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February 6, 2013

Troy council approves rezoning needed to restore historic home

By Terry Oparka
C & G Staff Writer

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In this undated photo, Fred Hildebrandt, who became the first Troy city treasurer, holds a milk can next to the cooler on his dairy farm near Maple and Stephenson.

The home Alvin Ballard, 90, recently sold on Woodslee, tucked in a hamlet at Maple and Stephenson, has been around for a while — since 1896 to be exact.

The home was part of a dairy farm that Ballard’s wife’s grandfather built. His son Fred Hildebrandt, Ballard’s father-in-law, took over the operation. Hildebrandt served as the first treasurer for the city of Troy and as an Oakland County commissioner, according to the Troy Historical Society.

Ballard said he and his wife, Lois, met in college and married in 1951. In 1959, Ballard moved into the home with his family to take care of Hildebrandt for the last two years of his life after Hildebrandt’s wife, Vera, died. Plans for Stephenson Highway were approved that same year, which basically cut the 110-acre farm in half, Ballard said. 

Hildebrandt couldn’t maintain the dairy farm, as large as 30 Guernsey cows at one point, on the smaller site, so he sold the herd off and sold the land for industrial development. The family moved the home from  where it stood on Maple Road to where it now stands on Woodslee.

Ballard said his children asked him to leave the home on Woodslee where he lived alone after his wife died in 2007 because they believed the house was too much for him to maintain, and he agreed.

Troy City Planner Brent Savidant explained that the Maple and Stephenson area has been zoned industrial for 50 years, and the home on Woodslee was a legal non-conforming use.

“The only access to the home is through a residential street,” Savidant said.

Ballard had buyers for the home, who plan to renovate and restore it. The problem was, the bank wouldn’t give the new buyers a loan without a rezoning. A rezoning was needed because residential usage is not permitted under the industrial/business zoning designation.

So Ballard approached the Troy Planning Department and Planning Commission with his request to rezone the property from an integrated industrial and business zoning district to residential.

The Planning Department and Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant, supported the change.

Ben Carlisle of Carlisle/Wortman said the rezoning was consistent with the city’s master plan, and he noted that, if the site were developed as an industrial zoning district, it would be inconsistent and disruptive to adjoining property owners.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the recommendation that the rezoning request be approved at the Dec. 11 Planning Commission meeting.

The Troy City Council agreed and unanimously approved the rezoning request at the Jan. 28 meeting.

“This cleans up a nonconforming use,” Savidant said. The new owners of the home couldn’t be reached for comment.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Terry Oparka at toparka@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1054.