This sidewalk ends on the east side of McClure Drive, north of Big Beaver Road.

This sidewalk ends on the east side of McClure Drive, north of Big Beaver Road.

File photo by Deb Jacques

Judge: Developer’s constitutional rights weren’t violated

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 18, 2018

TROY — A federal judge has ruled that development company Tollbrook LLC’s claims that a Troy City Council rezoning denial was unconstitutional are invalid.

In May, the Troy developer filed suit over a denial of its request to allow a five-story, 140-unit apartment complex adjacent to McClure Drive.

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

In a Jan. 9 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Mark A. Goldsmith granted the city’s request to dismiss the case. 

Goldsmith ruled that Tollbrook “has no constitutionally protected interest,” and that the public health, safety, welfare and services affected by a proposed development — and ensuring compatibility with adjacent land uses  — “all give the City Council substantial latitude in finding against a rezoning.” 

“A review of the video of the Troy City Council meeting in question shows that the council members did indeed consider the factors articulated by the ordinance and stated reasons indicating adherence to the ordinance when voting against Tollbrook’s proposal,” Goldsmith said. Those reasons included safety concerns caused by increased traffic, especially because the street does not have sidewalks, and that the apartment complex does not fit the city’s master plan because the site is surrounded by single-family homes. 

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. 

Prior to that, on Feb. 14, the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval of a conditional rezoning needed for the five-story apartment building, from one-family residential to a Big Beaver form-based district, with stipulations. 

City management and the city’s planning consultant, Carlisle/Wortman Associates, supported the rezoning request. 

The stipulations included traffic-calming devices, such as speed bumps; an 8-foot masonry wall as a buffer to adjacent homes; a sign prohibiting right turns from the development to the adjacent neighborhood; and a 10-year lease with a nearby building owner for a parking agreement for additional spaces.

The City Council has the final say on rezoning requests. 

The Big Beaver form-based district zoning was designed to promote high-density and mixed-use projects with vertical integration.

The decision required a supermajority council vote for approval because residents from more than 130 households signed a petition opposing the rezoning. 

Troy Mayor Dane Slater, and Councilmen Dave Henderson and Ed Pennington supported the rezoning. 

Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Hodorek, Councilmen Paul McCown and Ethan Baker, and Councilwoman Edna Ibrahim opposed the rezoning. 

“We’re very glad for finality and clarity in this matter,” said Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm. “The council articulation of their reasoning for the vote was critical in the opinion.” 

Assistant City Attorney Julie Dufrane told the Planning Commission at a Jan. 9 meeting that the developer has the right to appeal. 

“Tollbrook and its legal counsel are reviewing our options and will decide on our next steps in the days and weeks to come,” Tollbrook spokesperson Arban Stafa said in an email.