Monday, March 23, 2015

OHCC Residential Lot a Parking Lot? "Special Favor" by Design Review Board?

Hi All,
Last week there was a Bloomfield Township DESIGN REVIEW BOARD meeting.  The Board consists of 3 people, the Supervisor, the Clerk and the Treasurer.... or an alternate from the Board of Trustees.   The meetings are held @ 2 pm  and advance notice/posting of agendas is only 18 hours notice.

1. Creation. The Design Review Board is hereby
created and established for the charter
Township for the purposes of assisting the
Township Planning Commission and Township
Board to preserve, protect and enhance the
aesthetic appeal of the Township, protect
property values through the application of good
design principles, and promote the general
health, safety and welfare of the community

From the Design Review Board agenda of 3/18/15:

Oakland Hills Country Club (OHCC) was on the agenda for a "special event"  that would last EVERY DAY from April 1, 2015 to the end of October 31, 2015   for 50 cars..or so.. whereby the employees could park on a RESIDENTIAL LOT that the club owns.  "Temporary Seasonal Parking" is NOT a "special event" ! 

The Township ordinance for "special events"  is NOT what this OHCC request is all about.  This request for parking does not meet the criteria for this "special events" ordinance.   WHY is OHCC on this agenda?  This seems more like:  "special favors"?

The property is zoned RESIDENTIAL.   What other residential lot is permitted to have 50 + cars parking on it every day for 7 months of the year?  For a total fee of $125.00?   When I was redoing the hardwood floors in my previous home, I had a truck parked in my driveway loaded with some of my larger pieces of furniture.  I got a notice from the Ordinance Dept. saying the truck could not be parked there for days...move it...or be fined.  Have you ever heard about the Ordinance Dept. issuing notices because a boat or RV or POD or similar item is parked in a driveway?  Probably.  Yet, this same ordinance department has "missed seeing"?  50 plus cars parked on a residential lot for years?

I believe, that if OHCC wants or needs additional parking and has purchased adjacent property that they should be entitled to submit a request to REZONE the property to Parking designation.  That way, the neighbors would have the right to discuss the proposed change.  If approved to change zoning to PARKING,  the property would need to be paved with setback requirements from the adjacent residential lot with the proper landscape screening, etc.  Proper drainage and lighting would be required.  All that takes time and money.

OHCC "discovered" last fall that their use of this residential lot for parking was not "legal" and so did the Township. Then, that parking became a public issue.   Therefore, the township had to take "action" of the "illegal" parking on the residential lot.  So, last fall, OHCC applied for and got this "special event" permit (what I call a "special favor" ) retroactively to April through November 2014 so they could continue to use the residential lot for parking until the golfing season ended.
Who thought up that "solution"?

Because the parking became an issue in the Fall of 2014,  OHCC had time to submit paperwork to change the zoning on their residential lot.  OHCC had time to speak to adjacent neighbors on the north side of Maple Road to attempt to rezone and approve the property for parking.  But no, apparently, with a past "friendly" approval of a "special event" permit for $125.... why not try that again.  After all, the township can hear this agenda item on a Wednesday, at 2 pm  with only 18 hour noticing.  So ...who will know?

To add a little extra information to all of this, the Township has approved a sidewalk on the north side of Maple Road at a cost of over $500,000  even though there is a sidewalk on the south side of Maple Road.  The homeowners, for the most part, on the north side of Maple are opposed to the sidewalk and will lose established landscaping in the front of their properties that buffer the traffic noise of Maple Rd.   Who really benefits from this half million dollar sidewalk?  Why, I would guess the 50 + OHCC employees that park their car on the grassy residential lot on the north side of Maple Road that need to get to the intersection to cross Maple to get to their jobs.  FYI:  many businesses are required to put in sidewalks at their own expense. 

I will assume that Supervisor Savoie recused himself from the discussion and the vote at the 3/18/15 Design Review Board as he is a Past President of OHCC.  Did an alternate sit in for the discussion and vote?  Was there discussion on the legality of parking on residential lots... for 50 + cars every day for seven months?  Was there discussion on changing the zoning?   Was there point by point check list of the requirements to get a "special event"  status for $125.00?  Was there discussion on whether this will then permit other residential property owners to seek a permit for an extraordinary amount of cars to be parked on their property every day?  Most importantly, did anyone point out that this is NOT A SPECIAL EVENT?

WELL.....I learned that the "special event" for OHCC parking was approved at the 3/18/15 DRB  meeting.

I ask these questions because I could not attend the meeting.  I wanted to HEAR what was said and by WHOM?   Certainly, this meeting was audio recorded... so the secretary could write the minutes accurately?  But NO !  READ ON:

I requested via FOIA (Freedom of Information Act)  for an audio copy of the March 18, 2015 @ 2 pm meeting.  This is the unbelievable response from the township:
Dear Marcia:
Re:  Final Determination of Request for Records

This notice is issued in response to your March 19, 2015, request for information under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), MCL 15.231 et seq, received by this office on March 19, 2015. 

You requested information that you described as “Design Review Board meeting audio tape of the meeting.”
Your request has been denied in full or in part for the following reason:

The record you request does not exist.  Design Review Board meetings are not audio or video recorded.   (red highlighting done by me for emphasis)
As to the denial of your request, pursuant to section 10 of the FOIA, you have the right to do one of the following at your option:

1.      Submit to the head of this public body a written appeal that specifically states the word “appeal” and must identify the reason or reasons you believe the denial should be reversed.  The public body must respond to your appeal within 10 business days of its receipt.  Under unusual circumstances, the time for response to your appeal may be extended by 10 business days.

2.     Commence an action in the circuit court to compel disclosure of the public records within 180 days after this public body’s final determination to deny your request.  If you prevail in such an action, the court is to award reasonable attorney fees, costs, and disbursements.  Further, if the court finds the denial to be arbitrary and capricious, you may receive punitive damages of $500.00.

The Design Review Board was suggested to be CREATED  by the THEN township leadership years ago and they gave themselves the POWER to make decisions.  I have called in question this Design Review Board authority and the kinds of decisions they make in other blogs.

While this meeting was being held.... the nation and the state of Michigan was honoring SUNSHINE WEEK... the right of the people to request Freedom of Information Act  (FOIA)  to make sure that their government is being open and transparent and to allow citizens to find out what and how their elected leaders are governing. 

Yes... I KNOW THAT THERE WILL BE WRITTEN MNUTES POSTED, but ... they are NOT word for word/ and only based on the decisions made at the time of the person handwriting what he/she heard.

My opinion,
Eliminate the Design Review Board and have all those agenda items go to the Planning Commission Board.  The  DRB  was/is a power grab by the three top elected officials, in my opinion. 

Fire anyone in the Planning Department that does not follow the ORDINANCES as written...and/or who does not advise or make any issues known to contradict the ordinance available to the board members in his/her presentation of the agenda item.  The elected board members should know the ordinances.. but the STAFF writing up and presenting the agenda requests to the Board  should make  note of any circumstances of that ordinance that is NOT BEING the requesting party... The Board doing the voting should clearly understand the ordinance.

DEMAND that the Bloomfield Township Trustees have a TOWNSHIP email posted on the website, so the citizens of this township can CONTACT their ELECTED leaders.    I have requested this for some time now.. and the township will do NOTHING to make email addresses for the trustees. 

IN CONTRAST to this OHCC "special favor" (as I call it)... instead of changing the zoning to meet the parking need..... BELOW is an example of a business doing what is right when their business needs and the zoning requirements need to be aligned.

From the Planning Commission Agenda of March 16, 2015 :