Boycott demonstration held in front of mayor’s store over ZBA decision

Mayor Karen Majewski

By Charles Sercombe
The zoning dispute for a newly-opened spa took an interesting turn of events.
The owner of the spa, Tiara Boyd, of Esthi Queen Healing Spa, joined about a dozen others, including resident Bill Meyer, the executive director of a local non-profit group called OneHamtramck, in a protest outside Mayor Karen Majewski’s store this afternoon (July 30).
The group is blaming Majewski for a decision by a bare majority of Zoning Board of Appeals members to not allow an exception to the city’s zoning rules that prohibit spas from operating in residential areas.
Majewski, the owner of Tekla Vintage at 9600 Jos. Campau Ave., is not a member of the ZBA, nor does she make appointments to the board. That is the job of the city council.
If it sounds convoluted, well, this may explain things: it’s just days before a heated mayoral primary election this Tuesday, Aug. 3.
In other words, Hamtramck politics at its usual.
Ironically, Mayor Majewski criticized the ZBA members who voted against allowing what’s called a “variance” to allow the spa to continue to operate.
The spa was opened recently, but the owner, Boyd, was not aware she had to get a city business license, nor a zoning variance to operate in a what is a mixed commercial and resident area.
The spa, located in a former market that once operated years ago, is next door to a dental office on Florian near Brombach.
At a recent ZBA meeting to consider the variance request by Boyd, neighbors complained about the spa operating, saying its customers were taking up parking space and some wondered who would be going there.
Some of the comments were interpreted as racist code. The owner of the spa is African-American.
The four ZBA members who voted for the spa’s variance said it met all the requirements for one.
Boyd initially lashed out at the ZBA members who voted against her request.
“As you all may or may not know, yesterday I experienced racial and sexist acts towards me and my business Queen of Skincare from the ZBA Arabic men of Hamtramck,” Boyd said on her Facebook page.
Boyd started a petition to “Stop racial and sexual discrimination against EQ Spa.”
Boyd’s rath turned against the mayor after ZBA member Nasr Hussain, who voted against Boyd’s zoning request, said the mayor does not have an African-American appointee on any of the commissions she appoints.
Majewski initially had this to say on her Facebook page about the denial made by ZBA members Naser Hussain, Adam Alharbi and Malek Hussein:
“The beautiful spa, the Esthi Healing Spa, an African-American woman-owned business, was DENIED a variance to open on Florian Street by the ZBA. City council just approved a variance for the same purpose yesterday, without question. We just had this discussion last night, affirming the tradition of mixed residential and commercial in Hamtramck.
“Concerns were raised about parking and traffic, but there is already a church and a school and a dentist office right there. How much traffic would a spa create? … Certain businesses and business owners and clients are encouraged, but certain others are not. I know how I read this.”
All three ZBA members deny that their decision was racially motivated. They insist that parking is a legitimate issue of concern, and that Boyd failed to show a hardship for not getting a variance, which is one requirement for a variance.
The ZBA members’ denial votes were enough to prevent a needed two-thirds majority vote required by the seven-member ZBA.
Boyd said she is appealing the ZBA decision.
Majewski responded to this unexpected turn of events on a Facebook page called “I love Hamtramck and actually live here.”
“Why are they not picketing Amana Graphics, owned by Nasr Husain, who actually voted against the spa? Why are they not picketing the council members who appoint those ZBA members who voted against the spa and could remove them?
“Why are they picketing a person who spoke up in favor of the spa on social media and on the news, who publicized the spa even before any of this happened, and who donated to the fundraiser and signed the petition in support of the spa?”
So how did things go sideways for the mayor?
Nasr Hussain, who sits on the ZBA and voted against the zoning variance, turned the finger-pointing around and blamed it on the mayor. He said the mayor could easily change the ZBA code by getting the Plan Commission, which she appoints, to change the city’s zoning laws.
Changing the city’s zoning laws, however, requires city council approval – which is a process that takes several weeks.
The four ZBA members who voted for the spa’s variance said it met all the requirements for one.
The mayor, who has been in office for 16 years, is facing one of her most challenging re-election campaigns. She faces three opponents: Asm “Kamal” Rahman, Saad Almasmari and Amer Ghalib.
The top two vote-getters in the primary election will square off in the November General Election.
Posted July 30, 2021

2 Responses to Boycott demonstration held in front of mayor’s store over ZBA decision

  1. Nasr Hussain

    July 31, 2021 at 6:33 pm

    The Zoning ordinance, written by mayor and planning commission appointed by her, prohibits spas in the residential zone. The ZBA decision was based upon the rules outlined in the ordinance.

    I am still waiting for the mayor or other members of the board to show what the hardship is.

    Take into consideration that:

    1-Financial situation or investment can’t be taken into account otherwise people will just spend tens of thousands on a property then ask for a variance.
    2-Being next an already existing commercial property is not a hardship otherwise this will cause a cascading effect and every residence adjacent to a commercial use will have to be granted hardship.

    If the mayor and planning commission change the ordinance on August 4th, the council could approve these changes and make them effective by the end of the same month.

    The mayor is really against these changes, even if she claims otherwise, and wants to delay them as much as possible by making the spa shop a “special” use that will require a very long process to approve while she can make it a “regular permitted” use which will allow it to be approved by the end of August and this issue will be resolved quickly.

    Three or four years ago a used car lot ( in the commercial Joseph Campau area ) was denied by the ZBA and the owner was forced to go through the process which is still ongoing and he hasn’t been approved yet. In that case nobody cried racism even though it’s a commercial use in a commercial area which was historically full of car lots.

    ZBA has denied many variances before with no outcry from the mayor. Probably because this was an election year she, very unusually, started criticizing the process and accusing ZBA members of racism which she knows fully well is not true.

    Using racism against people is a weapon that can easily backfire. Hopefully she becomes more inclusive and help us start fighting against racism by appointed more people of the color to all her boards and commissions which are mostly white in a majority non-white city.

  2. Mark M Koroi

    July 31, 2021 at 9:31 pm

    Hamtramck Square has uploaded on its Facebook page two videos of the demonstration in front of Mayor Majewski’s Tekla Vintage business.

    The timing of this demonstration could not have come at a more worse impact for Karen as she faces a tough primary re-election bid Tuesday.

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