Oakland Township Sued For Violating Michigan Law, Faces Challenges In Federal And State Courts For Blocking Disabled/Elderly Housing Development

Jul 29, 2015, 12:51 ET from Moceri

DETROIT, July 29, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Following the lead of federal judge Terrence Berg regarding ongoing proceedings against Oakland Township by Moceri/DM Investments and former township supervisor Joan Buser, Moceri/DM Investments filed complaints Tuesday (July 28) against Oakland Township in the Oakland County Circuit Court, claiming the township's approach to land zoning violates the Michigan Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act, the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, and the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. 

The federal housing discrimination complaint brought by Moceri and separately, by the Michigan Paralyzed Veterans, will continue in federal court.

These developments follow last month's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that housing discrimination does not need to be intentional in order to be illegal – creating far reaching consequences for a lawsuit against Oakland Township for aggressively blocking a housing project that would accommodate disabled veterans and the elderly.

The SCOTUS ruling in the case – Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs vs. Inclusive Communities Project – maintains that objectors to lending, zoning, rental and sales practices can base a legal argument on the disparate impact the practices have on certain groups; whether the practice was intended to produce a disparate impact or not.

"Federal and state law requires that you make some accommodations for the handicapped so they can participate in the community," said Edward Kickham, a partner at Kickham Hanley, the firm representing Moceri. "Oakland Township has a long list of reasons why they don't want paralyzed veterans and disabled people in the township; but the law is now crystal clear on this -- you have to make an accommodation so that the disabled are not excluded, whether it was your intention to exclude them or not.

"Nevertheless, in this case we do intend to prove that Oakland Township intentionally and knowingly discriminates against the elderly and disabled," Kickham said.

Moceri/DM Investments and Joan Buser in December 2014 filed a lawsuit against Oakland Township in Federal Court contending the Township had engaged in discriminatory housing practices under the Federal Fair Housing Law, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, by aggressively blocking approval of the Blossom Ridge housing project. The Michigan Paralyzed Veterans filed a similar suit against Oakland Township, also in December 2014, pointing out that the blocking of the project was discriminatory against all persons with disabilities – regardless of military status.

The Blossom Ridge development, proposed by Moceri Companies on 42 acres of land it owns on the township's southwest side, would include 134 congregate care units, with 60 four-plex ranch style units and 44 duplexes. All of the units are designed to accommodate the elderly and the disabled at an affordable cost.

Oakland Township currently has no accommodations for the disabled or the elderly, and has no land zoned for multifamily development. Its zoning restrictions are so narrow, restrictive and exclusionary that they serve to exclude multifamily development from the area altogether.

The Township has said that any exclusion of the disabled or elderly was unintentional.

"We sought guidance from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice on this important issue," said Dominic Moceri, Vice President of The Moceri Management Company. "The ultimate guidance came from the Supreme Court of the United States, which validates our claims of discrimination – whether intentional or not."