After much discussion Monday night, Royal Oak city commissioners agreed to table the decision to allow on Woodward. The Troy-based car dealership business is interested in purchasing and operating the 44-foot tall clock tower for advertising.
The masonry tower is at risk of coming down because previous owner Fresard Investments ran into hard times and failed to renew a permit with the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT), said Tim Thwing, Royal Oak's planning director. As a result, MDOT considers the tower an abandoned sign and has ordered it torn down.
“The neighborhood has grown attached to the tower,” said Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello, who wants to keep the tower that is a source of pride for neighbors living near it on West Harrison.
Commissioners agreed they want more time to gather information and sit down with Suburban Collection to work out a new licensing agreement that makes sure the sign is in compliance with current codes, is maintained properly and will include more community announcements in the future.
City Attorney Dave Gillam requested a formal proposal from Suburban Collection as to what it would like to do with the clock tower and use that as a basis for a staff review and subsequent negotiations.
Part of the discussion at the meeting was whether or not MDOT would actually remove the clock tower or just the signs on it.
“I don’t know if MDOT is calling for the actual tearing down of the tower or just the removal of the signs,” Commissioner Jim Rasor said. “I can’t imagine they are going to tear down this huge masonry monument if the actual signs are the problem.”
Suburban’s desire to purchase the tower is for advertising, Mayor Jim Ellison said. “The tower without the sign serves no one any purpose,” he said.
Tyler Tennent, Suburban Collection’s lawyer, told commissioners his client is willing to work with the city to develop a new licensing agreement and would appeal MDOT to keep the unique structure that received much public support when it was built for $300,000 in 1999.
The community embraced the clock tower at the time it was built because the site was formerly home to the Japanese Sauna, a massage parlor that was periodically raided by police who arrested employees on prostitution charges. The city closed down the business and auto dealer Jim Fresard purchased the vacant building and had it razed.
While the clock tower may be a source of pride for some, many think it nothing more than a billboard. , 48 percent prefer to see it torn down with another 6 percent having no preference.
"I have a friend who lives near the clock and refers to it as her night light," reader Linda Borushko said. "Take it down. It serves no useful purpose."