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Madison Heights

August 21, 2013

Trouble on Tawas

Residents say local business is causing parking problems, safety issues

By Andy Kozlowski
C & G Staff Writer

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Trouble on Tawas
Joseph Smigels, a Tawas Street resident, explains the numerous parking problems that have occurred as a result of clients visiting JAMS Enterprises LLC across the street. Residents also have sanitation and safety concerns.

MADISON HEIGHTS — City officials have been receiving an earful from residents of Tawas Street, who claim a nearby drug-screening clinic is causing them no shortage of grief in their neighborhood north of 12 Mile and east of John R.

The business is JAMS Enterprises LLC, 739 E. 12 Mile: one of two addresses in a small building at the corner of Tawas. The business is leasing the single-floor space inside an add-on at a residential parcel that was rezoned for business in 2005. 

Identified only by rudimentary signs propped up in narrow windows, the clinic screens individuals for drug and alcohol use. The majority of their clientele are ordered there by the court as part of their bond condition. Hours of operation are 6:30-9 a.m. and 5-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 6:30-9:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. It is most active around the holidays, when the court increases random checks for substance use.

The business has about a dozen spaces in its lot, which outlets straight onto Tawas. Of those spots, one is for handicap parking, and a couple more are for staff. The rest are left for clients. While this meets city code, which dictates the required number of parking spaces per square footage of building, neighbors say it’s not nearly enough to accommodate clients, with scores of people visiting JAMS during peak hours, parking all the way up and down both sides of Tawas.

This has led to many well-documented incidents where clients park illegally in front of driveways, preventing residents from leaving their homes. One example is June 14, when a truck driver parked his 18-wheeler in front of multiple driveways. In another incident Memorial Weekend, a woman was late to an appointment for her kids because she was trapped in her driveway for 10 minutes.

“There have been accidents, too,” said James Olivier, a resident who lives a couple doors down from JAMS. “In March, I was rear-ended by someone coming out of there that hadn’t defrosted their windshield.”

Emails and phone calls to JAMS management went unreturned by press time.

Police have been patrolling the area regularly, ticketing violators who don’t heed the numerous “no parking” signs dotting Tawas. There is also a flyer posted on the front door of JAMS, facing Tawas, telling clients that, per police order, they must not park anywhere on Tawas from 12 Mile to the first driveway facing north, or they will be ticketed and denied testing until the vehicle is moved.

But the problem persists, according to residents. 

“It’s frustrating,” said Joseph Smigels, a resident of Tawas living across the street from JAMS. “I’ve seen (the clients) park here in my driveway. They do it because it’s easier and they can just walk right across the street.”  

Blocking driveways is not the only problem caused by parking congestion on Tawas. Olivier says that when school is in session, and buses and parents are ferrying kids to and from John Page Middle School, also on Tawas, the street becomes a one-way road. Olivier worries that someone on 12 Mile may quickly and carelessly turn onto Tawas, only to crash into a bus full of children.

Another issue for the school children concern those walking down Tawas past JAMS, where clients are said to sometimes speed in and out of the parking lot. Residents have also taken abundant photographs of litter lying around JAMS that they consider inappropriate for impressionable teens — everything from cigarette butts to various medical devices.

Olivier said his neighbors have seen trash, cups and liquor bottles thrown from the windows of vehicles leaving JAMS. The debris winds up on neighboring properties, accumulating in yards and along fence-lines. Olivier said the woman living between him and JAMS fears for her small dog after she found shards of glass in her flowerbed. 

And the safety concerns don’t end with the parking, speeding and sanitation issues. Smigels notes the families in the neighborhood, including a couple with a 10-year-old girl right across the street from JAMS, are uncomfortable about some of the people they see visiting the facility.

“My wife always says, ‘Look at all those characters (at JAMS), looking at our house. Maybe they’re sizing it up,’” Smigels said. “She’s nervous about it.”

Most of the people visiting JAMS are there on a minor offense, ranging from students to businessmen. But the fear is a more dangerous sort might show up and spell trouble for the neighbors. 

Olivier said they’ve seen individuals cussing at each other in the parking lot at JAMS, and that police have had to break up fights there.

“It worries me that someone will be over there, high or drunk, depressed from hard times or failing a test, and they may pull a gun,” Olivier said. “Our luck is going to run out. It’s not a matter of ‘if,’ but a matter of ‘when.’ And we’ll ask our city officials, ‘If you knew, why did you do nothing to prevent it?’ It’s not worth it — especially when there are so many other places in the city they could relocate.”

When asked for comment, Madison Heights Police Chief Anthony Roberts deferred to Madison Heights City Manager Ben Myers. Myers said the city has been meeting with residents of Tawas and representatives of JAMS trying to find a solution.

“I’m not purporting to speak for JAMS,” Myers said, “but one of the things we all acknowledged, and they made a point of it, is that education is an issue for them because, in a best-case scenario, they don’t have repeat clientele;  the first time might be the only time, and then they’re out of the program. And so you always have someone new coming in who doesn’t know the area or that there are parking issues.

“I think, in general, while we’re certainly sympathetic to the frustrations the residents are feeling over there, we are dealing with the issue from the standpoint of what we (at the city) can work with them on, what we can enforce, and the types of issues where the city has an authority to go in, such as with parking and traffic,” he said. “We never, ever try to discourage any of the neighbors from calling for service if they need us out there. We have gone through a stepped-up enforcement period, and continue to want to be responsive out there.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Andy Kozlowski at akozlowski@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1104.

Not a lie. An actual comment posted by an actual resident of Tawas street who DISAGREES with you. I'm allowed to do that. It's my right. And you absolutely know where I live since you brought over a hand written, hostile letter to my house and placed it in my door today while I was gone at work. Calling me a coward. Two things sir:

1) do not set foot on my property again. Please.

2) You do not speak for NOR represent the entire populus of Tawas Street.

You are not telling the whole truth.

Did you mention the fact that your house keeps all the windows covered 24/7 and you don't see outside them? You are omitting the truth as much as you are telling lies to be the lone wolf standout. Did you not see the semi blocking all our driveways on the front page of the paper? Or how about all the crackheads, heroine users, and meth users parked at the curbs of all our houses which is issued by the court according to bond conditions? How about the big bag of breathalyzer tubes we collected off our properties that are thrown by Jams clients (which we returned to Jams management)? Would you like to see some for proof? How about people dropping their britches and urinating outside? Is this something you would like your kids to see as have other neighbors on the street? How about all of our driveways getting blocked where we can't get out? Don't answer that because you don't know. How could you with your windows always covered shut.

It is your right to stay secluded but you will lose if you try in anyway to interrupt the safety of our street. You are not the only one that lives on it.... The rest of us come out of our shells and want this trash off our street corner, as any able minded body would.

You are a liar and if I find out you are getting paid or a representative of Jams I will drag you in court with the mountain of evidence and proof that not only myself, but the entire police department and all the residents on Tawas has accumulated. And we will be going to court.

We are going to clean this up and clear the way so that all the kids on the street, especially all the kids transporting between school, can do so in safety.

And I call your posts the act of a coward instead of talking to ANYONE on the block to see what's going on since obviously you CAN'T see anything but just assume.

I live on Tawas, about 5 houses down from Jams and on the other side of the street. I have never once seen any of the problems these folks are complaining so loudly about. In fact I've seen more "harassment" and bothersome behavior from these neighbros (The Olivers and the Smigels apparently) who keep putting letters and such in my mailbox asking me to join them at City Council meetings to "fight Jams". It's ridiculous. People who are high or intoxicated are NOT the people who are visiting Jams to be TESTED for these substances (why would they come to do a drug test if they know they're going to fail it?). Yes, traffic is congested at times, but not overly so. I've not seen "fights" in the parking lot, nor have I seen police there breaking up these indcidents. I have a two year old, a 10 year old and an 11 year old and feel absolutely comfortable with them playing in the front yard, riding their scooters up/down the street, etc.

I think it is shameful that my neighbors would automatically assume that because someone is coming to JAMS for a drug test that they will be "high or drunk, depressed from hard times or failing a test, and they may pull a gun,”.

I think it is also shameful to assume that these individuals are criminals who are "eyeing your houses" and sizing them up to break in.

How long has Jams been in that location? And how many breakins have occured in nearby homes since that time? And how many gun crimes have occured in the nearby area?

Shame on my neighbors for behaving this way and shame on this newspaper for not reporting any of those statistics to rebutt this nonsense.

This is a lie posted by a representative of Jams. We know who lives in the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, and 9th houses down on the other side. The 5th house is rented by 3 people.