Despite business's pleas, city sells parking lot to developer

By: Robert Guttersohn | Royal Oak Review | Published November 19, 2013

ROYAL OAK — After negotiations between two Royal Oak business owners reportedly reached an impasse, the City Commission Nov. 11 approved the sale of one of its surface lots to a redeveloper working on a vacant building along Main Street.

The lot, adjacent to the building being redeveloped for office and residential at 916 N. Main St., was sold for $60,000 to Robert Goodman, of Goodman Property LLC, said City Attorney David Gillam.

According to Timothy Thwing, the city’s planning director, Goodman had been in negotiations with the Frentz family on splitting the parking lot.

The lot was needed in order for the Planning Commission to approve Goodman’s renovation of an old furniture store, but the Frentz family, which owns several nearby businesses, said their customers have used the lot for years.

“We depend on those parking spots in order to continue to serve the community and have successful operations,” said Scott Frentz, the owner of Nth Degree, during the Nov. 11 meeting.

Goodman disagreed, saying there would be no parking shortage created by the sale.

“We really don’t have a parking issue here; we have the perception of a parking issue because, for whatever reason, some people want to be obstructionists,” Goodman said.

Goodman’s project was first brought to the Planning Commission in October, but the project lacked 45 of the 88 needed parking spaces that city code required for a building of its size and use, Thwing said.

With the purchase of the parking lot, it only lacked 16 spaces and made the project much more likely to receive a variance later.

When Frentz said selling the lot strictly to Goodman would affect his business, the Planning Commission tabled its decision until the Nov. 12 meeting so that a deal could be figured out between the two parties.

After negotiations fell apart, Goodman entered a bid of his own for the sale of the lot Nov. 11, Thwing said.

Because the purchase agreement was not on the commission’s agenda that night, Goodman requested the item be added during the public discussion portion of the meeting.

Scott Frentz pleaded with the commission to not sell the parking lot and allow more time for negotiations. He said his family had owned businesses in Royal Oak for 80 years.

“Needless to say, we have been part of this city’s foundation and growth,” Frentz said.

Frentz added that his family planned to expand its business footprint in the area, but the sale of the lot would prevent such plans.

Goodman said the project would create jobs and bring more taxes to the city.

“I don’t want to get into the whole who-is-important-to-the-city,” Goodman said. “We all are important. We’re all residents. We’re all taxpayers. This is a great project, and I ask you to add it to the agenda and consider it today.”

The commission approved the sale of the property, contingent on Goodman completing his project, with a 5-2 vote.

Commissioner Jim Rasor, who moved to have the item placed on the agenda and voted in favor of the sale, said it has been the city’s policy to sell city-owned lots to contiguous properties being redeveloped.

“So we’re really not playing favorites,” he said.

Commissioner Mike Fournier said he favored the sale to Goodman because it was a foreseeable project that would fill a vacant property on Main Street.

“This is a bird in the hand, so to speak, and not a potential couple in the bush,” Fournier said.

Mayor Pro Tem David Poulton and Commissioner Peggy Goodwin voted against the sale, saying the decision was too rushed and the commission should give the two sides more time to come to an amicable agreement.

“I just feel like we’re under a lot of pressure with very little information and a very a short amount of time to a make a decision on this,” Goodwin said.

The next night, the Planning Commission approved Goodman’s building plans, and the Zoning Board of Appeals granted him a parking variance Nov. 14 with a 4-3 vote, according to the meeting’s minutes.