Vinsetta residents ask city for help maintaining ‘iconic’ neighborhood

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published November 11, 2014

 Members of the Vinsetta Heights Property Owners Association stand in front of a house on Vinsetta Boulevard that the purchaser wants to demolish for future development. From the left are Wayne Kady, Katherine Howell, Ainars Pavlovics, Maureen Dunphy, Libby and Steve Palackdharry, and Norma Regenold.

Members of the Vinsetta Heights Property Owners Association stand in front of a house on Vinsetta Boulevard that the purchaser wants to demolish for future development. From the left are Wayne Kady, Katherine Howell, Ainars Pavlovics, Maureen Dunphy, Libby and Steve Palackdharry, and Norma Regenold.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


ROYAL OAK — Vinsetta Boulevard residents packed City Hall Nov. 10 pleading with  commission members to stop a local Realtor from splitting lots and demolishing a home in their self-described “iconic” neighborhood.

Residents packed the commission’s chamber, a hallway and the City Hall lobby supporting Vinsetta Heights Property Owners Association president Steve Palackdharry, who spoke on behalf of the group during the regular commission meeting’s time for public comment.

Palackdharry asked that city officials assist the homeowners in their organized fight against Real Estate One Realtor Kevin Baird, who purchased two homes on Vinsetta with what residents say is the intent to demolish the existing homes and build four to eight single-family homes. Royal Oak City Attorney Dave Gillam said the initial plan submitted to the city was to split one parcel into four lots and build two homes on Vinsetta Avenue and two homes on Webster Road.

“This is much more than a legal question,” Palackdharry said. “It is about the role the city should play in protecting the quality of life and distinctive character of our neighborhoods. The subdivision rules in Forest Heights have been essential in defining this (subdivision’s) wonderful nature, and if these rules break down, our neighborhood will never be the same, and that is why our community is united in its fight to maintain these rules.”

Palackdharry asked the city to partner with the Vinsetta Boulevard community.

“Even if you choose not to partner with us, be assured that we will litigate this matter. We have the standing, the means and the extraordinary community support,” Palackdharry said.

Vinsetta, referred to as “iconic” many times during the meeting, is known in Royal Oak for its large, historic-like homes on spacious lots.

The fight is now in Oakland County Circuit Court. Both the Royal Oak Planning Department and the Zoning Board of Appeals rejected Baird’s lot-split proposal because it didn’t meet the city’s measurement criteria. Gillam said Baird is fighting the Zoning Board’s decision to uphold the Planning Department’s rejection.

Baird said he will drop the circuit court appeal if the city approves a second plan he submitted on Oct. 23. Baird said this plan would keep one existing home on Vinsetta and add three lots across Webster.

“The split that was submitted on Oct 23 meets all the requirements of the zoning ordinance as well as the lot-width determination from the Planning Department and the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Baird said.

Baird said he is waiting on the city’s ruling regarding the October plan.

“My intention of this plan was to create the larger lots in order to build some homes that have character, that blend in with the architectural style of the neighborhood,” Baird said.

According to city officials, the Oct. 23 plans were not formally submitted.

Gillam said it is his understanding that the plans submitted by Baird were sent to the Planning Department for an informal review, but he did not file a formal lot-split application with the City of Royal Oak.

“If he wants a formal review of the new plans that he submitted, that is what he is going to do, because technically the application he submitted before (that is now in court), per city policy, that expires after a year, so it’s been more than a year,” Gillam said.

It’s been almost a year and a half now.

Moving forward, Baird must go through the formal process of submitting lot-split documents to proceed, Gillam said.

“We will not settle for anything less than what meets all of the requirements of the city code,” Gillam said.

Until the Oakland County Circuit Court judge makes a decision on Baird’s current case, everything is in a holding pattern.

However, Vinsetta association members said Baird is listing the split lots for sale. Palackdharry wants to know how lots that do not exist can be listed for sale.

“The lots that are listed for sale are marketed as subject to satisfactory lot-split approval,” Baird said.

Gillam said that anyone who purchases property should complete their due diligence when investigating their purchase, including deed restrictions. He urges anyone suspecting illegal activity in a property sale should call the Royal Oak Police Department.

Gillam said another line of recourse for the association would be to fight deed restrictions on the property. Gillam explained this would be a civil matter.

“To the extent that we can, we’re with the homeowners 100 percent,” Gillam said.

Vinsetta Heights Property Owners Association attorney John A. Stevens, of Matheson, Parr, Osmer & Stevens PC, said that according to deed restrictions contained in the 1947 and 1952 sets of deed restrictions recorded with the Oakland County Register of Deeds, the deeds make it clear that there shall be no more than one house built per lot. 

Stevens wrote in a letter to Baird dated April 10, 2014, that “these restrictions have been maintained and honored for the last 67 years with respect to the lots encumbered by the same.”

Stevens said the Michigan Supreme Court has a long history of respecting and enforcing subdivision deed restrictions.

“We fully expect that, if it is necessary to pursue this matter in circuit court, your attempts of subdivision will be immediately terminated,” Stevens wrote in his letter to Baird.

Baird said he cannot comment on the deed restriction issue because his attorney has advised him not to comment, as he has been threatened by a lawsuit on the matter.

Palackdharry said this is not a dispute between the residents and developers.

“We all want to see development done the right way and within the rules,” he said.