Neighbor complaints spark review of driveway rules

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 15, 2019


TROY — Although the Troy City Council stopped short of placing a moratorium on second driveways, it directed city staff to look into the legality of prohibiting them.

Prompted by complaints from two residents about a home on Falmouth Drive — in the Sylvan Glen subdivision, near Livernois and Long Lake roads — at a May 6 meeting, the council, by consensus, directed city staff to look into the matter so they can review the ordinance at a future date.

The issue came up after a resident sought and obtained a permit to construct a second driveway at his home to accommodate his utility trailer.

Resident Toby Gosselin said in an April 23 email to the city that “clearly, his two-car attached garage and driveway are not sufficient for his needs. What would this town look like if every homeowner added a second driveway to their residential lot in this manner?”

In a report to City Manager Mark Miller, City Engineer William Huotari, Zoning and Compliance Specialist Paul Evans and Assistant City Manager Drew Benson stated that because “there is no ordinance in place that prohibits the requested work, and the proposed work met the city’s ordinances and standards, the city granted the permit and does not have the authority to postpone the installation of this driveway as requested by the concerned neighbors.”

Sylvan Glen Homeowners Association President Joanna Darmanin asked the council to issue a moratorium on future permits for second driveways.

In an April 26 email to the city, she stated that “work started yesterday, and I have concerned neighbors who are very unhappy with this situation. Are there no ordinances to protect the uniform look of our neighborhood, as well as the upkeep of the yard and the excess of work vehicles stored at a residential property? These are all issues currently existing at this address. … The addition of the second driveway opposite the existing driveway is not standard and has never been allowed in our neighborhood before, to my knowledge. We are concerned that this will harm our property values.”

City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said that city officials will need to look at the legality of prohibiting second driveways, and she noted that homeowner associations can enforce deed restrictions.

“There may not be a simple solution,” said Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek. She asked city staff to look into what other cities are doing about allowing second driveways.

Mayor Dane Slater said that while he has empathy for the neighbors, he firmly believes in property rights.

“It does not look good,” he said of the photos provided in the council packet of the home on Falmouth Drive. “If you’re going to do it, you can make it look a lot better.”


The homeowner weighs in
Paul Foote, who resides at the home, told C & G Newspapers he had no idea the residents were displeased, and he noted that the city had issued him a permit for the driveway “without any problems.”

He said that if the city had required him to take further steps with the project, he would have complied.

“I could look at homes and pick out what I think is an eyesore,” he said, referring to the residents’ objections.

He shared an email with C & G Newspapers that he sent to Darmanin, Gosselin and the city of Troy on May 9 that states, in part: “Please understand that I took every measure of thought before this approach was laid.”

He said that “if you look at my property from the street side, you will see both sides of the house have a decorative half-brick wall extending away about 6 feet from the house.   

“On the north side where my current driveway is located, past this brick wall is a pine tree that extends another 5-6 feet. This allows only about 5 feet of grass before my boundary line to (the neighbor’s) lot line on (the) north side. About 12 feet back, there is also a crabapple tree, so my trailer could not be parked 3 feet past the front of my house/brick wall unless I also cut that tree down.

“That is not enough space for me to park my utility trailer. Even if I were to cut the north pine tree down and crabapple tree, because I’d have to back up my trailer in an ‘S’ turn from (the) existing drive past the brick wall — that still is not enough space for me to turn in my trailer from my current driveway.

“Sorry that this has caused so much trouble for you both and for the City Council, but for this specific house, it was the only real viable option. … I don’t feel this second approach, whether left as only a second drive approach, or whether in (the) future turned into a front circle drive, takes away value to the neighborhood.”