Macomb Town Center homeowners were thrilled to see their share of the township’s master plan being developed once again–that is, until they got a look at the new homes under construction.
“All we have ever asked is that we adhere to the ordinances and stick with the same type of homes that were previously built,” said Town Center resident Scott Anderson. “This subdivision is totally unique … (The new homes are) not going to be anything like what we have.”
As Anderson and other Town Center residents told township trustees April 25, it’s an issue of "style" and a concern that the current builder is not complying with the building ordinances that make their neighborhood so unique.
“They’re beautiful homes, but they really don’t belong there,” said Barb Tomaszewski, a Town Center resident. “It’s just ruined the entire square mile and the reason we moved there.”
When Tomaszewski and a handful of others bought in Town Center several years ago, they did so with the understanding that their homes would be built to reflect the “authentic historical and town characteristics of Macomb Township,” as stated in Article 25 of the Macomb Township Zoning Ordinance.
The township’s master plan, adopted in 2002, called for a “new urbanism” theme in Town Center that would see homes sporting front porches, detached garages and architectural styles based off the Victorian, Greek revival and Gothic homes built in Macomb County through the 1800s, according to an October 2004 Detroit News story.
Just over a dozen homes were built before the housing market went south and construction everywhere slowed, or in this case, ceased entirely. At this point, the master plan was shelved and the residents of Town Center were left largely neighbor-less.
Things seemed to be looking up in September 2010 when Shelby Township-based Leone Construction Co. purchased the land and started working on new plans for the area’s development.
Joe Sowerby, partner at Mount Clemens-based Anton, Zorn & Sowerby Inc., who helped broker Leone's purchase, told Patch in December 2010 to: "Look for a groundswell of activity in the spring. (Leone) will be building homes and spec homes ... The architectural style is Victorian—very cool stuff."
So when new home construction started just a few months ago, Town Center residents like Patty Grant were surprised by the new styles.
“I went through a living hell getting the paint color, the siding, the brick (required by the previous township ordinance),” Grant said. “It took me two months just to pick out colors … why should we all have all these (new) homes the same color? This was supposed to be your pride, your joy. There is no pride, no joy.”
While the township’s original ordinance regulating development in Town Center was highly specific, an amended version passed in July 2011 removed “certain requirements that were not necessary to achieving the desired vision for the Town Center.” These included specifications on street light spacing, building types, building frontages, story heights, and architectural requirements like trim materials and specific window proportions, according to a township summary made available to Patch.
For residents like Anderson, these changes are akin to the township going back on promises made by its own master plan.
“When we met with the developers we stressed, ‘We do not want a cookie cutter-type style home,'” he said. “It was all agreed upon that these ordinances that are already in place would be adhered to” and the “historical portion of this subdivision” maintained.
Although residents like Tomaszewski contend the amended ordinance gives builders “carte blanche” to do what they will, township Clerk Michael Koehs said the ordinance was only changed to “simplify (the) development process” and does not alter the township’s master plan for this area.
“It’s changing the way to achieve the vision (for the master plan),” Koehs said. “It doesn’t change the way the buildings looked, but it changes the complexity of the process. There was never any intent to change (the ordinance to allow the) modern-looking standard homes being constructed elsewhere in the township.”
As for the future of the homes currently under construction–which residents say do not comply with even the amended ordinance–Supervisor Mark Grabow said he plans to have building officials investigate this question of compliance in the near future.
“I’ve been through Town Center … I understand there are variations. You’re right. They’re big homes, they’re beautiful homes. I understand there are changes. We won't back away from that."
Town Center residents approached the township two weeks ago with reports of harassment by construction workers of the area's female residents. This issue has since been stopped.
See the attached PDF for a copy of the updated code.