“(The apartment building) is way too big for what it is; you could put a court there and build four beautiful homes and they would sell like hot cakes in Royal Oak,” Genesee Avenue resident Jim Robertson says to the Royal Oak Planning Commission.

“(The apartment building) is way too big for what it is; you could put a court there and build four beautiful homes and they would sell like hot cakes in Royal Oak,” Genesee Avenue resident Jim Robertson says to the Royal Oak Planning Commission.

Photo by Taylor Christensen

Apartment complex proposal causes uproar at Planning Commission meeting

A 6-1 vote approving the proposal leaves residents upset

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published April 15, 2024


ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak residents were unhappy with the Planning Commission April 9 when it approved a plan to build an apartment complex on the site of an old bank at the northeast corner of Rochester Road and Genesee Avenue, which is south of 14 Mile Road.

In a 6-1 vote, the Planning Commission passed the planned unit development proposal.

On multiple occasions the crowd burst out in applause following different public comments against the project, and whispers could be heard throughout the three-hour discussion.

Gary Quesada, chairperson of the Planning Commission, rebuked the audience, stating that “this is not a football game.”

Commissioners also took two recesses because of people speaking out from the audience while commissioners were in discussion.

The petitioner proposed to change the zoning of the property from “mixed use 2” to “planned unit development (PUD),” according to the Planning Division PUD plan.

Trowbridge Home Construction LLC, who are the petitioners on this project, proposed a three-and-a-half story, L-shaped building with 42 multiple-family dwellings.

The building would have frontage along both streets, Genesee Avenue and Rochester Road, with vehicular access on Genesee Avenue and a public alleyway at the northeast corner of the site.

The site plan proposed 79 off-street parking spaces, as well as 21 parking spaces along the east rear lot line.

“This PUD is not what the community wants; this PUD is simply directed towards allowing a unit to be built in that location that does not fit in the community,” resident Brian Herman said. “Everybody here is telling you it is too big and there are no advantages to the community.”

Residents of Genessee Avenue and surrounding areas were upset about the possibility of increased traffic, some saying they deal with enough traffic already. There was no traffic study conducted prior to this proposal.

Paul Anselm, who lives on Genesee Avenue, voiced his concern about people using Genesee to cut through to the apartments.

“The biggest issue seems to be, and what we all agree upon, is the traffic on Genesee,” Anselm said. “We need to eliminate that entrance.”

Some suggested downsizing the complex and felt that a PUD was not needed. Prior to the rezoning to a PUD being approved, the site was designated as mixed use 2, meaning it could have been a complex with 16 apartments, which would follow along with the master plan.

“Why are we taking this route to get this project approved?” resident Randy Houston said. “You are subsidizing this project with our quality of life.”

“We are tired of seeing the violation of the master plan when you make it a PUD,” 38-year resident of Royal Oak Pat Wall said.

Carolyn Martz lives close to the proposed project and presented photos to the commission showing how this project will affect her quality of life. She also voiced concerns about traffic and the proposed development’s lighting, which she said will “light up like a casino.”

“As the pictures show, it will take away my sunsets,” she said. “While they are going to get nice doors to open and fresh air and stuff, I am going to be shaded.”

Amber Long was one of the few who voiced their support for the project, saying that she enjoys the proposed design and thinks it will fit in nicely with Royal Oak.

“I support this project because any additional housing in our city is a plus, and additional housing that repurposes property that is currently empty is a bigger plus,” Long said. “We can’t guarantee that this will be attainable housing, but more housing means more competition and we have that to make housing available for everyone.”

The majority of the Planning Commission’s members spoke about their distaste for the PUD process after public comment.

“I am very sensitive to the use of a PUD process, and I am not sure that in this case it is being utilized properly,” Commissioner Woody Gontina said.

“PUDs are legal, this is a legal process that if somebody uses their creativity and finds the right project that they can do through a PUD and they come before us, it is legal and we need to consider it,” Quesada said.

Quesada said that the main issues he has are with what the neighborhood has voiced, such as the traffic.

Commissioner Jim Ellison said that this is a good project, and that regardless of the PUD process, he thinks the project is well designed.

“For 20-some years I have been working on projects in this community, and I have seen it all, and the traffic problems you mention, I’m not going to dismiss them, they are real to you, they are real to your street,” Ellison said.

Ann Bueche was the one person on the commission who voted against the project.

“I don’t feel this project is the right scale for this property,” Bueche said. “I would really like to see something more consistent with our current zoning.”

The commission voted for “a final PUD plan that allows for no fewer than 65 off-street parking spaces and a right turn only on to Genesee Avenue,” as stated in the motion made by City Commissioner Sharlan Douglas, who is also a member of the Planning Commission.

Following this approval, this proposal will go in front of the City Commission at an upcoming meeting.