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Tollbrook files new lawsuits against city after rezoning denials

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published February 18, 2020


TROY — Tollbrook LLC, owned by Safet Stafa, has filed suit against the city of Troy again.

The Troy City Attorney’s Office requested that the City Council authorize the city attorney to represent the city’s interest in the two separate lawsuits as part of the consent agenda for the Feb. 10 meeting, which the council approved.

The two new lawsuits were filed in response to the council’s unanimous denial of requests to rezone three parcels on McClure Drive and three parcels on Alpine Drive from single family to a Big Beaver zoning district July 22, and the Zoning Board of Appeals’ denial of variance requests for the parcels on Alpine and McClure drives in November.

Community Development Director R. Brent Savidant told the council at the July 22 meeting that the applicant, Tollbrook, had submitted a concept plan showing a three-story mixed-use building and a three-story apartment building on those adjoining parcels. The applicant only submitted the concept plan for consideration, and if the rezoning were approved, it would not be bound to the concept plan.

Savidant said that with a nonbinding concept plan, “Compatibility to the master plan and adjacent property cannot be determined.”

The Planning Commission passed recommendations to deny the rezonings of both parcels in two 5-3 votes May 28.

The proposed Alpine Drive development is referred to as Tollbrook West, and McClure Drive’s plan is known as Tollbrook.

In May of 2017, the Troy developer filed suit over a denial of its request to allow a five-story, 140-unit apartment complex adjacent to McClure Drive.

After listening to over 50 residents speak at the April 10, 2017, City Council meeting, the council voted 4-3 to deny Stafa’s conditional rezoning request for three lots.

Residents’ concerns centered on the transition between the five-story building and residential homes, and traffic impacts and safety concerns from additional pedestrian and vehicular traffic on McClure Drive, a 20-foot-wide street with no sidewalks.

That decision also required a supermajority for approval because residents from more than 130 households had signed a petition opposing the rezoning.

On Feb. 14, 2017, the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to recommend approval, with stipulations, of the conditional rezoning request from one-family residential to a Big Beaver district.

The stipulations included traffic-calming devices, an 8-foot masonry wall as a buffer to adjacent homes, a sign prohibiting right turns from the development to the adjacent neighborhood, and a 10-year lease with a nearby building owner for a parking agreement for additional spaces.

The City Council has the final say on rezoning requests.

2017 lawsuit
The 2017 lawsuit stated that the request complied with all local zoning requirements in the Big Beaver zoning district, including parking; city and county requirements; civil and traffic engineering; and environmental, infrastructure, police, fire and emergency rescue requirements.

A federal judge ruled Jan. 9, 2018, that Tollbrook’s claims that a Troy City Council rezoning denial was unconstitutional were invalid — which the appellate court affirmed in May 2019.

The new lawsuit for Tollbrook West states that “as applied to Alpine Properties, the R-1B (one-family, residential) district zoning is inconsistent with the city’s master plan,” which designates the site as Big Beaver zoning district.

The lawsuit for Tollbrook also states that the R-1B district zoning is inconsistent with the city’s master plan with regard to the proposed development on McClure Drive.

The Big Beaver zoning is designed to promote high-density and mixed-use projects with vertical integration. Permitted uses are multifamily dwellings and shopping centers.

When the rezoning request was before the Planning Commission last May, which recommended denial, Ben Carlisle, of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the city’s planning consultant, told the Planning Commission that a Big Beaver corridor study calls for mixed use for that area, as well as transition of intensity.

“Conditional (rezoning) didn’t work out so well for us last time,” Robert Carson, the attorney for Tollbrook, told the Planning Commission May 28.

“There is no basis in the law to seek rezoning through the conditional rezoning process,” Carson said, noting that the site is designated in the Troy master plan as a Big Beaver zoning district. “This application meets every criterion of the state of Michigan and fits within the type of zoning the city brought forward. This is the zoning the master plan calls out.”

Carson said that a concept plan is a waste of time if they are not bound by it.

Both lawsuits ask for damages in excess of $25,000 as well as attorney fees.

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm said that she couldn’t comment on the case.

Carson could not be reached for further comment.