Neighbors Want Holiday Market Owner to Remove Blighted Home

Neighbors Want Holiday Market Owner to Remove Blighted Home

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 11, 2017)

Royal Oak, MI – A dilapidated house in Royal Oak was the subject of a neighborhood meeting Wednesday evening at Wendland Park where over 40 residents came together to discuss the blight with Royal Oak Mayor Mike Fournier.

The house, at the corner of E. Kenilworth and Delaware Ave, is owned by Tom Violante who also owns Holiday Market. Over the years the building had contained six rental units.  It deteriorated to the point that a blue tarp was placed over the roof and Violante was faced with the decision to repair the property or tear it down and start from scratch.

In April a demo permit was pulled and workers began dismantling the property, yet stopped while Violante went through the zoning process.

Zoning for the neighborhood is single-family, however as long as rental licenses were active the property could remain as a multi-family dwelling. Building a new structure would require zoning variance.  Fixing up the current structure would also. Because the amount of investment is greater than the State Equalized Value, it triggered a State law that requires a variance be obtained, and also because once the non-conforming use is removed, any new use must conform with zoning requirements unless a variance is granted.

In short, Violante can either revert the house to a single-family dwelling, demolish it completely, or continue working with the ZBA to acquire the necessary variance to continue.

Plans presented to the ZBA show a rectangular brick building housing 7 rental units.  The plans also requested a variance that would allow them to build with two parking spaces on the property as opposed to the 14 that would normally be required. Neighbors oppose increasing the number of units and the sale of the proposed building. Plans can be found HERE.

In the meantime, the property remains in a limbo that neighbors say impacts their quality of life and property values.

“I had family come from out of town and the first thing they said was ‘what is going on down there,’” said one resident at the meeting.

Photos from February 2016 show the building with a large blue tarp draped across it.  Currently it stands gutted and stripped of the siding. Windows are only partially boarded up and water damage is rotting away the wood that remains.  Neighbors say they have caught kids playing in the building, scrappers poking around, and transient people using it for shelter. The initial work began in April 2017 and has been at a standstill since.

Because a demolition permit has been pulled, the structure does not have to be up to code or boarded up securely.  Royal Oak recently passed requirements for demo projects, such as protective fencing. However because this project started before those requirements, it is not beholden to them. According to the permit the building must be demolished by October.

Mayor Fournier explained that because a demo permit has been issued, the city has less authority to enforce the code of ordinances.  “The City doesn’t have much leeway,” he said.  “We want to make sure this doesn’t go into litigation…As a property owner he has rights.  We don’t want to violate his due process… I am a mayor, not a dictator.  I can’t go in and take away his rights.”

The Mayor listened to the neighbors, and agreed with their concerns.  “It’s very heartening to see so many people coming to support your neighborhood,” he said.  “The building is obviously in disrepair and an eyesore. There’s no disagreement on that.”

He said he would bring the concerns back to city administration and to Violante, to see if more can be done to secure the building and minimize the blight while the process continues.

“I’ve spoken with Mr. Violante and he wants to see this resolved too.  This is an investment for him,” said Mayor Fournier.

“He could decide to tinker for year, but if that happens we will see what our legal options are… A situation could ensue where this does drag on.  No one wants that to happen.  But it is a slow process.”

Neighbors say they may begin protesting and boycotting Holiday Market if the blight is not removed.  “We have been dealing with this for years,” was said by multiple neighbors through the evening.  Violante could not be reached by phone and did not return an email request for comment.

Fournier did share some news that made residents happy.  At Monday’s City Commission meeting they will be voting on whether to approve paving Delaware Street.  That meeting takes place Monday, Aug. 14 at Royal Oak City Hall beginning at  7:30pm.

 

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