is next to the Maple Theater.  There's another interesting Township development.  The CINEMA owners convinced the township leadership to CREATE a new ordinance permitting alcohol to be served by the glass to patrons in the movie theater.  Well, as of the last Board of Trustees meeting, one no longer needs to be a movie patron to buy alcohol.  The CINEMA "lobby" has a "separate" business..a coffee shop/bakery/ and a what else do you want to eat opportunities.  

So why call it a liquor license for a CINEMA?  What a joke.  Every other liquor license to serve by the glass is associated with a full menu restaurant. They have a huge investment in their kitchens.  Is this "Maple Theater"  now a bar since people entering do NOT need to attend a movie?  Just drink?

Another interesting fact is the Maple Theater liquor license also has an "entertainment" provision.  Do you think the Maple Theater  and all it's separate businesses might want to lease the adjacent vacant bank building to move their "CINEMA" liquor license there? If yes, it needs a B-2 Zoning.  It is a subject that has been discussed.  Will the Township have it's first BAR? ...  on a CINEMA liquor license?  I heard there is already "entertainment" in the theater lobby??

Why should you care?  When the leadership can write new ordinances to fit any situation and get away with it because of a public that does not pay attention or is not well informed by the leadership .... when the zoning can be changed and long standing legal agreements can be made null and void...when developers can "buy" some surrounding good will to get what they want...  I guess you could say, it's all about MONEY.   The Township wants money in terms of tax revenue, the Developer wants to earn money from his development and the surrounding people want the old standard of Bloomfield Township as a mainly residential community with trees and serene surroundings.  Some might say...everyone wins.  Just remember that win/win feeling when the next zoning change or newly written ordinance is in YOUR backyard.

Speaking of YOUR backyard, another PUBLIC HEARING this same night.  Is there a non-conforming lot near you?  READ THE PACKET  (Planning Commission June 3 PC Packet)  for details.

The last  May 28 Board of Trustees meeting had many residents at the meeting and the issue of the commercial development at SW corner of Telegraph and Square Lake took at least an hour and a half to get through. The development got approval.  At the end, I was taken aback by Supervisor Savoie's suggestion to the audience to talk to the developer again... because the developer still likes his first proposal the best, which was denied. Is Savoie trying to change what was approved?   Of course that previous proposal included a change in ZONING to B2...which was soundly defeated.  DON'T go back to that...a change in zoning will get you that fast food restaurant.  The grease trap enclosure is already on the property.  The neighborhood saving grace at this moment ... is that the approved commercial property is still zoned OR-1.  Be strong.  Be happy with your trees and walls.

How many residents will show up for the Planning Commission meeting concerning the ZONING CHANGE at the different SW corner ...this one being:  Telegraph /Maple? Is that neighborhood association strong? Will all the neighborhood be informed?   Will the residential protecting O-1 zoning go to B-2?  The township legally only needs to notify properties within a 500 ft. radius.   It is a PUBLIC HEARING.  You don't need to live in the adjacent residential neighborhood to comment. 

Planning Commission meetings are NOT audio/video recorded or archived nor presented on TV or streamed live on your computer.  Printed minutes come only at the next meeting...and many Planning Commission meetings are canceled, so it could be months before you can read the approved printed minutes.

A parting comment: 
The Design Review Board that first hears the issues are the three elected officials:  Supervisor, Clerk, Treasurer.  FYI:  Township officials wrote/approved  the ordinance to create this Design Review Board and named their positions (themselves) as the board members (Years ago).  How convenient.

They also are 3 of the seven votes on the Board of Trustees.

One Trustee ( not the one from the list above)  sits on the Planning Commission and often makes the motion that takes the issue to the Board of Trustees  where that person also has a vote.

One Trustee (another one) sits on the Zoning Board of Appeals. This trustee often makes the motion to approve or deny (usually approve)  any variance or ordinance change.  Then votes his/her final decision at the Board of Trustees.

That is 5 out of 7 Trustees that have most likely already heard all/some/ or changed/ the issue at some township public level and was part of a group that approved the issue to be sent for final decision before the full board of 7 people.

When it gets to the Board of is damn hard to fight the issue.... any issue.   The seven votes are often unanimous.