by CYNTHIA KMETT
After a contentious debate that lasted most of last year at the Planning Commission, the rezoning request to make three residential lots on McClure, just west of Crooks, part of the Big Beaver zoning designation made its way to Troy City Council last Monday.
Over 50 residents took to the podium to ask council to vote down this conditional rezoning, which would have stopped the landowner Sam Stafa from building any other building allowed in this zoning and locked in the apartments. This plan, after much discussion at the Planning Commission, had been approved by the planners with a 7-0 vote. The land is part of the city’s Master Plan calling for higher density and higher buildings on the Golden Corridor.
Council, however, would need five of their seven votes to approve this project, as a protest petition had been filed on this rezoning. But in this case it only took one protestor to bring about this vote, as only residents who live within 100 feet of the rezoning can protest. But three residents did protest.
The residents’ arguments were not new. They pointed out the street is only 20 feet wide, instead of the usual 28 feet for a residential street. There are no sidewalks and more young children are moving into the neighborhood, so there are safety concerns here. And, children have to walk to school as it’s too close to be afforded school bus service.
In addition, the proposed 140-unit building would mean more traffic on this undersized road, and make it harder to get out to Big Beaver. More traffic brought more safety concerns from residents.
As had been suggested last year, this very upscale apartment would be nice on the Kmart site, but not here. Of course, what goes on the Kmart site is the domain of the Forbes family, which owns that site as well as the Somerset Collection. They have not given any indication of what might one day go on that site. Many of those protesting actually live in half-million dollar homes that Stafa built for them just across the way.
Some things that residents said, however, were stretching the facts. Homeowners will not lose 5, 10 or 40 percent of their property values. In fact, you do get a 10 reduction of assessed value if you abut commercial zoning in Troy. But that won’t automatically lower your selling price. It just means you could pay less taxes than your neighbors if your taxable value is within range of your assessed value. And, it might take a couple of weeks longer to sell the home, but the price will be no lower than a percent or two of what your neighbor’s get, according to the city’s assessing department.
While campaigning to get members of the public to sign against this apartment, some residents have reported they were told that if this passed, builders could come to their subdivision and build apartments there, too. No. This change is a Master Plan called for change, and apartments are not going into the middle of a subdivision.
A number of residents also threatened to remember who voted for this change the next time there is an election.
These are pretty big lots, as evidenced by the “big foot” homes going up on some lots. Residents like their country atmosphere and believe their quality of life would change if the apartment is built.
Nor does the argument that the schools can’t handle any more children seem true. Actually, one-bedroom apartments in a luxury building probably will have very few children as residents.
“This is what the master plan calls for and that the millennials and seniors want,” the petitioner’s attorney Dennis Cowan reminded council.
But council wasn’t convinced, at least not enough or them.
Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek said she has “public safety concerns with no sidewalks” on this narrow residential street “It just doesn’t seem right to me…it just seems to be inadequate protection.” She was a “no” vote.
Agreeing was Councilwoman Edna Abrahim, who added: “I’m not convinced the safety criteria is met.” She agreed it would change the character of the neighborhood. She was a “no” vote, too.
Also “no” votes were Councilman Ethan Baker and Councilman Paul McCown, who both said it just doesn’t fit at this location. “It’s beautiful, but it just doesn’t work there,” McCown noted.
Voting yes. Mayor Dane Slater, Councilman Dave Henderson and Councilman Ed Pennington.
Does the builder have other options? Yes, but we don’t know yet what those might be, but one might be to take the question to court, as the plan meets all the requirements of the Big Beaver zoning district and does not require any variances to be built.