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ROYAL OAK, MI-After almost a year of haggling, a $25-million condominium project has been preliminarily approved by the Royal Oak planning commission. The five-story project is expected to have 61 units, and will tower over Woodward Avenue as the tallest building on the Oakland County thoroughfare.

The condominiums will replace the Comfort Inn, an older motel that has been a havenfor prostitution, drug use and other crimes. The city has created a hotel-motel ordinance to entice the owners to sell for redevelopment projects, and this is the first of a few infamous city motels to come before the commission with a site plan.

Residents asked the commission to deny the project, asking for four stories or less, and three of the eight commissioners voted for disapproval. However, Mayor Bill Urich and three other commissioners voted to approve the project. One commissioner abstained because of a business relationship with the developer.

Developer Craig Schubiner of Harbor Development says he could not go below four stories for the project.

“I wouldn’t consider less than four,” he told the commission. “This project is an excellent transition buffer for the neighborhood.”

Schubiner says construction could begin in summer 2003, and be finished by the beginning of 2005. The units would cost between $300,000 to $500,000 each.

The developer now must submit a final site plan approval to the city within six months, city officials say.

The planning commission will hold a public hearing for the final site plan approval when it is submitted.

The developer must also get permission to vacate a 20-foot wide public alley, which will most likely be discussed and voted on at the Oct. 21 city commission meeting.

The project had been approved by the planning commission on Sept. 10. However, it was discovered that nearby residents weren’t properly notified of the meeting, and the project approval was rescinded Sept. 19.

Schubiner, also the developer of the $2-billion Bloomfield Park project between Bloomfield Township and Pontiac, tells GlobeSt.com he > had no comment on rumors that a settlement has been worked out to prevent annexation of the township property, with a large mixed-use development, to Pontiac.

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