Language clarified to allow Ford House full use of its property

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 14, 2017

 A previous Easter egg hunt event at the Ford House.

A previous Easter egg hunt event at the Ford House.

ST. CLAIR SHORES — More than a year after a new zoning classification was made — and granted to a portion of the property of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford House — City Council voted Feb. 6 to clarify the language in the rezoning motion.

The Ford House was before City Council in December 2015 asking for the rezoning of the St. Clair Shores portion of its property, which straddles the border of Grosse Pointe Shores and St. Clair Shores, to a philanthropic zoning. While the house initially asked for all of its property to be rezoned to philanthropic, it then changed its request to only affect the portion of the property on the Lake St. Clair side of Jefferson Avenue.

When City Council approved the rezoning, however, the motion made by Councilman Pete Rubino placed the condition on the rezoning that the Ford House Estate not pave the vacant parcel across the street, which abuts residential homes and was remaining a residentially zoned piece of property.

In the formal minutes, however, the language of the motion states that the “condition that the vacant property on (the) west side/south side parcel parking area is to remain unchanged and will not be paved.”

“That phraseology ... was a concern for the Ford House in that it implied ... that the property could not be used for the zoning class that it was, which was residential,” said City Attorney Robert Ihrie. “Ford House never intended to give up the right to use the property” in accordance with its zoning as residential property.

Ihrie said he had discussions with Rubino and discovered that, although the motion included the phrase “remain unchanged,” he didn’t intend to tie the hands of the estate.

“The intent was that the condition is that the property may be used for parking and may not be paved,” Ihrie said. 

He recommended that the language be amended to say, “The unpaved parking area ... presently used for parking ... shall not be paved in connection with such use unless otherwise approved by City Council.”

“It was my intent to make sure that it just did not turn into a large (paved) parking lot,” Rubino said. 

Ihrie explained that the parcel, a vacant wooded lot that abuts a St. Clair Shores neighborhood, has been zoned residential since St. Clair Shores became a city and that the owners have always had the right to build houses on the property, a fact that should not change with the conditional rezoning of the other portion of the estate. The estate has used the property as overflow parking for large events and will continue to do so in its current state, but may not pave the property.

Council members voted 5-0 to approve the clarification, with Councilman Ron Frederick excused absent and Councilwoman Candice Rusie recusing herself from the vote because a relative works at the estate.