Crystal Stefaniak, with the stroller, leads a demonstration at the Troy School District Administration Building March 20 opposing the sale of district-owned land near their homes, adjacent to Jaycee Park.

Crystal Stefaniak, with the stroller, leads a demonstration at the Troy School District Administration Building March 20 opposing the sale of district-owned land near their homes, adjacent to Jaycee Park.

File photo by Deb Jacques


Land use takes center stage in 2017

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 2, 2018

 Troy firefighters wearing submersion suits use a rescue sled designed for thinner ice during training at Sylvan Glen Lake Jan. 17.

Troy firefighters wearing submersion suits use a rescue sled designed for thinner ice during training at Sylvan Glen Lake Jan. 17.

File photo provided by the Troy Fire Department

 Former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine, left, receives a signature from Troy resident Tom Grant at the Troy Public Library July 8 for a public land use petition while resident Cynthia Wilsher looks on.

Former Troy Mayor Jeanne Stine, left, receives a signature from Troy resident Tom Grant at the Troy Public Library July 8 for a public land use petition while resident Cynthia Wilsher looks on.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Troy School District Superintendent Rich Machesky surprises Athens High school teacher Kristy Pierce in her classroom Feb. 22 with the Teacher of the Year award.

Troy School District Superintendent Rich Machesky surprises Athens High school teacher Kristy Pierce in her classroom Feb. 22 with the Teacher of the Year award.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 A total of 30 varieties of tulips imported from the Netherlands show their true colors at White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery in the spring.

A total of 30 varieties of tulips imported from the Netherlands show their true colors at White Chapel Memorial Park Cemetery in the spring.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Troy police Officer John Julian, chosen as Troy Police Officer of the Year, leads the Troy Police Honor Guard during the Troy Police Memorial Day ceremony in front of the Troy police headquarters May 18.

Troy police Officer John Julian, chosen as Troy Police Officer of the Year, leads the Troy Police Honor Guard during the Troy Police Memorial Day ceremony in front of the Troy police headquarters May 18.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Dogs scamper into the pool for their swim time at the Troy Family Aquatic Center Sept. 9.

Dogs scamper into the pool for their swim time at the Troy Family Aquatic Center Sept. 9.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 David Easterbrook, president of AME Vertical, talks at the grand opening of the new auto lab at Troy High School Nov. 13.

David Easterbrook, president of AME Vertical, talks at the grand opening of the new auto lab at Troy High School Nov. 13.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 This 200-square-foot electronic sign at 1975 E. Maple Road, just west of John R Road, spurred concern about what the content of the sign may be.

This 200-square-foot electronic sign at 1975 E. Maple Road, just west of John R Road, spurred concern about what the content of the sign may be.

File photo by Deb Jacques

TROY — In 2017, development plans and land use issues made headlines in Troy. 

Voters defeated a citizen-initiated amendment to the city charter on land use, prompted by a proposal to develop the Troy Civic Center into a downtown. 

The Troy City Council denied a rezoning request on McClure Drive for a five-story apartment complex, spurring a lawsuit. 

The council also approved a moratorium on signs after the construction of several electronic, billboard-type signs along Rochester and Maple roads was met with opposition from residents. 

The Troy School District Board of Education approved the sale of a parcel of land that drew outcry from residents. 

Here’s a look back on these and other issues that made an impact in Troy in 2017:

 

Citizens push land use question onto the ballot 
In November, 57 percent of voters said no to a citizen-initiated charter amendment proposal, while 43 percent were in favor of amending the city charter to require a vote of the people for any agreement for the transfer, sale, lease or use for more than 90 days of more than 2 acres of public land.

The ballot question was sparked by the Troy Town Center Master Plan draft, completed by Robert Gibbs, president of Gibbs Planning Group. That plan  proposes 180,000 square feet of retail development, 100,000 square feet of restaurants, 850 homes, a public square modeled on Cranbrook House and Gardens, and a small lake for water retention at the current Troy Civic Center. 

The draft plan kept all public buildings on the site, but moved the Troy Family Aquatic Center and the tennis courts to different spots within the development, and it proposed an addition to the library.  

The city hired Gibbs for $200,000 to present options to redevelop the 127-acre Civic Center, located at Interstate 75 and Big Beaver Road, and to look at mixed uses on the site. After getting feedback at a community forum in summer 2016, Gibbs developed the Troy Town Center Master Plan draft.

In response, former Mayor Jeanne Stine and others spearheaded a petition drive to amend the charter so that registered voters could vote “yes” or “no” on any Troy Civic Center urban plan.

Stine said she believed that if it had been a simple question of whether residents wanted commercial and residential development on Civic Center property, the amendment would have passed. 

City Council members said the ballot language would have affected agreements and contracts with a number of city-owned facilities and other properties.

After a study session Dec. 5, the council decided to meet with residents before proceeding with proposals and requests for qualifications from developers on the mixed-use plan. 

Mayor Dane Slater said the Gibbs design is not a finished product and that the council would get input from residents before putting out a request for qualifications from developers and investors.  

 

Citizens weigh in on rezoning 
A Troy development company, Tollbrook LLC,  filed suit in federal court May 4 claiming that the Troy City Council’s denial of a rezoning request to allow a five-story, 140-unit apartment complex adjacent to McClure Drive, near Big Beaver and Crooks roads, was unconstitutional. 

After listening to over 50 residents speak at an April 10 City Council meeting, the council voted 4-3 to deny developer Sam Stafa’s conditional rezoning request for three lots — 2.57 acres total — from one-family residential to a Big Beaver form-based district for property on the east side of McClure Drive, north of Big Beaver Road, east of Crooks Road. 

Residents’ concerns centered on the transition between the five-story building and residential homes, traffic impacts, and safety concerns from additional pedestrian and vehicular traffic on McClure Drive, a 20-foot-wide street with no sidewalks. 

The lawsuit states that the request complies with all local zoning requirements in the Big Beaver district, including parking; city and county requirements; and civil engineering, traffic engineering, environmental, infrastructure, police, fire and emergency rescue requirements.

At press time, a decision on the case was pending. 

 

Troy school board approves teacher contract, land sale
The Troy School District Board of Education voted 4-0 to ratify a 2 1/2-year teachers’ contract June 20, which district officials said aims to attract and keep talented teachers in the district. The Troy Education Association, which represents teachers in the Troy School District, voted to ratify the contract, which runs July 1-Jan. 31, 2020. Teachers at the higher end of the salary scale will receive no additional step pay raises, and teachers at the lower end of the pay scale will receive three step wage increases. 

The step increases will cost the district between $3.8 million and $4 million over 2 1/2 years. In 2014, labor negotiations dragged for months, mainly over the step wage increases for teachers with less than 10 years of seniority. 

The district also wrestled with property issues this year. Despite outcry from residents who had hoped to preserve the site as a nature area, the Troy School District sold an 18-acre parcel of vacant land, known as Section 11, to Mondrian Homes for $4.25 million. 

Joe Maniaci, of Mondrian Homes, said he will offer 1,800-square-foot ranch homes, 2,100-square-foot split-level homes and 2,600-square-foot colonials, ranging from $390,000 to $450,000, in the development.

Board of Education President Nancy Philippart said that after a study on demographics and building usage, district officials and the Board of Education determined that undeveloped district-owned parcels of land — about 180 acres in total — will not be needed to build additional schools, with the exception of a proposed early childhood learning center planned for an area known as Section 16. 

On March 21, the board awarded TMP Architecture $933,717 to design an early childhood center on 8 acres of Section 16, preserving the balance of the property. Money from the sale of undeveloped properties will be put into the school district’s capital maintenance fund and will be used to fund construction of the center. 

The proposed $23 million, 74,199-square-foot 26-classroom early childhood facility will centralize all of the early childhood programs held at different schools throughout the district. It will be located off of Livernois Road, west of Hart Street, near the Troy School District bus garage. 

Trustee Elizabeth Hammond opposed the measure, saying she supports the early childhood center, but had concerns that the land sale was tied with it, and she would have preferred to do the measures separately. 

 

A sign of the times?
In response to five new 200-square-foot signs constructed last month along stretches of Rochester Road and Maple Road — which prompted complaints and concerns from residents ranging from distraction to drivers to drops in property values — the council approved a moratorium on signs for up to 180-days at its Nov. 20 meeting. 

The council amended that Dec. 4 and approved a new, up to 180 day moratorium on processing permits for digital signs, ground signs exceeding 36 feet and any ground sign that exceeds a height of 10 feet.

The new moratorium allows business owners who had submitted applications for wall signs up to 150 square feet to proceed.

Permits have been approved for additional 200-square-foot signs to be constructed on Livernois Road, just north of Maple Road; and on Maple Road, west of Dequindre Road and west of Stephenson Highway, but those signs had not been constructed at press time. 

At press time, none of the signs had been activated. 

 

Troy remains a safe city 
Based on violent crime statistics, Troy is the second safest city in Michigan among cities with populations over 75,000, according to the FBI’s 2016 crime statistics. 

Farmington Hills, which has about 2,000 fewer residents than Troy, was ranked the safest city in Michigan among cities with populations over 75,000. Farmington Hills had 77 violent crimes reported, compared to Troy’s 78. 

The number of violent crimes in Troy — which in 2016 had a population of 83,743 people —  increased from 55 in 2015 to 78 last year. The FBI defines violent crimes as homicides, forcible rapes, robberies and aggravated assaults. 

There was one murder in the city in 2016, at the Somerset Park Apartments. Two men were convicted in that case. 

Reported aggravated assaults, which typically involve injury, increased from 30 in 2015 to 49 last year. Rape was down from 15 to 12 last year, while robberies increased from nine to 16. 

Troy Police Chief Gary Mayer acknowledged the uptick in assaults, stating that there was in increase in incidents where there were multiple victims. 

 

Voters say yes to school sinking fund, put new face on council
Troy School District voters approved a 1-mill, 10-year building site and sinking fund tax by a 2-to-1 margin. 

According to official results, 67.72 percent of voters approved the tax proposal and 32.28 percent opposed it — for 9,553 votes in support and 4,554 votes in opposition. 

Rick West, Troy School District assistant superintendent of business services, said the sinking fund will raise $3.7 million in its first year. Funds can only be used for structural and security improvements, and for technology spending. 

Newcomer David Hamilton unseated Paul McCown for a spot on the Troy City Council, joining incumbents Councilman Ed Pennington and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Hodorek to serve. 

McCown was appointed to serve a partial term when Councilman Jim Campbell resigned in summer 2016. 

Seven candidates, including three incumbents, ran for three four-year terms. 

Hodorek was the top vote-getter with 8,591 votes. Hamilton, an automotive engineer, garnered 7,797 votes, and Pennington received 6,677 votes. McCown received 6,129 votes.