Residents speak out against apartment project on church site

Council sends project back to Planning Commission

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published April 18, 2017


FERNDALE — The City Council sent back plans regarding a proposed apartment complex at the former El Shaddai Church after receiving criticism from residents that they weren’t informed of the project prior to the April 10 meeting.

The issue before the council at the meeting was to make new traffic blockades on Inman and Horton streets at East 10 Mile Road. The barricades previously were installed due to Interstate 696 cut-through traffic from the neighborhood to the service drive. This was because of a multifamily residential project being talked about at 928 E. 10 Mile Road, the former El Shaddai Church.

The plans for the apartment project at 928 E. 10 Mile Road — a two-story, multiple-family residential building with 28 units — were approved by the Planning Commission at its March 15 meeting, but that was contingent on a new traffic blockade order being passed that would have moved the blockade a few feet south, according to Community and Economic Development Director Jordan Twardy.

The conversation during the item at the meeting was much more about the project as a whole, as many residents came before council to say they weren’t informed about the project and had no input on how it could affect their neighborhood.

“We were only technically taking up the blockades, but I guess as you probably heard, the conversation ended up being much broader than that, and I think it’s council’s expectation that more than the blockade will be addressed when it gets back to council, including the resident communication and input,” Mayor Dave Coulter said.

Coulter said the residents had legitimate questions about parking concerns, as well as the design for the building.

“We usually like neighborhood residents to have some input in the design and how it will look in their neighborhood,” he said. “It doesn’t appear that they had that opportunity. So those two things in particular, I think, we expressed our desire to have looked at.”

Elizabeth Markovitz, who lives on Inman and two doors down from the vacant church, said she wanted to make it known that she and other residents were not informed of this project.

“Nobody came into the neighborhood,” she said. “My mother lives across the street. She’s there — has been there since 1965. She doesn’t work, obviously, anymore, and nobody knocked on her door either, and I can tell you that for a fact. So I don’t appreciate that they’re telling us they communicated with the community. They did not.”

Another resident who spoke was Eric Lockhart, who also stated he was not contacted and is worried about how the project and construction will affect his life.

“With all due respect, you should let people know what’s going on, especially with something of this magnitude, and especially with, you know, an overcrowded situation as far as parking (and) an apartment unit that would be definitely too big,” he said. “Again, no one has contacted me and if I want my property impeded on.”

Sarah O’Neill, a resident on Horton, said she’s “very concerned” about the parking and the traffic.

“It’s going to add a lot of traffic to our street, and we don’t need it,” she said. “We have enough, and we do not have enough parking. Every house has at least two or three cars, and they use them in front of their house, they use their driveway, and where are they going to put them? I don’t think it’s right.”

After hearing many residents speak on the matter, no one on council decided to take up a motion to pass the traffic control order, essentially sending the project back to the Planning Commission.

Councilman Dan Martin, who acts as the liaison for council to the Planning Commission, said he didn’t vote for the project at the commission meeting and wasn’t going to support the order at the council meeting.

“I do have concerns about moving the barricades, and I just want to be transparent about where I’m at with this, and I just don’t think the project fits in with the character of the neighborhood,” he said.

Coulter said his and the council’s main concern is that the project happened “almost totally without resident input.”

“So giving them an opportunity to go to the Planning Commission and express their concerns and have those incorporated in the design, I think, is something that we’re looking for,” he said.