Proposed redevelopment of mobile home park sparks concerns

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published February 14, 2018

KEEGO HARBOR — On Thursday, Feb. 1, Keego Harbor’s Planning Commission held a special meeting to discuss a potential redevelopment project on Orchard Lake Road. 

At a Jan. 4 meeting, the Planning Commission had tabled a vote on the proposed redevelopment of the Keego Harbor Mobile Home Community. 

The owner of the property, Ara Darakjian, has asked the city to rezone the mobile home property to a planned unit development to redevelop the land into a mixed-use building called The Glades. 

On Feb. 1, the Planning Commission voted unanimously to preliminarily approve the project depending on a traffic study, a sightline study and tweaks to the project plan.

The mobile home park has been a part of Keego Harbor since 1990, and Darakjian has owned the property since 1999. The site currently houses low-income residents, families and seniors; 93 families would be removed from the site if the redevelopment is successful.

“There is no desire in this project to displace anybody from their homes,” Darakjian said at the Jan. 4 Planning Commission meeting. “(I) have been considering a project like this for seven or eight years. This is extremely preliminary, and it’s conceptual at its best.”

The Glades is a six-story mixed-use development with 16,000 square feet for businesses, 250 apartments — including one-, two- and three-bedroom units — and a sixth-story penthouse. There are 450 parking spaces planned for the building for residents, visitors and shoppers. 

Keego Harbor’s master plan indicates that developments should be three to five stories for mixed-use buildings. 

Residents of Keego Harbor came out in droves to voice their dissatisfaction with the project plan. 

“We are really concerned,” mobile home resident Stephanie Sierra said through tears. “We bought these homes — they’re not going to be movable because they were old when we bought them.

“You’re not thinking about us. What about me? What about my children? What about their school? ... Think about us for a minute. Think about the people who actually live here … not just the money.” 

City Planner Jason Smith said that, in general, the project is consistent with the city’s master plan.

“This project would be consistent with the public health, safety and welfare of the city,” said Smith. 

Michael Layne, a lawyer representing Darakjian, said that they are open to relocation services and assisting current residents in relocating, but they will not provide any monetary compensation for moving. 

Many residents feel that they will be forced out, with nowhere to go. 

“These people don’t have the funds to move,” said Deanna Losh, a Waterford resident whose mother lives in the mobile home park. “It’s so unfair. You have to think of the people who don’t have the means to move. … People just can’t afford to move.” 

Layne recommends that the residents reach out to their landlord to work out any monetary compensation. 

Other residents took to the microphone to express concern about the construction of a wall around the building obstructing local homeowners’ views. 

“We’re in a small community. … Bringing something like this isn’t keeping it local. It’s going to be detrimental,” said Keego Harbor resident Jeff Martin. “You’re putting everyone on Willow Beech in the shadow. Would you want this in front of your house?”

The commissioners agreed to have a sightline and treeline study done for the project, and   unanimously voted to conceptually approve the project, citing the master plan’s vision.

Some changes to be determined include whether there will be a screening wall in place and what a patio setback will be. 

“This development project is in the spirit of the master plan … which is our job to follow,” said Commissioner Lisa McCarthy.

To move forward, the developer is required to submit all details to the Planning Commission. The project will eventually come before the Keego Harbor City Council for a vote.