The West Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees voted Monday night to study the long-term viability of its plans to redevelop the area of Orchard Lake Road in between 14 Mile and Pinehurst Court, near Maple Road.
Guided in large part by difficulties finding tenants to move into and, in some cases, redevelop business property in the area called the center district, the committee will study data on successful center districts in other suburban communities and other models of development.
It was decided by a 6-1 vote that the task force comprised of Board members, Planning Commissioners and a local resident will evaluate the township zoning ordinance and will present its recommendations in four months.
Trustee Larry Brown, a former Planning Commissioner who will serve on the committee with five others, said that the ordinance could be outdated. Tenants of the area, which is considered the township's "downtown area" as part of its master plan, seek variances from the ordinance in high numbers, Brown said.
"I would like to see some changes, but I think the first thing we need to know is where are we going in this community," Brown said. "I've had a couple of very large developments come here and they've told me they don't know where we're going and they don't want to put their money into it."
The center district is comprised largely of retail strips and office buildings.
The vote puts a stop to what had been a contentious issue in recent months over new appointments to the Planning Commission. Four commissioners, including Chair Karmen Santourian and Vice Chair Steven Budaj have been working on expired terms since at least Nov. 30.
"A lot of the problems were found on this — it wasn't that the Planning Commissioners weren't doing their job. The problem was that they were doing their job with the ordinances that were in place," Brown said.
The issue over new appointments had been, to some extent, guided by an apparent lack of clarity over the township's responsibility to make new appointments. Residents Eric Glick and Gerard Wilcox were nominated by Supervisor Michele Economou Ureste to fill two expiring terms on the commission Monday but were not approved by the board.
"While the legislature gave the authority to nominate to the supervisor, recognizing that it's a board philosophy, they gave the power to vote the rest of the members because no one person should decide the township," Clerk Catherine Shaughnessy said.
The four commissioners working on expired terms, also including Don Jackson and Nancy Reed, are expected to remain on the commission.
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