City Increases Cash Offer in Driveway Dispute

Thursday, October 4, 2018, 8:00 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

In an ongoing dispute over construction of a driveway in the Bailey neighborhood, the City of East Lansing has now upped its offer of cash to the property owner. But the owner’s attorney is rejecting this offer, as he did the last.

A month ago, ELi reported that the City had informed Plymouth resident Michael Zydeck, owner of 444 Division Street in East Lansing, that he either had to take $1,500 from the City and fix the property’s driveway according to the City’s specifications or risk being arrested.

Back in 2017, Zydeck's contractor constructed a driveway that the City says violates the law, because it is too big.

As we reported, the saga has involved one or two erroneously-issued permits from the City, possibly erroneous inspection approvals by City inspectors, and a very confusing action by East Lansing’s Zoning Board of Appeals.

Zydeck is fed up with dealing with the City. But the City, under pressure from unhappy homeowning neighbors of the property, has been insisting Zydeck take further action to shrink the driveway.

On August 22 of this year, the City offered Zydeck $1,500 or arrest. In response, Zydeck’s attorney Mark Grebner told the City that his client would accept $7,000 and that the City would have to make the changes. (Zydeck isn’t interested in risking more rounds of approval and disapproval by the City.)

Now, in a letter dated September 25, the City has upped its offer to $2,000. The City’s latest letter makes no threats to arrest Zydeck if he doesn’t accept the terms.

Writing on behalf of the City of East Lansing, Planning and Zoning Administrator David Haywood has informed Grebner:

“Although we had previously stated our offer to compensate your client was limited to $1,500, we are willing to pay $2,000 as a final offer of compensation.”

This amount, Haywood notes, would trigger the need for approval of City Council, but City staff is willing to seek that approval.

The City is not willing to undertake the work, but “would be glad to provide a paving plan” according to what the City thinks the Zoning Board of Appeals decided back in 2017.

Grebner tells ELi, “My client does not accept [the new letter’s] terms.” He explains that there are two reasons.

First, “The modifications would cost more than $2,000, taking into account the inevitable problems that can be expected from any dealing with East Lansing City government. So Mr. Zydeck is better off not accepting the money, not bringing in another contractor, and not reopening the can of worms.”

Second, “We are really looking forward to seeing the City’s next move – it’s bound to be a surprise. And that’s worth the price of admission.”

Grebner has said that he finds it remarkable that East Lansing is offering taxpayers’ money to someone the City suggests is a criminal, in an attempt to undo the alleged crime. He tells ELi that, if the case does go to court, he would like to ask Haywood how much the City will pay his client in the event his client is found guilty.

 

Disclosure: In January 2018, Grebner donated $20 to ELi. He has also more recently voluntarily provided ELi some assistance with understanding rights under the Freedom of Information Act.