The Royal Oak City Commission decided to wait to vote on an application to rezone the property at 718 W. Fourth St., which would allow a multiple-family development to move forward.

The Royal Oak City Commission decided to wait to vote on an application to rezone the property at 718 W. Fourth St., which would allow a multiple-family development to move forward.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

Royal Oak delays vote on Fourth Street development

By: Mike Koury | Royal Oak Review | Published April 20, 2023


ROYAL OAK — The Royal Oak City Commission decided to postpone a vote to rezone an area for a multiple-family building.

At its April 10 meeting, the commission reviewed a request to rezone 718 W. Fourth Street from a one-family residential overlay district to multiple-family residential. The existing building would be converted from a two-story building that formerly held an “89-bed convalescent center into 25 multiple-family dwellings,” city documents state.

“The 25 units, it’s a big-size building,” Ghassan Abdelnour, the CEO of GAV & Associates, the architect of the project, stated. “We’re not touching the basement. I mean we’re keeping it just for storage and stuff like this, but we’re only using the top two levels. Structurally, the building is in very good shape. We’re going to be changing everything, the roof … we’re meeting all the requirements with the new windows. We’re opening a little bit bigger size windows to give it some character to the building.”

Residents came out to speak about the project, both for and against the development.

Trish Oliver, a resident of almost 40 years, spoke against the project. She said the city has enjoyed the protections of the current master plan and zoning ordinance, which protected their homes while also allowing economic growth in the downtown, but feels the development will have a negative effect on the neighborhood.

“I fully support the efforts of my neighbors … who expected the Planning and City commissions to follow their own laws and ordinances and only allow for responsible development in our neighborhood,” she said. “We believe that high density with parking in front of our houses will diminish the value of our home investments. Instead, this property should be developed with … less density and green space at ground level.”

Oliver said she was disappointed when she heard the Planning Commission’s positive recommendation for the project.

“I feel sorry for my neighbors and the impact on their home values if this project gets final approval,” she said. “I’ve noticed other projects that have been approved that have negative impacts on other neighborhoods, and I feel sorry for those people, too.”

Zane Dufour spoke in favor of the project, saying the rezoning and project would be good for Royal Oak.

“It’s like on almost every metric that someone could reasonably bring up; the plan seems to meet the needs of housing’s greatest critics except for people who are just opposed to people,” he said.

“If you’re opposed to people being near you, then I guess you can, you know, oppose (the project), but I’m in favor of people. I think Royal Oak is great and I think it’d be great with more neighbors,” he continued.

Abdelnour said they’re trying to work with the neighbors and city to provide a good building similar to other buildings in Royal Oak, Ferndale and Clawson.

“We’re trying to kind of do something good with this building,” he said. “It’s actually a good-structure building.”

The project did receive a petition from residents protesting the development. Because of this protest, the City Commission, if it took the rezoning proposal to a vote, would need at least a 5-2 vote to pass instead of a simple 4-3 majority vote.

The commission decided to delay a vote on the rezoning until April 24, but according to the city, the developer, Ali Chami, of Home City Properties LLC, asked for the item to be postponed. A new date had not been scheduled at press time.

The city will review the petition to make sure the signatures are valid. If the city finds the petition not to be valid, then the petitioners would have to ask Royal Oak to delay the vote until they can refile a new one, City Manager Paul Brake said.

Brake said one thing to consider with proposed development is that there is the chance that if the commission rejects a project, the next project proposed at the site could have more density.

“There’s market pressures around and there’s certainly a demand for all types of housing, so it’d just be a matter of time that something would be going in there,” he said.

“It could be more units, it could be a taller building,” he continued. “It could bring in that much more, you know, the number of people that come in and out with cars, visitors, all of that.”