by ANDREW NEAL
Not just a few — over a dozen residents voiced concerns about a rezoning proposal for the northwest corner of Ryan and W Utica Road at last Monday’s Shelby Township Planning Commission meeting.
West Utica/Ryan Properties LLC, represented by attorney Phillip Ruggeri, are proposing both commercial and residential projects at the corner. The proposal includes a gas station, convenience store, oil & lube station, and new apartment complex.
The corner has stood vacant for years, but several residents say they want to keep it that way, citing traffic concerns, the natural beauty of the wooded area, and speculation as to the “type of people” the development would attract.
“You’re gonna have all these teenagers here for slurpees and cigarettes,” said Rochelle Connor, a resident of the nearby Eagle Creek Condominiums. “Why do we need it? We’ve got everything we need already within two minutes.”
Several opponents echoed the same sentiments, suggesting the development would draw an unwanted, unsafe nuisance to the area, along with some conjecture about their new potential neighbors.
Dave Major’s home is right next to the proposed development. His concerns are focused on the ebb and flow of the economy as it relates to property values. If the economy tanks again like it did in 2008, he argues, homeowners will be left holding the debt, while renters can skip town scot-free.
“When the economy goes sour, they’ll fill those apartments,” he said.
“They don’t care if the person is packing heat. These people are coming from the inner city or wherever.”
Several residents suggested that the Township itself buy the land and turn it into a park, claiming they moved there specifically for the trees, ponds, and natural beauty that is hard to find elsewhere in the surrounding metropolitan landscape.
“It’s an oasis in the middle of the city,” Connor said.
For his part, Ruggeri says this kind of initial backlash is nothing new in his 36 years of experience, “just different faces,” he quipped.
“I did Meijer’s in Washington Township. The people were screaming, I mean literally screaming. And guess what? It got built. And guess what? Today, those people service
and patronize Meijer’s. Okay? It’s just a fact.”
From a business perspective, he maintains that more commercial and residential development in the area is ultimately a good thing for the community.
“I’m trying to bring development to Shelby Township.”
Chairman Jerome Moffitt rebutted, “See, what you want to bring is a higher dense use to an area that for a long period of time was a low dense use. So what’s the compelling interest for us?”
Ruggeri noted three things: new development, expanded tax base, and convenience. “They’re not going to build this to sit there and be vacant.”
The proposal was postponed, giving the petitioners time to go back to the drawing board.
After the meeting, Ruggeri was asked if he had any additional comments for the paper. He asked back with a grin, “Can you print vulgarities?”