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Proposed Hydro Depot rezoning draws ire of residents, officials

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published March 13, 2020

 On March 9, members of the Warren City Council met residents on Cunningham Avenue, just north of Eight Mile Road, where they discussed their concerns about a proposed rezoning sought by Hydro Depot.

On March 9, members of the Warren City Council met residents on Cunningham Avenue, just north of Eight Mile Road, where they discussed their concerns about a proposed rezoning sought by Hydro Depot.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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WARREN — Noisy trucks. Smashed street signs. A damaged street. A looming demolition of a historical home with reported ties to one of Warren’s pioneer families. Rodents running roughshod amid pallets stacked with bags of soil.

Residents along Cunningham Avenue have been voicing their concerns about a Warren business for months. It started in August, when Vinson Bahri, the owner of Hydro Depot, submitted a request to the Warren Planning Commission to rezone his properties at 4545 and 4547 Eight Mile Road.

After the matter was tabled, Bahri told the commission members in December that his business is expanding and that they’ve been acquiring nearby properties. He now owns an adjacent property on Eight Mile, a property on the other side of Cunningham and a home on Cunningham directly behind Hydro Depot, which sells indoor garden supplies typically used for growing marijuana.

It’s big business, and the neighbors say business is booming, which is bad news for them.

Holly Fabian said she moved into her home on Cunningham in 1986 and that tractor-trailers bound for Hydro Depot now frequently pass her home or line the street, right next to a sign barring commercial truck traffic.

Fabian said she’s afraid the rezoning, if approved, will mean even more activity at the property. Plans reportedly include demolishing the house, which she said has ties to Warren’s Wolf pioneer family, and stretching the rear yard of the business further into the neighborhood, where trucks would be separated from homes by a wall or maybe a “green belt” of trees.

“If you put that wall up across the street from me, nobody’s going to buy my house, and I’m going to dread living there,” Fabian said. “I don’t want to live where it looks like Leavenworth, with destroyed streets and everything else.

“They’re already breaking the law, going past these (signs),” Fabian said. “Every day, they’re out there constantly. Here you can see pallets all piled up. Pallets produce rats. He (Warren City Councilman Eddie Kabacinski) is telling you the truth about the road. It’s sinking.”

Kabacinski has been working to bring the matter to the attention of other city officials for months.

“This man has not been a very good corporate neighbor,” Kabacinski told his fellow members of the Warren City Council Feb. 25, when the council voted 5-2 to extend a moratorium barring demolition of the house behind Hydro Depot. “The point of today is to have a moratorium so that Mr. Vinson Bahri here does not get to go ahead and knock down this house, destroy history, and then he’s given carte blanche to do whatever the heck he wants to do with this property. Let’s not have the businesses run the residents out from their quality of life in Warren. Let’s have them complement the quality of life in Warren.”

The moratorium was also supported by Council President Patrick Green, Council Secretary Mindy Moore, Councilman Jon Lafferty and Councilwoman Angela Rogensues. Councilman Ron Papandrea and Councilman Gary Watts voted against it.

“I know it will make a handful of people happy, but it will hurt the whole development of Eight Mile Road and it will be bad for the city,” Papandrea said of the moratorium. “As far as this house that they’re tearing down, the house is vacant. It’s not a historical house. It’s a slum house. It’s already been broken into.”

Green, Kabacinski, Watts and Moore visited the property March 9, where a city of Warren “Blight Busters” crew boarded up windows that were removed during what Kabacinski said was the beginning of an unauthorized demolition in violation of the moratorium.

“In December we did a moratorium on any attempt to tear this down, and we reaffirmed that in February,” Green said. “We’ve got a commercial building that wants to extend, that has too intense of an activity to impose itself on a residential neighborhood. They (the residents) have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their house, and this business is going to damage that.”

The house that is the subject of the moratorium, at the end of the block just before Eight Mile, now bears a red city of Warren stop-work sticker.  

“The last residential property in the south end, and we’re fighting for it,” Green said.

Warren Mayor Jim Fouts said he visited the site March 9 and dispatched the board-up crew after he saw the damage. He said he previously was contacted by Kabacinski and that he also sent an item to the City Council calling for a halt to any demolition.

“He went ahead and tried to destroy it anyway,” Fouts said of the owner. “It was obvious — taking all the eavestroughing off and the striping — this was done with malice.

“We’re going to watch them closely. I’m extremely unhappy that people would disregard a resolution from the council and the administration and just choose to do what they want to do,” Fouts said.

The requested rezoning is set to go back before the Planning Commission on March 23.

Attorney Robert Ihrie, who represents Bahri, said he would be meeting with city planners ahead of the meeting to address additional terms of the conditional zoning proposal in an attempt to resolve the concerns of the residents.

He said Warren has an ordinance that allows commercial trucks servicing businesses on Eight Mile Road to turn onto the adjacent side streets, regardless of signage governing the rest of the street. Apart from the turns and entry into the parking lot, he said truck traffic down Cunningham or Le Fever Avenue would be prohibited as part of the conditional rezoning.

“We’re going to give them an assurance that no trucks will come down either of those streets,” Ihrie said.  

He said no attempt at demolition was made. Rather, the owner had hired a crew to prepare for asbestos abatement work.

“I can tell you in no uncertain terms that my client wishes to be a good business citizen in the city of Warren and would like to meet the concerns and address the concerns and, hopefully, resolve the concerns that some of the neighbors have regarding the project,” Ihrie said.

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