The owner of a long-standing remodeling company, Blackstar Inc., will not buy a Mack Avenue storefront after failing to receive approval from Grosse Pointe Woods to do sporadic cutting of wood in the back of what would have been a retail space for trim, moldings and more.
Tom Robinson, owner of Blackstar Inc., had been looking to move one of his business locations from East Warren in Detroit into the Grosse Pointes. His business has long served the residents of the Grosse Pointes and he felt offering a retail space where customers could come look at different molding and trim options would be a service.
His company most recently completed work for and . He had intended to purchase 19807 Mack Ave., which currently houses Pointes Glass Company. The sale of the building is off, however, following a hearing Monday before the City Council meeting as the Zoning Board of Appeals.
The board was to interpret the definition of use under a specific zoning classification to determine whether Blackstar Inc.'s intentions for the space fell within the allowable parameters.
Ultimately the board denied Blackstar's request in a 4-3 vote with much of the discussion focusing on the completion work to be performed in back of the store. One focus was on whether the work is considered light industrial work and the other focus was on the potential noise impact upon a neighboring jewelry store.
Robinson argued to the board that because the work would be performed so sporadically, he didn't feel it classified as light industrial work–a description that gives Robinson the feel of a manufacturing plant in which a line worker performs certain duties eight hours a day, five days a week.
He also told the council he would be willing to work with the neighboring jeweler to make changes to prevent noise from being disruptive, noting that the noise his equipment makes pales in comparison to the noise of some passing motorists.
Meanwhile, the building's owner, Darlene Munroe, said the current business–a glass replacement/installation company–performs work similar to what Robinson wants to be able to do.
The glass company does on-site installations, cuts glass and other custom work, which Munroe said has not yielded any noise complaints from neighboring businesses since 2005. She gathered the information about calls for service to the address from the Grosse Pointe Woods Public Safety Department because she was surprised the neighboring jeweler voiced concerns about the potential noise, she said.
She and Robinson were disappointed in the board's decision. Munroe, who is the trustee of her deceased father's trust, simply wants to sell the building. In the more than two years it's been on the market, Robinson's offer has been the only truly acceptable offer, she said.
Her father worked for the former glass company, IXL Glass, which has since left that location for a space in Clinton Township, Munroe said. He began working there in the '60s and later decided to buy the business and the building, which happened in the '80s. Eventually, he decided to sell the glass company but maintain ownership of the building, she said.
Now the family does not want to maintain ownership of the building, she said. The current business signed its lease with the knowledge that the owners were trying to sell the building. Should it sell, the business will have a certain time frame for moving out, Munroe said.
Munroe felt there was misinterpretation of the use definition by the board, especially considering that the current business cuts and repairs automobile glass. She also believes it is similar work to what Robinson planned to use the space for and likely similar in noise level, she said.
Mayor Robert Novitke asked Robinson why he couldn't do the finishing saw/cutting work at his Harper Woods plant, to which Robinson explained it would be a disruption to the daily operation. Blackstar's Harper Woods location is a small manufacturing business in which cabinetry is built, he said.
Robinson told the mayor it would be a deal breaker to eliminate his ability of doing some of the finishing work–something he is able to do at his East Warren location.