Royal OakAugust 13, 2013
Commission approves rezoning for storage complex
By Robert Guttersohn
C & G Staff Writer
The City Commission Aug. 12 approved the conditional rezoning of a property near the Woodward and Interstate 696 overpass from mixed use to industrial.
The vote was 5-1 with Commissioner Jim Rasor as the lone vote against the project. Mayor Jim Ellison recused himself from the vote and the debate because of a conflict of interest.
The conditional rezoning will make way for an EZ Storage to be built where there is currently a vacant and blighted Burger King at the intersection of Woodward, Lafayette and Parent avenues. The project has sparked controversy due to its size and location at the end of a residential block. Proponents said it will help stabilize a currently blighted area unsuitable for retail use. Critics said its height will cast long shadows on residences to the north during the winter and that it doesn’t belong in the area.
Charles Semchena, the attorney representing the future developers of the site, pointed out the project’s contrasts to L.A. Fitness, a building that EZ Storage has been compared to both for its size and because it is situated between a pair of diagonal intersections near I-696.
Semchena said the EZ Storage will be a story shorter, the setback from the street will be greater and there will be more landscaping than the L.A. Fitness. Additionally, Semchena said the EZ storage will be half of the fitness facility’s size.
He said the majority of residents in the area are in favor of the project.
“They want it,” Semchena said. “They like it, and they’d ask you to approve it. And that’s what we’re asking you to do tonight.”
Rasor, who was also the lone dissenting vote during the first reading of the conditional rezoning last month, expressed the same arguments against the project. He felt the building was too large for the site.
“Mixed use 2 is not designed for a business half the size of L.A. Fitness,” Rasor said, referring to the property’s now former zoning designation.
The conditional rezoning to industrial means that if EZ Storage goes out of business or if the project fails to be built, the property will revert back to mixed use 2.
Rasor said the city should be more patient and see what other developers are interested in the land.
“I don’t think this is the best we can do,” Rasor said. An EZ Storage “should be somewhere away from this neighborhood. I cannot support this.”
Timothy Thwing, the city’s director of planning, said small retail businesses, which mixed use 2 calls for, would not do well in the location because it is so hard to see as drivers go under the I-696 overpass.
“L.A. Fitness does well as a destination location,” Thwing said. “This facility will do well as a destination location.
“I think this is a viable alternative for this site,” he concluded.
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