Birmingham — A resident is suing the city, saying he’s barred from adding a roof, windows and doors to his partially constructed home because of the city’s interpretation of state orders banning non-essential business.
The lawsuit appears to be the first of its kind in the state since Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued the stay-at-home orders in March.
Attorney Michael Rizik Jr. said a hearing for an injunction is scheduled Monday before Oakland Circuit Judge Leo Bowman. It seeks permission for work to proceed on his client’s house under construction. Construction on the 4,000-square-foot home on Lakeside Drive began in October. It is expected to be worth about $3 million when completed, according to court records.
“Talks so far have been very civil,” Rizik said. “But we are getting desperate. There are roof, window and door repairs that need to be done but the city believes a temporary tarp and some plywood is going to take care of the situation. That’s not going to cut it, especially if we have high winds, and we need permission to do the needed work so rain or even snow, does not get inside and cause further damage.
“We aren’t looking to do a complete construction of the house but these areas need to be addressed.”
The owner of the home is Rizik’s brother, Matthew, whom he described as a chief tax officer at Quicken Loans.
Tim Currier, the city’s attorney, did not return calls for comment Friday. According to court documents, city officials, including the building and police departments, have interpreted Whitmer’s March 24 emergency order to permit only temporary weatherization measures to maintain current conditions.
According to the lawsuit, no one knows how long the stay-in-shelter orders, some of which address construction, will remain in effect.
Rizik said he has received conflicting reports on how the order is being interpreted and that home builders in several Metro Detroit communities have been permitted to continue work.
The order states that “construction workers may also undertake projects that are necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operations of a residence during the emergency … any non-emergency or improvements to premises are not permitted.”
It adds: “Temporary security and weatherization measures” are permitted.
“The order has been interpreted differently across Michigan,” said Robert Filka, president of the Lansing-based Home Builders Association of Michigan. “I have heard of issues near Grand Rapids and in Kent County on the western side of the state. But this is the first I’ve heard of anyone going to the expense of suing a community.
“In some communities, its just tarp it and get out,” he said. “In others, officials have reversed tight restrictions and permitted builders to continue working for a limited amount of time.”
Filka said his organization, which represents 5,000 builders across the state, is optimistic Whitmer is going to soon permit residential construction work, possibly as early as next month, providing workers wear personal protective gear such as masks and gloves, and maintain social distancing on job sites.
“We have been talking with the Governor’s Office and are very hopeful this will be resolved soon,” Filka said. “The incomes and livelihoods of thousands of builders, workers, contractors and subcontractors are at stake.”
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