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Town Center residents say new homes don’t fit area

By: Robert Guttersohn | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published May 16, 2012

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — Barb Tomaszewski’s Victorian-style home stands tall among the mostly barren land between 24 Mile and 25 Mile roads.

When she first moved here at the end of 2009, the neighborhood, called Town Center, was planned to be a dense community with strict zoning ordinances.

But when the housing market collapsed, so did the Town Center development. Today, erected walls and dead-end roads act as reminders of a plan that never came to fruition.

But as the economy recovers from the recession, so is the housing market in the township. Today, crews again are developing houses in the Town Center, but its first residents aren’t happy with what’s being built.

“If I could, I’d pick up (my house) and move it,” Tomaszewski said.

She and several other residents say the houses now being constructed do not match the strict zoning ordinances enacted by the township on the Town Center.

The developers disagree.

“We’re going by what the ordinance says,” said Charlie Leone, owner of Leone Construction and one of the developers building new homes in the Town Center. “We’re not doing anything wrong. We’re building beautiful homes and (the residents) want it built like their houses, but we really have no comment.”

When township officials first released plans for the Town Center in 2002, the area was to be built under the philosophy of “new urbanism,” explained Township Clerk Michael Koehs.

Instead of homes where attached garages and driveways dominate the property’s front view, they would be high-density homes built with stoops and porches.

The now 10-year-old town hall and the recreation center just south of 25 Mile was to anchor the community with an array of commercial properties packed in the center of it all.

“It’s designed to be a walking community,” Koehs said.

Its purpose was to provide a blend of uses “to create activity and to promote a central area that can be called Macomb Township,” according to the 2002 township master plan that called for the Town Center. Zoning ordinances were strict.

Tomaszewski, who with her late husband placed a down payment on her home in 2006, said at that time the township zoning inspector fretted over the circumference of her porch columns because they were an inch larger than the ordinance said they could be.

Patti Grant, who lives with her husband, Kerry Grant next door to Tomaszewski, said the township would not allow her to paint her door red because Tomaszewski’s door is red.

Koeh said there have been several amendments to the ordinance that allowed for a more streamlined process. For example, the ordinance stating the homes be built in archaic styles —Victorian or Greek Revival — is gone.

“When you say those houses have to be Greek Revival, how do you get a Greek Revival dryer vent?” Koehs said, referencing an actual incident that slowed down one of the houses from being built.

The zoning language still calls for the archaic styles, but defines them by design options rather than by name.

So when residents began to see the new homes made of brick and beige siding being built, they raised their concerns at the Board of Trustees meeting.

“The homes may be beautiful, but they are not what was to be in that subdivision,” said one of the Town Center residents at the trustee’s May 9 meeting. “If these are the type of homes going up then we need a fair shot to move out of there.”

Township Supervisor Mark Grabow scheduled a Town Center Committee meeting for 2 p.m. May 17 at town hall, located at 54111 Broughton Road. The meeting will be open to the public.

“Their concerns are not being left on deaf ears,” Grabow said at the last board meeting.

Some Town Center residents say they are glad to see the township will be holding a meeting but are leary of any results coming from it.

“They want the money and the taxes and aren’t looking at what they promised the people here before,” said Kerry Grant.

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