Novi builder paves the way in legal fight
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Novi builder paves the way in legal fight. January 11, 2002 BY BRIAN DICKERSON FREE PRESS COLUMNIST. NOVI Restrictions.

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Novi builder paves the way in legal fight

Novi builder paves the way in legal fight

January 11, 2002BY BRIAN DICKERSONFREE PRESS COLUMNIST


Novi restrictions
NOVI Restrictions

  • Two years ago this month, after concluding that the City of Novi had maliciously sabotaged a development company's plans for a sprawling, mixed-use project there, an Oakland County Circuit Court judge ordered the city to cough up more than $30 million in damages.

  • This week, daunted by the prospect of a hefty tax hike, Novi's Planning Commission reluctantly cleared the way for a settlement under which the victorious plaintiff, Sandstone Associates, would get about 95 acres of city parkland in lieu of cash.

  • The proposed settlement would bring Novi's seven- year legal debacle to a merciful end. But Novi taxpayers and Sandstone aren't the only folks with a dog in this fight, and it's already having an impact in dozens of other Michigan communities.

  • Municipal lawyers note that former Oakland County Circuit Judge Barry Howard's award to Sandstone Associates has yet to pass muster with appellate judges. But the same attorneys concede privately that Sandstone's victory was a major wake-up call to planning and building officials across Michigan.


Developers have weapon
Developers have weapon

Demand

  • Cities accustomed to exacting free landscaping, recreation facilities and other amenities from developers in exchange for timely approval of site plans and building permit requests have grown more cautious.

  • And while the prospect of project-killing delays is enough to deter most developers from litigation, the Sandstone precedent has given them a tactical nuclear weapon for worst-case scenarios. Now politicians contending with an unpopular development proposal have to weigh their constituents' druthers against the possibility of a crippling legal judgment.

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