Zoning ordinance change governs where senior housing could go

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published November 6, 2020

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — Residents aren’t likely to see many new senior housing facilities popping up in the area in the near future.

A residential housing study conducted in 2018 helped the township determine that enough such facilities are already in existence.

“We conducted a residential housing study, and we paid a consultant, I think, $25,000 to undertake (a) study of what needs are there in West Bloomfield,” said Township Supervisor Steven Kaplan. “She concluded that we were replete with senior citizen facilities. In other words, we’ve reached a point where any more would be counterproductive. (They’re) not needed because we have many senior citizen facilities, both independent and assisted living. … So the recommendation is you don’t need any more of those.”

According to Kaplan, there are 10 senior housing facilities in the township.

The township opted to make a specific change based on the housing study, which was unanimously approved.

“Subsequent from the housing study, there was an amendment to the zoning ordinance that re-evaluated where it might be appropriate for senior housing to be located in the community,” said Amy Neary, who is the township’s planning and development services director. “There is no moratorium (prohibiting senior facilities) right now.”

According to Kaplan, there was a moratorium previously in place that began in April of 2018 and ended in June of last year.

Neary said senior housing is currently allowed in multiple family residential districts.

Kaplan discussed the change that the zoning ordinance amendment has led to regarding senior facilities..

“Change is, it’s been removed from single-family residential areas,” he said. “It’s only allowed in multiple-family areas and near medical campuses.”

Despite multiple-family districts being located “throughout the township,” Kaplan said, “You can only build or open one in limited areas, which are already fully built.”

“They’re dense areas, and there’s nowhere to build,” he said. “They’re in, like, subdivision areas.”

Counting residents age 62 and older, Kaplan said, 23% of West Bloomfield residents qualify as senior citizens.

“We didn’t say, ‘Seniors, get out,’” Kaplan said. “We’re not prejudiced against seniors. It’s just with the market, we’ve reached a point where we have more facilities than the market can bear. And also, they do not comport with the need for additional single-family homes.”

From Kaplan’s perspective, some West Bloomfield residents are not pleased about a “massive” senior facility that is being built on the corner of 14 Mile Road and Northwestern Highway.

The facility is being built on the south side of 14 Mile Road, which is located in Farmington Hills but borders West Bloomfield.

“I think perhaps, I would be speculating, but they would prefer maybe a mixed development, mixed use — restaurants,” Kaplan said. “Just because you have a borderline of 14 Mile, we’re all really part of the same region. They’re not prejudiced against senior citizens, but they would like to see something which offers more utility to them, and that’s understandable.”

Kaplan doesn’t consider the township’s current position on senior facilities to be unreasonable.

“If we didn’t have any senior facilities, that would be, I think, unfair,” he said. “But here we have more than most communities, which speaks highly for West Bloomfield, that the developers (want to) build senior facilities here.”