An attorney representing a group of Oakland Township residents has found a procedural flaw in the rezoning approved for the controversial Blossom Ridge senior-housing development. In a letter to the township, he said both the rezoning and the subsequent petition drive to overturn it are invalid.
The township’s new board of trustees, meeting for the first time Tuesday, went into closed session to hear Township Attorney Steven Joppich’s opinion on the letter. Apparently the two opinions differ, because after the hour-long closed session the board returned to open session and voted to hire a third attorney to give it yet another opinion.
The residents’ attorney, Gregory Need, said an Oakland County zoning committee never received notice of the proposed rezoning as is required by state law because the land in question, at Adams and Dutton, borders another community (Rochester Hills). He cited case law to argue that the situation cannot be remedied after the fact.
“It is my opinion that failure to take that required step voids the prior rezoning approval,” Need wrote. “It would then lead to the conclusion that, obviously, the referendum petitions circulated are of no force and effect because the zoning ordinance amendment on which they were based was never legally adopted. No vote should be held based on those petitions. If the township board again approves the rezoning, then petitions could be circulated as to that approval.”
Blossom Ridge developer Dominic Moceri was in attendance at the meeting and learned the news along with the rest of the audience. He said he was surprised and asked to hear Joppich’s opinion. His request was declined, as the opinion is considered privileged information.
The board invited Moceri to weigh in on the matter, but he said he needed to talk to his attorney before doing so. The board scheduled a special meeting for Monday, Dec. 3 for further discussion.
Robin Buxar, who led the referendum petition drive and is among the residents represented by Need, said the procedural problem was “a fluke discovery.”
“Whatever way it goes, it goes,” she said. “What can you do?”
Supervisor Terry Gonser, chairing his first meeting in his new job, said the board is in an awkward position.
“I think because of the complexity of the issue, we don’t feel comfortable with the options we have so far,” he said. “We would like to have another opinion that is at arms’ length from the two opinions we have so far.”
Trustee Michael Bailey said most of the board just learned of Need’s letter on Monday. “So it’s news to most of us, very new news.”
The board had been scheduled to vote on ballot language so the referendum could appear on the February ballot. The deadline for doing so is Dec. 4.