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SPECIAL MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
Mayor Clark called the meeting to order at 9:04 a.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
ROLL CALL Mayor Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Bononi, Council Members Capello, Csordas, Landry, Lorenzo, Sanghvi
ALSO PRESENT: Richard Helwig, City Manager,
Clay Pearson, Assistant City Manager,
Gerald Fisher, City Attorney
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Member Lorenzo asked that clarifying comments be made regarding Audience Participation. She said she wanted to be sure that Mayor Clark was aware that they really need to look at the time this morning and obviously give people their due in speaking to the Council but we do have Council rules. She noted she expected the Mayor to adhere to those rules. She did not want to keep interjecting "point of order the speaker is going over time". She hoped that the Mayor would watch the time. Member Lorenzo said three minutes is allowed and then the Mayor would ask the speaker to "wrap up". We need to adhere to that this morning because we are here on policy business not a general Council meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi stated that she was looking for a matter of procedure that they would look at each of the policy issues on the agenda at the time they approach the item. Mayor Clark agreed.
Member Capello moved to reconsider the closing of Clark Street decision. Mayor Clark said Council had not made a decision that was forwarded to the Road Commission and the Clark Street/Lannys Road item is expected to be on the March 17th agenda. Mayor Clark said everyone would receive a letter and advised that the traffic engineer is looking at this issue, particularly regarding Lannys Road, and a report from him was expected by March 17th. Nothing has been closed and improvements on Grand River have not started. Mayor Clark said Council had a full agenda and asked if there are like comments to make a spokesperson be selected to present them. Mayor Clark asked everyone to be present on March 17th.
Member Capello asked if Council could assure the residents that the Clark Street/Lannys Road issue would be on the March 17th agenda without a formal motion. Mr. Fisher said there was no need for a motion. Member Capello asked if a formal notice would go out to everyone including the subdivisions south of Eleven Mile Road. Mayor Clark said yes.
City Manager Helwig stated there was an action taken March 3rd to request the Road Commission of Oakland County to close Clark Street at Grand River. Mayor Clark had been asked to sign the letter of request, which is being held in abeyance until after the meeting of March 17th. City Council did elect to go that route, which was supported by the traffic engineer and the Police Chief. Also, after Councilís action to make Lannyís Road one-way south from Grand River, subject to review by the traffic engineer, they spoke to the issue of asking a traffic consultant about this. His early indication is that there is a concern about a one-way designation for Lannys and his report would be provided next week. If the report is in, it will be included in the communication to all the residents prior to the meeting of March 17th.
Mr. Helwig said the contract costs for replacing the bridge over Grand River were more favorable than expected and would allow some flexibility to review the condition of Lannys Road, the possibility of adding sidewalks in the neighborhood and Eleven Mile. There will be a much more productive discussion on the 17th when all the information is in to recognize what is in the best interests of the community.
Member Sanghvi felt since this is so important to so many residents the people should come first and procedures should come second. This is what democracy is about and it would hurt his beliefs if democracy doesnít work the way he saw it.
CM-03-03-069 Moved by Bononi, seconded by Lorenzo; CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY:
To approve the agenda as presented.
Vote on CM-03-03-069 Yeas: Clark, Bononi, Capello, Csordas, Landry, Lorenzo,
Mayor Clark noted that there were a number of communications that would be made part of the public record. Communications were from Debra Case, Nancy and George Mitts, and others.
Debbie Krause, Marlson, asked what would be done with Haroldís Frame Shop if Clark Street was closed, as they were directly across the street and traffic would be heading east to turn left into there. Also, for the next meeting, was closing Clark part of the original plan or did it happen after a petition? She noted there were several people who signed the petition who want their name off the petition. She was also concerned about when the Expo Center moves because she understood that the Expo Center was planning on using the north side of Taft as one of their exit routes. Another concern was what it would be like if everyone was diverted down 11 Mile to get out. Also, some of the residents are concerned about drainage problems on Whipple with the increased level of the bridge because their yards flood now. She would like to see the Council come up with alternatives and let the residents vote on it. She said now that Clark is closed they are realizing what it is like to have to travel all the way around to go to the Mobil Station. Maybe Grand River should be made a no left turn and at least let them turn right out of there. Ms. Krause asked for a solution to solve everyoneís problem. Mayor Clark noted traffic has increased on 11 Mile, Lannys and Clark Street for a number of years because Grand River is in deplorable condition. He thought that when Grand River was completed, traffic would resume on the new five-lane road. Ms. Krause noted she worked in Wixom and since theyíve widened Grand River, itís easier to make a left turn onto Grand River. Ms. Krause left letters with the City Clerk as requested by her neighbors.
Mark Dembs, office building owner at 26106 Lannys Road, was adamantly opposed to turning Lannys into a one-way street, as they didnít want their commercial contractors to go through residential to get back to Grand River. He built Cedar Springs, Settlers Creek and Creek
Crossing and didnít think it was fair to all the residents they built for through the years to not be allowed to use Lannys Road. He also thought a light at Lannys Road might be a good idea for the convenience of the residents if Clark Street had to be closed.
Cathy Nicholson, Stassen, was concerned that their names werenít mentioned as they sent an email to the Mayor on Wednesday and an email to Council on Friday. Mayor Clark noted there were others received and would all become part of the record. She felt the homeowners were being forced onto 11 Mile Road, which is a residential street with two lanes and 25 MPH roadway. She asked why they were spending money to upgrade Grand River when it forced everyone on 11 Mile Road. Ms. Nicholson noted she heard there was a 3-foot grade increase at the head of Clark to Grand River and couldnít imagine closing Clark Street just because of that. She thought widening Grand River would improve traffic flow and would assist left turn lanes. She said she wanted to hear what the Road Commission or their engineers had to say in regard to lowering the grade at Clark in some fashion. If the height of the bridge were lowered at the crown, we could probably reduce the grade increase at Clark, which would hopefully alleviate some of the concerns that the residents have. If the main issue is the grade increase at homeownerís properties, then she wanted reconsideration of the increase of grade along Grand River.
Mayor Clark asked Mr. Helwig if the original recommendation was from the Road Commission Oakland Countyís engineers that Clark Street be closed because of safety. Mr. Helwig stated the request wasnít that strong but it was a consideration that we should look at and that they would be amenable to that if such a request came from the community. The site distance coming over the hill is less than what one of the standards mandates and it is more than one of the minimum standards. It is a close call and therefore you err on the side of public safety.
James Morgan, Clark Street resident, said he wondered to what height the road had to be raised. He suggested, keeping it open, since the grade would be about three foot at Old Grand River and the corner that possibly closing Old Grand River would be an option so that traffic couldnít come off and make a left turn onto Old Grand River. It also might help drainage. He thought the Road Commission was putting in sewers for road run off so they could incorporate that into their plans and put in extra drainage. He thought there were a few options and thought left hand turns could be made since it has been done with the road narrowed and it is going to be widened. There are not that many accidents there. Mayor Clark said there have been 17 accidents there in the last couple of years.
Jackie Moyer, lives at corner of Clark and Whipple, noted she canít get out of her driveway and she wants the road closed. She is concerned for her children and radar has been used and has clocked traffic at 40 MPH in the section between Grand River and 11 Mile Road. She said Chief Shaeffer stated there would be less crime because criminals donít like to be in closed areas. She said it would eliminate traffic and millions of dollars would be saved. She said MDOT had approached her at the original meeting and asked her if she wanted it closed and she had said yes. Craig Bryson, RCOC, said he backed it 110% and thought it would be easier and safer. She witnessed three accidents and she thought a five-lane road was like an expressway. People would go 40 to 60 MPH and she felt a left turn would be dangerous. Her yard floods now and there are seven homes that would be affected by raising the grade at Clark and Whipple. She didnít think Novi Heights residents had to deal with the traffic and that traveling toTaft isnít that much farther.
Rose Button noted consistent weight of construction equipment on a Class B road would wear it down quickly. They have run their trucks along Grand River for many years and if they have to travel down to Taft, the City would need more maintenance people. The wide opening at Clark and Grand River makes it easier to make a right turn and the new road with a center lane would alleviate much of the problems. She thought closing Clark Street would be a real terror for the residents and if traffic is funneled down 11 Mile to Taft, it would affect the school children as it would be very near schools. Ms. Button thought that with engineering and smart lights, there was another answer to leaving Clark Street open. She suggested some field drains could be placed in areas that have drainage problems.
Alan Serjeant, 44180 Durson, was concerned with building a brand new subdivision with the only entrance on Taft Road and he believed that the developer would try to link the subdivision to Grand River by joining it to the end of Clark Street. When that happens, traffic from the new subdivision will be going down to Grand River down Clark Street. We already have enough drivers who donít know what 25 MPH means and donít need more. Whatever is done at the north end of Clark, consideration should be given to the south end of that lot. The value of joining Clark Street to a new subdivision would disappear if Clark is closed at Grand River. There wonít be any temptation to the developer to utilize that road for access to Grand River.
Karen McPherson, Cedar Springs, 11 Mile and Petros resident, stated she has a 3 year old and 2 other children and noted the speed limit is 25 there but rarely do people drive below 40 MPH. Closing Clark Street would route more traffic by her house and the bottleneck that occurs now at 11 Mile and Taft would be worse. She thought school transportation would be affected and she wouldnít feel safe if there is a required evacuation due to a natural disaster or terrorist attack if everyone had to go up to 11 Mile and Taft. She had thought of alternatives such as making a right turn only off Clark and Lannys as most people head east on Grand River anyway, also leave the no through traffic signs up, and enforce the 25 mph speed limit.
Teddy Lee requested there be some visualization for the grade elevation and what was planned for the bridge and the street for the meeting on March 17th. He asked what the intent was of the RCOC or the builders for that corner. If Clark is closed, the safety problems and traffic would be shifted down to Lannys Road. Clark and Lannys have the same safety concerns regarding speed and volume of traffic. We need more roads the way the City is growing not less roads.
Patrick Downey, Clark and 11 Mile, noted he was aware of the amount of traffic that travels from the west to the north on Clark. Theyíve lived there for 29 years but on the corner for 5 years and didnít want to inhibit the traffic from their subdivision. It is the traffic from South Lyon and other communities he wanted deterred and thought it would help but didnít think it could happen. Two years ago when considering to open Clark south to Ten Mile the residents in the southern part of the Novi Heights Subdivision were opposed to that opening, as he was and they supported each other to keep Clark closed. Now that some residents arenít affected by eastbound traffic, they want it open for their convenience and they must understand that he too is inconvenienced and have to travel west to go east. Their own driveways are being used for drivers to turn around and go back west. He stated that regarding the petition that was circulated, some residents felt they were duped because the language was clear about Clark being closed but not about Lannys being made a one way and he wasnít sure he would have signed the petition either. When it was suggested to change the grade and if federal funds are involved, there are limitations. He wanted to see what the slope would be by the time the work is completed as he felt residents on the SE corner of Grand River and Clark would be in a valley. Mr. Downey said to close Clark.
Creek Crossing subdivision resident felt a balance of everyoneís interest. He was notified of the meeting about this issue by a flyer and wondered why everyone wasnít here that was affected. He asked for an official notice so that everyone affected by the decision could be present at the March 17th meeting. Mayor Clark assured that everyone would get a notice.
Jorge Linke, 25896 Clark Street, asked if it would be beneficial to have a fact finding citizens meeting prior to the meeting on March 17th to eliminate some of the questions that have been brought up such as what the actual project looked like and how to get an artists rendering. Mr. Helwig stated a detailed, thorough mailer would be completed this week so that residents, particularly those who couldnít attend the Road Commission Oakland County meeting in early January, could get their questions answered. The work was started earlier than anticipated and that caused some conflicts as far as informing people. The mailer will be hand delivered no later than Thursday morning. If people could be available Friday afternoon, we could arrange to have individuals meet with citizens here to give that briefing again regarding what the project entailed, how the grading issues come about, etc. another meeting to answer questions prior to the meeting on the 17th.
Karen Sobel, 25975 Creek Crossing, thanked the Council for returning calls. Her husband was one who had an accident at that location on Grand River heading west while making a left turn onto Clark Street. His car was broad sided and sent into a utility pole. She felt that 5 lanes including a turn lane would reduce traffic accidents.
Clinton Price, 26070 Lannys Road, lived there about 10 years and felt the road was not for commercial or any other use but was for their subdivision. Mr. Price stated that expediency and convenience are not morally or ethically justified in any situation. He thought the safety of families and children and the quality of life far outweigh how far you have to drive to get a cup of coffee or go to the gas station. He recommended that builders do more traffic study and understand how people would get out of their subdivision. There needs to be more access routes and more traffic flow out of these subdivisions. He said solving your problem and making it someone elseís problem is not community spirit and not reflective of what this country stands for.
Ken Bonner, 43999 Durson, noted it was not a matter of convenience. It would be an extra mile and a half to get to Taft to begin his 25-mile plus commute every morning if Clark were closed. He asked for clarification regarding the accidents, lower the speed limit if necessary. Mr. Bonner felt that once Grand River was open, traffic on 11 Mile would be less from other communities. Cedar Springs is ridiculous with "no through traffic" signs for his neighbors. They are forced to go down to Taft and onto a crumbling road just to get back to Novi Road. This seems like a nuisance to some but to someone who travels quite a bit everyday, it adds up. Mayor Clark noted Taft from 10 Mile to Grand River would be addressed next year.
Julie Sisson, 44120 Settlers Creek, said she was hearing "not in my back yard, I donít want the traffic coming down my street but it is OK to detour it down 11 Mile." She said 11 Mile is a residential road also and the truth of the matter is Novi has a lot of traffic and it has to go somewhere. The people are asking Council to change an existing road that has been there for a long time. Clark Street has always been there. She asked Council not to compare a new subdivision that is being built and the way they are being forced to drive to something that has been there since these people have moved in. Please consider safety vehicles and how they would get in and out. She asked how many accidents involved alcohol and how many accidents were at 10 Mile and Taft?
Wes Colmery, 25941 Petros, stated he agreed with Ms. Sisson that Council should look at the issue of 17 accidents compared to other intersections in the immediate area. In regards to individuals who believe through traffic in Cedar Springs poses a problem for them because they have to drive around to Taft, why not open Clark Street to 10 Mile Road, which is the opposite affect of what the through traffic prohibition is in Cedar Springs. If they donít want it themselves, then donít complain about someone else not wanting it either.
Mr. Colmery said he was present because he had some allegations to make and his lawyer told him to read from a script. The funny thing is at 9:30 at night on Friday night it is not hard to get a law firm when you say "City of Novi" and "traffic barriers".
Mr. Colmery alleged that he had sent Mr. Pearson 12 emails regarding the CSX bridge reconstruction since March 9, 2002 and during this time received 8 emails regarding the same. Over the past few weeks he sent two emails asking why Clark Street was closed. On February 27, 2003 he send a third email asking why Clark Street was closed and his response was "Clark Street is going to be rebuilt and raised as it approaches Grand River as will old Grand River. Rather than open and close it until they have to, the contractor has closed it now as part of the construction which also eliminates a point of conflict with the construction equipment, so close to the bridge". Mr. Colmery said there was no mention about Clark Street being closed. The impression he was left with was that Clark Street was going to be reopened. On March 6th he read in the Novi News "Pearson was expected to ask City Commission Monday Night to consider closing Clark Street." He felt that there was a deception that might rise to the level of an ethics violation. Mr. Colmery said as an employee of the City of Novi, Mr. Pearson has the responsibility to fairly and completely disclose all aspects of a public matter. Mr. Colmery said Mr. Pearson didnít and he missed the meeting. He said he would make additional allegations at the next meeting because he is concerned about what he thought appeared to be corruption on the matter of closing Clark Street and the whole issue of the CSX bridge.
Mayor Clark stated he would stand in defense of any of the City employees. We have some of the finest employees of any community in the metropolitan area. Mayor Clark said Mr. Pearson did not close Clark Street on the sixth. The City Council took action on March 3, 2003 and they are the only one who can do that. The agenda is a public record, it is at the library, it is posted at City Hall and upon request it can be sent to your home. He cautioned about impugning the integrity of someone else because he didnít like the decision. There are many opportunities provided for people to know what is going on but sometimes a little extra effort has to be put out yourself. The City operates openly and he has hours almost every Saturday from 9 AM to 12 PM to hear residentís concerns and by Monday morning those concerns are on Mr. Helwigís desk and many times in a day or two he received a call from a citizen thanking him because the problem has been taken care of. While unfortunate miscommunication might have taken place, it is only the Council that takes action to close a road in an open Council meeting. Council has already said they would look at this issue again on March 17th.
Mr. Helwig stated the City had no intention of closing Clark Street at Grand River Avenue with these improvements. This all originated with the dialogue that occurred among residents and the Road Commission representatives in the later part of January followed by subsequent meetings initiated by residents with neighborhood association presidents in attendance followed by a submission of a petition with 89 signatures to this Council. This is not Mr. Pearsonís initiative and his communications with Mr. Colmery were outstandingly accurate and he has more to do than just stay in touch with 12 emails. Regarding Sandstone, a nerve was hit as this Council and administration was brought in as a cleanup crew and has dedicated itself to not only eliminating that without an impact on the community, but also ensuring that it would never happen again. It is not going to happen because of the process involved in this. This government is responding to citizen initiatives.
Rose Button told those new to the community that theyíve got one of the best governments they would find anywhere. She said this bridge is not a new idea. She believed if they were patient and let the City engineers and the City work with and improve the plans that were designed many years ago, a lot of the problems we have now would be resolved.
Wayne Hogan said his issues were with access in regard to parking, buildings and restrooms and felt more consideration needed to be taken regarding this. Too often people take the ADA as a super goal to meet when it is actually the legal least one can get away with and often is not adequate but is being revised. Seniors have mobility issues with no parking or parking too far away. In the senior housing being built, there are 8-inch curbs going in and not enough curb breaks for walkers, wheelchairs, etc. being installed.
Mayor Clark stated this matter would be back on March 17th and a mailing would go out this week. A time will be set for Friday next week for people to see the visuals.
Council recessed at 10:27a.m.
Council reconvened at 10: 46 a.m.
Mayor Clark noted that since a topic of concern to residents was important to discuss, he asked what Council wished to do in regard to continuing the meeting.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi suggested that this meeting be rescheduled to a date certain and suggested Saturday, March 29th or Saturday, April 5th. Member Capello suggested beginning at 8:30 AM because he had another meeting at 11AM.
Member Lorenzo said Saturday morning meetings are inconvenient and she would probably not be in attendance.
Mayor Clark suggested March 29, 2003 at 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. to discuss original agenda items as stated below.
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING
1. Discussion of policy issues:
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION Ė None
There being no further business to come before Council, the meeting was adjourned at 10:49 a.m.
Richard J. Clark, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, City Clerk
Date approved: March 17, 2003