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Stay the course on Bloomfield land fight

Bloomfield Township had a lawsuit filed against it in federal court by a developer who wanted to subdivide three lots into eight homesites in the Bloomfield Manor subdivision near Big Beaver and Woodward but was refused by the township, and in February it was thrown out by the judge, who agreed with the municipality that it would change the character of the neighborhood and set a precedence for other developers.

In December 2016, Patti Voelker, township planning, building and ordinance director, explained to trustees that developer Matt Shiffman was seeking approval to demolish two existing homes and then subdivide the three parcels in order to get eight single family residential lots over 7.33 acres. Residents were vocally opposed to the division of the property, and many noted that lot splits were not permitted by deed restrictions. Trustees unanimously rejected the lot split.

U.S. District Judge George Steeh upheld the trustees decision, and granted the township summary judgement, noting the township had the right to make its determination under its ordinances.

We agree with both the township's, and the court's, decisions. In this situation, the developer had purchased three large homes and lots in a mature neighborhood, where residents had every expectation that those homes and sites would maintain a rural feel. The neighborhood had been platted by the state Land Division Act, and the township has ordinances which prevent the subdividing of the existing neighborhood. If the developer had prevailed – which he still could on appeal – the result would have the potential to nullify every municipality's zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations, as well as to disregard the state's Land Division Act.

That's not to say we're against healthy and well-designed development, both residential and commercial. Communities thrive and continue to grow by continually reviving themselves. But that does not give developers – no matter how deep their pockets, nor how prominent they are – the right to steamroll over residents who have lived and made a home in an established area, following appropriate, well-thought out zoning regulations, just because the developer paid a lot of money for the property.

Township attorney Bill Hampton said he believes the developer will appeal, as he has invested a lot of money. So has the township – both financially, and in its reputation. We urge Hampton and Bloomfield Township to stay the course, for itself and for all other municipalities in Michigan, who craft ordinances and expect them to be followed.

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