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Judge won't OK roof work on $3M home, but city won't try to stop it

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Pontiac — A Birmingham home builder didn’t get permission Monday to install a roof over his exposed, partially-built home but a city official said there are no plans to ticket or arrest anyone for doing such work.

The owners of this unfinished home at 660 Lakeside Drive in Birmingham are suing the city of Birmingham because they have not been able to finish the roof, windows and doors and they are concerned about weather damage.

Attorney Michael Rizik sought an injunctive order to permit construction of a roof, windows and doors on his brother’s $3 million home on Lakeside Drive after city officials told him he could only place tarp and plywood over exposed areas.

“We didn’t get a preliminary injunction today but the city is no longer a threat to us,” Rizik said after Monday's hearing. “We may have a work crew over there tomorrow ... or later this week.”

Matthew Rizik sued Birmingham last week over the city's refusal to permit the work because of state restrictions issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

After hearing attorneys' arguments, Oakland Circuit Court Judge Leo Bowman said he was not convinced they had made their case and denied the request for an order allowing the work. During the same hearing attorneys for Birmingham said there would be no city action — barring a complaint about work — other than relaying those concerns on to the prosecutor for consideration.

Attorneys did not return phone calls or emails for comment Monday but told Bowman that the city has no power to enforce the executive orders ... that would be the responsiblity of the county prosecutor and sheriff..."

City building officer Bruce Johnson confirmed the city’s hands-off position with the caveat that "anyone violating the governor’s orders could still find themselves in trouble.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview Sunday with a TV station that protective work on residential construction was permitted under her order, contrary to some interpretations that it was not essential work.

“(Birmingham) said they would not arrest anyone nor would they issue any tickets,” said Rizik. “They would investigate complaints, if any, interview and take photos and interviews, which they would pass on. I think it was pretty clear they don’t want to make an issue out someone protecting their property. Especially if you go a few miles in any direction and you find the same type of work is being done.”

Rizik said Bowman was assured “we would abide by all the required measures — masks, gloves, social distancing between workers. And they aren’t planning to complete construction on the property at this time. Just protect the interior as described.”

Rizik said he expected the needed work to “dry-in” the interior of the house could be completed within two weeks.

The house has been under construction since October.

Work crews for Rizik’s brother, Matthew, shut down last month after city officials advised they were violating Whitmer’s executive orders for all but essential work activity.

In a press briefing Monday, Whitmer indicated she had meetings scheduled with labor officials, including those in residential construction, and expected to have more to say on the matter later in the week, including a possible loosening of restrictions.

mmartindale@detroitnews.com

(248) 338-0319