Did They Ever Arrest That Guy Over the Driveway?

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Thursday, January 31, 2019, 7:27 am
Alice Dreger

ELi readers have been asking, “Did the City of East Lansing ever arrest that guy over the driveway? Or did they offer him more money?”

If you’re not sure what we’re talking about, you can begin reading about the drama starting here, then proceeding here, or you can just cut to our last report, here.

Since our last installment, City Planning staff sent a letter in November 2018 to Dr. Michael Zydeck’s attorney Mark Grebner saying: “Since we are unable to resolve this matter amicably, we are turning the matter of enforcement over to the City Attorney for consideration of the issuance of a complaint and warrant against your client, Michael Zydeck.”

We asked City Manager George Lahanas and City Attorney Tom Yeadon last week if they’ve moved to issue such a warrant. Neither responded.

East Lansing’s Deputy Police Chief Steve Gonzalez did reply to our inquiry, indicating, “That case is not a police investigation.” He referred us to the Planning Department “as they handle code violations of this nature.”

Because Zydeck is a physician, having a warrant issued for his arrest – even over a driveway – could have implications for his professional life. But it appears that, so far, the City hasn’t actually moved to have him arrested.

City personnel also haven’t moved to fix the driveway themselves, as Grebner suggested they do.

Asked for comment on the apparent stalemate, Grebner tells ELi, “I have no idea what the City will do next, but I expect it’ll surprise me.”

Some readers have asked why it is the case that if Planning or Building personnel screw up and give you instructions or permits in error, you have to pay to make it right.

Governments enjoy something called “sovereign immunity” which basically insulates them from a lot of lawsuits, even if their employees commit a costly or dangerous error.

The cost of the driveway error, absolutely speaking, is not that high, although it has been a source of serious frustration to neighbors of Zydeck’s East Lansing property. As we reported, the neighbors have wanted the City to get the driveway in conformance with the rules.

But Grebner’s client is fed up and doesn’t want to pay any more than he already has.

The cost of East Lansing’s errors in the case of the Dobie Road Project is significantly higher. As that is a public project, taxpayers will bear the cost of those errors.

On huge projects, like the ones we’re seeing downtown now, the cost of an error or oversight by City personnel during the permitting process could ultimately be enormous to developers. That’s why, while developers might gripe about being sent back when, for example, plans submitted for permits don’t match what was approved, catching problems early ultimately can save private property owners and developers a lot of money.

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