People should keep their eyes open for rezoning signs posted around town. Last Friday one of the volunteers at our TeamGM work day at Grace Centers of Hope came into my office looking for Troy residents to sign a petition.

A few weeks ago someone in his neighborhood noticed the signs for rezoning. Here’s a Letter to the Editor by a lawyer who lives in his neighborhood and thoughtful comments from people opposing a new five story apartment building. He and others will be attending tonight’s council meeting to share their concerns; hopefully the council will listen and not just rubber stamp the developer’s plan.

In my opinion, the council should reject the approval of this plan for a five story apartment building looking down into their back yards (reportedly less than 200 feet from some existing homes, rather than expose the city to a possible class action lawsuit from the homeowners to recover the loss in their property values from this rezoning.

Troy City – Living, Working and Mobility

Troy is a suburban community with lots of office buildings, shopping centers, restaurants, other commercial, light industrial and residential: mostly single family homes, with some condominiums and a larger number of apartments. It is well zoned, with different areas of town reserved for different types of buildings.

People mostly drive and park near where they are going. Bus service is available, taking some people to work. Passenger trains are only a glimmer in someone’s imagination as the new Troy Transit Center is replacing the Amtrak station in Birmingham which serves only sixty Amtrak passengers a day. Bicycling is growing in popularity (for recreation, not for transportation for the most part); walking generally doesn’t work since Troy doesn’t really have a downtown yet.

To my knowledge there are no high rise apartment buildings or even any five story ones requiring elevators. As the available land is built on, it’s natural that Troy should build higher, especially close to the city center. Walkable downtowns are preferred by many today, but vibrant urban city centers should not come at the expense of those already here who enjoy having more space.

Concerns shared by many

The rezoning proposal is for Amber Properties to build a five story apartment building at the northwest corner of Town Center Drive and Livernois. Nearby are medical offices, the Troy Skate Park, and undeveloped land across Livernois. There is a subdivision just north of the medical offices on Town Center Drive.

Other new developments have had buffer zones between tall buildings and existing homes (Somerset North comes to mind). New homes were built in the buffer zone, so property owners knew what they were getting when they bought.

Eminent Domain

The Supreme Court has ruled in favor of the rights of cities to rezone, even condemning properties for the purpose of increasing tax revenue at the expense of existing property owners. Just because they can, doesn’t mean they should, however. A wise city council will listen to the concerns of property owners, just as they did with the Long Lake Interchange, and the proposed Detroit Edison solar panel development objected to by the local homeowners association.

Often developers have the project already figured out before the rezoning signs go up. The recent Flagstar bank development on Big Beaver is a good example. One member of the Planning Commission and the local homeowners objected to the layout and proposed a mirror image, which would have a better traffic flow.

This plan was rejected by the developer, who spent money to conduct a traffic study to prove it would be OK. The same money could have been spent to do a mirror image of the CAD design and put the anchor bank at the other end of the development. The reason given was eye appeal from Big Beaver, but once people learn where the bank is, they go specifically to the bank. It’s not like a restaurant with many impulse shoppers. Traffic flow will be there for years; it’s best to be thoughtful about how things are laid out.

Future Improvements

Hopefully this rezoning issue can be worked out to the satisfaction of everyone. It’s good to see building going on in Michigan after a long drought.

Perhaps future developments can be less of a rubber stamp, with more notice given to local residents. Troy has a long history of community involvement and many dedicated volunteers: firefighters, those who help the police force, etc. They people appointed to the zoning board, like those on the council, serve because they care about the community.

A linkage of the neighborhood associations would be helpful – it’s difficult to get participation, but perhaps a website or email list could link the different organizations together. A concern for one group of homeowners is really a concern for all residents in Troy.