City council needs to reconsider some ZBA members

There has been a lot of discussion in the past week about a controversial vote regarding a request for a zoning change.
An owner of a spa on Florian St. requested what’s called a zoning variance, to enable her to operate her business in a residential area.
Hamtramck is no stranger to having a mix of commercial businesses and residential dwellings being located next to each other. This request was not unusual.
But some controversial comments were made by some in the community and some of the ZBA members, which were interpreted by others as coded racist language.
The owner of the spa is an African-American woman.
Three ZBA members voted against the request, which prevented a required two-thirds majority that was needed to permit the change.
They deny they had any racist intent, and said their decision was based solely on the city’s existing zoning code, which does not allow spas to be located in residential areas.
We don’t know why there is such a restriction, but we do know that the ZBA can permit exceptions.
It happens all the time.
Those three ZBA members also insist that the request did not meet a hardship requirement.
The owner of the spa had been operating for about a month before she was made aware of the requirement for a ZBA variance.
The owner had already invested in furnishing the business and making improvements. The building was also at one time a market.
The business is also next door to a dentist’s office, and the neighborhood is zoned for mixed use for both commercial and residential dwellings.
Long story short: Hamtramck has always had a mix of small businesses located next to houses.
The hardship argument doesn’t hold water. The fact that the location was previously a business, and that the owner invested money into it, shows that there would be a hardship in relocating after all that investment.
The owner plans to appeal the decision, and it’s likely the rejection will be overturned.
The city council made these ZBA appointments. Their appointments need to be seriously reconsidered, because those ZBA members in question are proving to be a liability to the city.
Posted July 23, 2021

One Response to City council needs to reconsider some ZBA members

  1. Nasr Hussain

    July 25, 2021 at 9:29 pm

    “The hardship argument doesn’t hold water. The fact that the location was previously a business, and that the owner invested money into it, shows that there would be a hardship in relocating after all that investment”

    Doesn’t work like this.

    1) The zoning ordinance does not allow you to approve a business in the residential area because a modified house existing there was formerly a business, it’s not one of the criteria for approval

    2)Investing in the location is either a criteria. If so everyone will invest money into a property thus guaranteeing a variance approval.

    Criteria from the zoning ordinance ( written by mayor and planning commission ) :

    Use variance.

    The Board shall be permitted to grant by a two-thirds vote of the Board a use variance of the literal provisions of this Ordinance to a property owner
    provided that the property owner demonstrates all of the following:

    a. Showing of unnecessary hardship on the property owner if this Ordinance was strictly enforced. The landowner shall prove that the land cannot be put to a reasonable use or yield a reasonable return under its existing zoning classification.

    b. The hardship shall be unique or peculiar to the particular parcel and cannot be the result of general neighborhood conditions.

    c. There are exceptional or extraordinary circumstances or conditions applicable to the property involved or to the intended use of the property that do not apply generally to other properties or uses in the same zone.

    d. The variance is necessary to the preservation and enjoyment of a substantial property right possessed by other property in the same zone and proximity.

    e. The variance shall not result in the alteration of the essential character of the neighborhood by impairing an adequate supply of light and air to adjacent property, increasing traffic congestion in public streets, increasing the danger of fire, endangering the public safety, or unreasonably diminishing or impairing established property values within the surrounding area.

    f. The variance is a minimum variance that shall make possible the reasonable use of the land, building, or structure.

    g. The variance shall be in harmony with the general purpose and intent of this Ordinance and shall not be injurious to the neighborhood or otherwise
    detrimental to the public welfare.

    Please note that ***all*** of the above criteria have to be found before granting a variance.

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