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Residents Say 'Style' of New Homes Will Ruin Macomb Town Center

Homeowners in the Macomb Town Center, off 24 Mile Road, say the newest additions to their neighborhood "don't belong" in their unique, historically-themed sub.

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, 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.

Jennifer Szarejko April 28, 2012 at 12:45 PM
I really like the one with the yellow siding and look forward to going through it. Seeing a home like this makes me want to move from where I am at in Macomb a few miles north.
Casket bier April 28, 2012 at 12:56 PM
I think Patty and Barb should put thier "big girl" panties on and suck it up. Anyone that needs (2-Months) to pick out doors does not have enough to do. Be thankful the economy has picked up enough to provide you with neighbors.
Charles Ward April 28, 2012 at 01:18 PM
It took 2 months to pick colors because of the complexity of adhering to the "requirements". It is great to see building going on in Macomb but I don't understand why it requires the ruin of existing people's neighborhoods. If you drive through this sub now it does look ridiculous...but of more concern to me is Macomb Twp has a board that apparently changes things at will. I don't know why they ever put ordinances in place if they are fluid in nature. Apparently this builder was able to provide the necessary motivation to our board members to get them to throw their previous "requirements" out. This concerns me greatly. Seems like it should concern everyone. Progress doesn't mean that they decide to allow a commercial building to be built next to my house and I should be grateful for an improving economy. I would still be very curious about what it takes to get things to go your way with our board.
Dennis April 29, 2012 at 03:13 PM
Changing plans so drastically is bogus IMO, and not fair to the people that bought there believing their neighborhood would be consistent. Shame on the Board... just shows they are not to be trusted on their word/plan. I smell a lawsuit...
Rob Menczywor May 08, 2012 at 01:24 PM
My wife and I drove through the Macomb Town Center neghborhood this last weekend. The houses that are there (besides the new brick ones) are absolutely beautiful, and have so much character. Is there any chance that the original builders may still build the Victorian style homes there?
Jenny Whalen (Editor) May 08, 2012 at 07:16 PM
It's my understanding that the area now belongs to new owners, Leone Construction. While they have to follow certain requirements per township code, there is no going back to those first designs.
CMP July 31, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I just saw the original homes for the first time (stumbled upon them). What a shame they are not building the original design/look-and-feel -- they are absolutely fantastic!
Jenny Whalen (Editor) July 31, 2012 at 05:32 PM
The new homes probably won't ever look exactly like the originals, but the original architect has been brought back on staff at the township in an effort to ensure future homes built in that sub have the same "look and feel."
Ashley Thorpe December 02, 2012 at 07:57 PM
I absolutely love this neighbor and the idea behind it. Does anyone know how to go about purchasing/building a home in this development? I've been searching for contact information for Leone Construction and I have had no luck. Any suggestions would be great. Thank you.
Randi Poole April 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Did anyone ever get back to you you? My email is ldybug1682@gmail.com if anyone has any info on purchasing a home in this sub!

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