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MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
Mayor Clark called the meeting to order at 7:30 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
ROLL CALL: Mayor Clark, Mayor ProTem Bononi, Council Members Capello – absent/excused, Csordas – absent/excused, Landry, Lorenzo and Sanghvi
Mayor Clark explained to the audience and viewers that the purpose of this meeting was to interview persons for Boards and Commissions.
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
CM-03-06-180 Moved by Lorenzo, seconded by Bononi; CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To approve the Agenda as presented.
Roll Call vote on CM-03-06-180 Yeas: Clark, Bononi, Landry, Lorenzo, Sanghvi
Absent: Capello, Csordas
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - None
7:35 David Staudt, Parks, Recreation & Forestry Commission
Mr. Staudt greeted Council, and commented that it was only a few months ago that he stood before them. Mr. Staudt is an eight-year resident of the City of Novi, and is currently Vice President of Allied Printing Company in Ferndale. He is seeking a full term reappointment to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission. Mr. Staudt was voted to the Executive Board of the Woodward Avenue Action Association about one month ago. He serves on that Executive Board with the mayors of the City of Birmingham and the City of Berkley. He is also chairman of the National Clean Boating Campaign. With that organization’s event in Boston on June 21st his 2 year term will be up, which is a relief as that duty required a significant amount of time.
During his 6 months as part of the Commission, he served on several committees, including the Long Range Planning Committee and the Resource Development Committee, both of which are relatively new. The Long Range Planning Committee is concentrated on developing the 5 year strategic plan for Parks, Recreation and Forestry. In the Resource Development Committee, such issues have been investigated as creating a foundation for that department, and also looking for outside sources. The Committee is working on an investment plan for sponsors of various teams and events, and the first draft of this document will be printed shortly.
The last 6 months, he has recognized 2 very significant problems, which are partly problems, but partly opportunities. One is that the City has some major financial issues that it will face in the next 5 years with regards to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and also the ash borer beetle. Some of the estimated cost projections are almost $2,000,000. With a limited budget, this will create some difficult times. The master plan process was going on long before he became part of the Commission, and the master plan should address all the needs of the community. They have worked hard on this document and have had 5 or 6 Committee meetings. The staff has done a fine job putting together an excellent plan. Hopefully that plan will be finished shortly so that it can be proposed to Council for review and hopefully approved so that the Commission can move on to a more important item, which is applying for grants that are allowed as a result of having that master plan. Mr. Staudt said he was going to be playing softball at Powers Park that night at 8:50, and invited Council’s questions.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said Mr. Staudt is very good with timelines. She asked if with regard to his business experience, what his biggest surprise was when entering the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission. Mr. Staudt answered that this was the budget. He had not reviewed many particulars about the budget. This is a larger community with some very nice facilities. Another item that surprised him was the limited participation by people his age, in the 40 to 55-year-old group. He attributes this largely to businesses going lean, and people having to work more hours. However, the community does a great job with its children and allocates significant resources in this direction. Novi has very adequate parks and facilities, and has fairly aggressive seniors and theater programs.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked what other areas of resource other than money Mr. Staudt would appreciate from this Council. Mr. Staudt answered that especially with the strategic plan coming up, Council’s guidance in developing a plan. In the next few months he will push very hard for a foundation to be created. He comes from this part of the world. He would like to see support for this type of organization because this community has a tremendous amount of resources available, and with a foundation these can be mined much better than simply seeking sponsorship and team support. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi thanked Mr. Staudt for have the courage and fortitude to reapply for the Commission.
Member Sanghvi said he was delighted to see Mr. Staudt there, and was even more delighted to see that he wants to continue serving on the Commission. One of the things that he has always believed about parks is that "the green areas are the lungs of the City." He asked Mr. Staudt what type of "lungs" the City has. Mr. Staudt responded that the City’s parks are best defined as "adequate." He would like to see more green space, as he comes from a slightly environmental area. He wishes there were more lakes in the area because of his background in boating. But knowing the challenges faced in this community in the next few years, the major foci should be to develop the resources that are available, not lose any of these resources, and take advantage of these as the opportunities present themselves. This may have to happen through private funding and donations, as well as foundation grants. It will be very difficult at this point in time to come to Council and ask for large amounts of money to purchase parkland. The City really needs to take care of what it has right now.
Member Sanghvi said that regarding money, the City’s real question is "how much cloth there is to make a coat from." He asked Mr. Staudt if in the current economic climate, his proposed foundation project is too grandiose. Mr. Staudt replied that no effort is too grandiose. The community’s expectation is to fully develop that project. He is a firm believer that the Commission needs to roll up its sleeves and find the money.
Member Sanghvi asked Mr. Staudt if he believed there should be an amendment to the Constitution that makes the federal government fund all the things that it requires of local governments, such as complying with the ADA. Mr. Staudt said that he is not a strong supporter of federal government impositions. Many of the organizations that he is involved with believe that partnerships with the government are more important than regulation. Unfortunately, the Commission is facing fairly strong regulations which he does not necessarily agree with. This is not a battle that the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission could necessarily fight very well, but he would certainly welcome Council’s guidance on the issue.
Member Lorenzo asked Mr. Staudt what he believed to be his largest contribution to the Commission in the past 6 months, what the biggest accomplishment of the Commission has been thus far, and what his personal frustrations with the organization have been. Mr. Staudt said that thus far, the Commission’s biggest accomplishment has been moving forward with the Strategic Plan, which is absolutely critical to finish. As a businessman, his largest frustration has been the pace of operations. He has worked with the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and a number of federal bureaucracies. He has discovered that "no" does not necessarily mean no, and "slow" does not necessarily mean stop, but it is very important to push. When people start pushing back, he knows that he is getting closer to the core of the situation. He feels that his biggest strength is having a lot of experience developing alternative funding and spreading that money around in a way that benefits the most people. The budget for the event that he is holding in Boston had a starting budget of about $100,000, had the budget dropped to $60,000 after the federal government decided not to fund parts of the event, but is still making the event go. The organization asks for more public participation and greater contributions from private businesses to make things go forward.
Member Lorenzo asked, with regard to the Strategic Plan and the Master Plan, how important is public participation. Mr. Staudt said he was not here when the original focus groups were held. It is absolutely critical, however. He is involved with his subdivision and has written several small newsletters highlighting items, but he will also sit in on a few meetings to gain insight from his subdivision’s residents as to what is important and necessary. He has never lived in a community like Novi with so many resources and so many people, and so little interest in many of the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry programs. He grew up in a small town where these programs were central to many lives. He understands why things are different here, but they can be difficult and frustrating as well. It is important to market the programs better than they have been, according to the Strategic Plan, and let people know what programs are available. Member Lorenzo asked if the Commission is planning on holding more public hearings in the future to increase public participation in the programs. Mr. Staudt said he did not know the next step, but said the Strategic Plan needs several more revisions and eventually needs review by the City Manager’s office, but would absolutely encourage public participation in the process. At the Commission’s meetings, it encourages any participation. At the last meeting, they actually prioritized a number of elements in the plan. It is absolutely critical to get the public more involved.
Member Landry said he applauds Mr. Staudt for his participation and his enthusiasm. He said he is particularly impressed with the initiative of the entire board to attempt to create the foundation and not wait for City Council to get the job done. Mr. Staudt’s Board and Commission has a particular charge, and they seem to be going about and doing it. He also commended Mr. Staudt for keeping an eye not only on youth, but also on adults his age, in encouraging recreational activities for this age group. He knows that Mr. Staudt and his company have personally supported the theaters, and print the program. He also asked the Commission to continue this support, as it serves a vital function in promoting recreational activity for all ages. Member Landry’s questions were already answered, and he applauded Mr. Staudt’s efforts. Mr. Staudt thanked Member Landry, and said that he wrote sample bylaws for a potential foundation, and submitted them to the packet for this month’s review by his co-Commissioners.
Mayor Clark said his questions had all been answered, but also wished to commend Mr. Staudt for a job well done and his time spent on the Commission. He also particularly appreciated Mr. Staudt’s comments tonight with reference to both setting up a foundation and also pursuing grants whenever available. The Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission is certainly headed in the right direction, and he has seen substantial progress made. Mr. Staudt thanked Mayor Clark for serving the City.
7:53 Toni Nagy, Planning Commission
Ms. Nagy said that Mayor Clark has done a terrific job in office; she commends him, and has enjoyed supporting him. She is currently the Chairman of the Planning Commission in Novi, and is currently serving on the Master Plan, the Liaison Committee, and the Implementation Committee. She has served as President of the Lakewood Park Homes Condominium Association, and is currently Vice-President. She was the Treasurer of Citizens for Roads, an organization that supported the successful 2000 Novi road bond. She is an annual participant of Novi’s Bird Day and River Day activities. Ms. Nagy thanked Mr. Printz, Mr. Maurice, and Mr. McCusker, as the recent River Day was very successful.
Member Sanghvi said that as he was saying earlier to Mayor Clark and also to Mr. Helwig, he finds it awkward to be asking Ms. Nagy questions, as he recently served with her only a few months ago. Dr. Sanghvi asked for clarification about some marks on the educational background portion of her application. She said the initials in question stood for "Certified Court Reporter", "Registered Professional Reporter", and "Bachelor of Arts." Dr. Sanghvi asked Ms. Nagy how she felt the Planning Commission would respond to the Smart Growth problem in the community. Ms. Nagy responded that the community is a little late to adopt Smart Growth, as it is nearly built out. Smart Growth and a business plan go hand in hand. The Commission is working on the master plan, and is going corridor by corridor. It would like to see an increase in the tax base, as currently 61% of the City’s tax base comes from residential properties. They would like to see good business activity within the City. Preserving open spaces may help the City. However, acting on Smart Growth is something that should have, perhaps, been undertaken 15 years ago. The Commission is doing the best it can with what it has. Dr. Sanghvi thanked Ms. Nagy.
Member Lorenzo said that Ms. Nagy wrote on her application that she wanted to continue to serve in order to continue working on the master plan update. She asked Ms. Nagy to describe some challenges that she feels will occur with the evolution of the master plan. Ms. Nagy said one of the challenges with the master plan is that the City does not have much land left that can be built out on. One of the difficulties is what she would consider "spot zoning." The Committee has been working studiously twice a month working on the master plan. A number of applicants come in and want to change zoning, which could be exactly the corridor that the organization is working on. She feels that spot zoning is the most dangerous thing that happens to the master plan. Sometimes what happens is the Commission has good intentions and rezones one area, but then surrounding areas will request rezoning. The Committee and Commission have very good people serving, and would like to plan what is left, not only in terms of economics, but also in aesthetic appeals. They still have not had a chance to plan Grand River, which will likely become the City’s main thoroughfare with the widening of lanes. There is some nice activity going on there between Haggerty and Meadowbrook. Before the Commission is the gateway ordinance that it just received from Council, and this will be reviewed soon. The largest problem is avoiding spot zoning and following the master plan.
Member Lorenzo asked what Ms. Nagy felt her particular contribution has been to the Commission, and asked what the Commission as a whole has accomplished during her time served. Ms. Nagy said her contribution to the Commission has been her dedication to upholding her oath. She has upheld ordinances, but has been flexible. A personal contribution to the Commission has been her attempts to continue the excellent camaraderie amongst members.
Member Lorenzo asked if there were any frustrations that Ms. Nagy would like to share with Council. Ms. Nagy said that she wished Council could have provided a budget so the Commission could have attended a seminar. She has attended some seminars and they are of great benefit. The Commission was not requesting to be sent somewhere far away like Colorado. It is interesting to attend seminars up north, because attendees could attend seminars and bring information back, but could also discuss issues with other attendees and see how other Cities are doing things and handling situations.
Member Landry thanked Ms. Nagy for her service, and thanked her for again being willing "to throw her hat in and serve the City on the Planning Commission.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked Ms. Nagy how owning a small business has enabled her to deal with the challenge of working with the Planning Commission. Ms. Nagy responded that what she takes forward from her business to be Chair of the Planning Commission is the same thing as dealing with employees. This is not how she treats her fellow Commissioners, but some of the skills include building consensus, keeping morale up, and allowing people to disagree but move on without resentment. Other ways that business helps is in providing a reality about finances. When working on the Commission, one needs to realize the fiscal realities faced by businesses and the City.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked Ms. Nagy, other than funding to attend more seminars, what other resource the Commission could use more of, but not necessarily one in the form of money. Ms. Nagy said it would be difficult to identify a particular resource, but she likes the fact that the Planning Commission employs a consultant, Rod Arroyo. With all due respect to the Planning Department, none of its employees have a lot of "history." History is very important when working with a periodically-changing Commission and Mr. Arroyo is a great resource to be able to ask questions of about the past. Other important resources are informational. The more information a Commissioner is provided with, the better their decisions will be. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi thanked Ms. Nagy for coming.
8:07 Lynne Paul, Planning Commission
Ms. Paul said she took over Member Landry’s spot on the Planning Commission and has been serving for about a year and a half there. Her education is in nursing, and holds a master’s degree, and as a nurse practitioner functioned in oncology. She believes this gives her a good deal of insight regarding safety of site plans. She also has education as an interior designer, and has taken art classes which serve her in assisting with site plans for the beautification of the City. She has a lot of interaction with community members, and learns what things are important to people. When the public hearing occurs, she finds it interesting to hear what everyone’s subjects are. There are a wide range of individuals serving on the Planning Commission, but they function together quite well as a unit. She is on the Implementation Committee, the Environmental Committee, and the Budget Committee. On the Implementation Committee, she brought forward the façade review. Council should have this information before it hopefully by early Fall. The Committee has a meeting scheduled for August to review the ordinance changes that have been implemented. As a Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commissioner noted before, the slow process is sometimes difficult, but she is looking forward to everyone’s input. The main purpose for the façade review is to avoid another instance like Broadmoor Park, where buildings have the exact same rooflines, facades, and windows.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said that as a health care professional, Ms. Paul must have had a certain way of communicating with her customers, patients. She asked what Ms. Paul’s plan is, and how she executes effective communication with her customers on the Planning Commission, including fellow Commissioners, applicants who come before the Commission, staff, and anyone else who does business with the Planning Commission. Ms. Paul responded that the most important thing is to listen. When someone listens to consultants, staff, and anyone who participates in public hearings, and reads provided information to be prepared, the person is able to communicate with fellow Commissioners in a proper manner. She also feels that one can listen to people just by being in the community, discussing issues that community members might not know about, and those people are better informed and more interested in the public hearing process.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked how Ms. Paul felt she could use her communications skills and experience in handling problem solving issues that come before the Planning Commission. Ms. Paul said the main thing that needs to be looked at is the safety issue, and if the site will be a viable solution in the long-term for the City. When a Commissioner looks at all the information, they have to communicate their thoughts and share them, and hopefully look at ordinances and see how they are implemented. At times, the ordinances are being changed or are in the process of being changed, such as the landscaping ordinance. TCF Bank recently came before the Commission, and the Commission requested that TCF follow the new landscape ordinance, and the Bank decided that it would put in more islands with different plantings. This communication is just one single example of how communication can work at the table. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi thanked Ms. Paul.
Member Landry noted that Ms. Paul is admittedly a visual person, and asked her how the City is doing on facades. Ms. Paul said that when Broadmoor Park is considered, she said "we missed" in a few areas. Façade reviews are just one example of how a site plan turns out. The visual beauty can be enhanced by landscaping, and a site also has to be aesthetically pleasing to customers. The site across from Providence Park where Home Depot and Kroger are located was a missed opportunity. This is a lovely place to go, and there are some great services offered, but the small business people in the back of the site that are not as visible are a missed opportunity. Home Depot could have been tucked in the corner and does not have to be quickly visible. Many little businesses are having a tough time surviving, such as Jake’s Fish Market. She enjoyed this restaurant, and it was sad to see the business turn over so quickly. She has read articles which discuss that dark glass means that "no one is home," and does not provide a welcoming atmosphere. This is a disadvantage in regards to a façade. The clear glass in shops of downtown Northville and Birmingham allow customers to look in on displays. At Jake’s Fish Market, the restaurant always had the blinds down to block the sun in the front of the building, the site is at the corner, so nobody could tell if the restaurant was actually open. The dark window glass was a detriment to that facility. Member Landry thanked Ms. Paul for her willingness to serve.
Member Lorenzo said she was going to ask Ms. Paul the same questions that she posed to other candidates, and asked her for her opinions about challenges, accomplishments, and frustrations. Ms. Paul asked to share her accomplishments first. The accomplishments of the Planning Commission regarding changes in ordinances have required hard work. The other accomplishment would be the Environmental Committee, where they are working on the woodlands plan as a resource tool to enhance. The Commission has worked with some very good people in the Plan Review Center; some are new, some are more seasoned. This has been probably the greatest challenge. There have been some people who have come on staff that are very good, and some that the Commission is working on regarding written materials. These are challenges, and they share them with the Director who hopefully directs the different people to implement changes. The three people that serve on the Board for the Planning Commission have also been instrumental in communicating this information with them. A number of meetings have been held to share concerns, such as with Mr. Helwig and Mr. Evancoe. Another challenge was with the minutes, as the Commission had a person who quit, then used a court reporter who recorded verbatim minutes, then switched to a new staff member, and this was a difficult transition. The Commission is still working on this and it is coming along.
Member Lorenzo asked Ms. Paul what she sees as the challenges that lie ahead regarding completion of the master plan update. Ms. Paul said that the City is almost split in half between suburban and rural areas. It is a desirable community, and the master plan must be kept in check and be altered as things are changed. This has to be done as a body, but not as spot zoning. The big challenge is to treat the document as an entire plan, and not as small sections. Member Lorenzo thanked Ms. Paul.
Member Sanghvi asked Ms. Paul how she felt that Smart Growth would affect the Planning Commission’s future actions. Ms. Paul said that "Smart Growth" seems like the new buzzword. There is a way to implement Smart Growth, but it needs to be done by both the Planning Commission and City Council. An area that the Commission could have focused on was continuing and finishing Main Street before moving on to Fountain Walk. She believes that Fountain Walk has a lot of nice features, but the Commission should have finished one project before undertaking two.
Member Sanghvi said he believes that conferences and seminars are one of the more important aspects of training for all commissions. He asked Ms. Paul why she wanted to continue serving on the Planning Commission. She responded that in a year and a half, she has learned much, but has much more to go. She has learned about laws and ordinances, and has really enjoyed working with site plans to be win-win situations for residents and the business community.
Mayor Clark asked Ms. Paul for the one thing that she would like to change regarding the operation of the Planning Commission. Ms. Paul said this would be that the Commission could have a meeting every 6 months to have communication items addressed. The Commission decided 6 months ago what its goals were, and this needs to be done specifically at 6 months, perhaps even at 3 to 4 months. It is very difficult to do when the agenda is packed with public hearings and there are many other items that need to be covered. There are 3 or 4 ordinances that will soon be coming before the Commission. Each ordinance can require several hours of review by the Commission, and therefore it is very hard to keep the channel of communication open when considering the magnitude of work that needs to be accomplished for the business community, and implement ideas in a timely manner. Her idea would be to have a meeting every 3 or 4 months to discuss communication, goal setting, the budget, and such issues. Mayor Clark thanked Ms. Paul, and said he appreciated all the service she has already provided to the community.
8:23 Lynn Kocan, Planning Commission
Ms. Kocan thanked Mayor Clark for his service, and wished him the best. She has lived in Novi for fifteen and a half years, and married and has two children, including a daughter that is graduating from Michigan State University this year, and a son at Novi High School. She works part-time as a financial administrator for a substance abuse prevention firm, has a B.B.A. in management from Eastern Michigan University, with a minor in accounting. She was appointed to the Planning Commission in January of 2001 after having served on the Zoning Board of Appeals for 6 months. During that time, she worked with extremely knowledgeable and dedicated people. The history and knowledge of the various members has helped with her perspective, and she has also been able to bring something to the table with them, in terms of compatibility issues, berm requirements, noise considerations, and special land use issues. She presently serves 5 committees of the Planning Commission, is administrative liaison with the other two officers. They meet regularly and as needed to keep the lines of communication open between the Commission and City staff. On the Implementation Committee, they have worked very hard to enact new ordinances, revise existing ordinances, and clean up ambiguous language throughout. It is their goal to try to revisit the entire ordinance within the next two years, to try to get it to read clearly and unambiguously. She is also on the Budget and Studies Committee, and they try to balance the setting and accomplishment of goals within City budget restrictions. The biggest project is the master plan. It is unfortunate that Council did not have the Commission’s minutes and Budget Committee minutes when it was reviewing the latest budget and Capital Improvements Program recommendations. Council received some incorrect and incomplete information that evening, and they have asked staff that this never happens again so that Council knows what they are asking for and why. On the Rules Committee, they have done an entire revision of the rules and enhanced these. She also sat on the Woodlands Review Board, which ended last month with the revised makeup of the Board. If staff has not yet asked Council, she knows that there will be an inquiry from staff to ask if last year’s Woodlands Review Board can reconvene. There was an issue worked on last year that needs to be resolved. There may be a time issue in which a developer wants to build on his property, and wants to have a meeting as soon as possible. She has also served in the past on the Communications and Community Liaison Committee which devised the open items summary to keep Council and the Planning Commission updated on planning issues discussed at both tables. Neither group has seen the document since January because of staff turnover, but they have been assured that this will be online as soon as possible. In April of 2002, she attended the Chicago Planning Conference and attended 10 seminars on topics such as land dispute resolution, balancing growth and livability, future of community planning, and some of these ideas are applicable to the City of Novi. Her goal is to limit the amount of litigation in the City, and anything that can be done to work towards this is in the best interests of the City. She has been involved extensively in numerous community activities. She is practical, analytical, and reasonable. The City needs a mix of residential, commercial, industrial, and high-tech developments to ease the residential tax burdens. Being practical, she realizes that property owners have the right to utilize their property, but they have to do this within the limits of ordinances and the master plan. Being in finance, she is very detail oriented. She asks questions about every case and site plan. With regard to being reasonable, she tried to be broad-minded and fair, realizing that every situation is unique. She wants to use what she’s learned to continue her tenure on the Planning Commission. The most important component is process. The Commission needs to follow the process from the developers being heard in the right committee meetings, to residents being heard at public hearings, to Council hearing recommendations from the Planning Commission. Skipping one of these areas causes tension. The process needs to be provided for everyone. Motions need to be very specific. Development does not happen in a vacuum. In the beginning it was very easy to look at a project and get caught up in its aesthetics. She believes there is a need for practical and understandable ordinances. She enjoys being on the Implementation Committee because she likes to do "nitty-gritty" work. It is important to be consistent in ordinance enforcement to minimize litigation. Developers are willing to compromise, but it is important to know when negotiations are over. Not everyone has to agree, but there needs to be mutual respect for everyone’s opinion, which is the case on the Planning Commission.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi commented on a recent Planning Commission meeting that she saw on television. She said that at a point in the meeting, someone noted that an issue could be a noise issue. She said that an industrial adjacency expert would intervene and the person’s concerns would be allayed. She knows that this issue goes "way back" with Ms. Kocan. The ordinances that affect adjacency issues have changed somewhat. The Mayor Pro Tem asked Ms. Kocan if these ordinances have changed enough. Ms. Kocan replied that developers want to do away with the request of having a noise expert, which she does not find acceptable. She would not go to a noise analyst and ask that person to determine environmental issues. She is adamant that certified noise engineers are needed. The 10-15 foot berm tends to only be 10 feet tall, and this could be worked on a little harder. She has yet to see a berm with 80-90% opacity within 2 years. The plans look good when proposed, but she does not believe that those berms are near 80% opacity. The other issue that will be considered soon by the Implementation Committee is that lighting on buildings abutting residential properties are allowed to be 25 feet tall. On numerous site plans, lighting is at 15 to 18 foot levels, so there is no reason to have 25 foot lighting backing up to residential properties, particularly with 2-story houses. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi thanked Ms. Kocan for her service and for reapplying.
Member Sanghvi said he has nothing but praise for the way Ms. Kocan functions. He asked Ms. Kocan how she felt the City can work with Smart Growth. Ms. Kocan said this depends on what is meant by "Smart Growth." In theory, Smart Growth is a good idea, and people need to be aware that building out brings ramifications. In the next 50 years, the cost to extend water and sewer out further from urban areas will be massive. There is no source of funding for this. In theory, Smart Growth makes sense, but asked if you can ask a community to stop growing. The concept wants a community to look at its effects on other communities.
Member Sanghvi mentioned an earlier comment that said the City’s tax base is 61% residential, and that a greater business tax base is needed. He asked how the Planning Commission can help do this. Ms. Kocan responded that the master plan is the most critical item for this. She treats the master plan as written in stone, for the reason that the document incorporates years and years of intelligence and experience in trying to divide land among different uses. By changing those land uses by rezoning, she looks to replace the lost land use property. She is hesitant to make major changes to the master land use plan without a strong reason to do so. Dr. Sanghvi thanked Ms. Kocan.
Member Lorenzo said she shares Ms. Kocan’s concerns about how the City will wind up when built out, and the possible need to raise taxes because of an imbalance between residential and non-residential land uses. She asked Ms. Kocan what her biggest surprise has been by serving as a Planning Commissioner instead of participating as a concerned resident. Ms. Kocan responded that her biggest surprise was that she can live with the decisions that she makes. She postponed applying for the Commission for years because she often wants to please everyone. She knows that she makes the best decision that she can, based on the all the provided information.
Member Lorenzo asked Ms. Kocan for her frustrations, challenges, or personal accomplishments that she would like to share. Ms. Kocan said an accomplishment has been ordinance revisions. Some challenges have included switching from outside consultants to in-house consultants. She appreciates anyone who can bring history to the Planning Commission because history is just as important as ordinance enforcement. Frustrations are when staff, Council, or someone else misinterprets a Planning Commission decision, such as with the Novi Expo Center. Another frustration is when the Commission is looked on as being negative to development, when in fact it is trying to make the plan better.
Member Landry said that with all respect to the other Planning Commissioners, Ms. Kocan is the most detailed Planning Commissioner that he has ever seen. He noted that due to a recent change in the law, it is an option for a municipality to have the City Council have the last word on the master plan instead of the Planning Commission. He asked Ms. Kocan which body is in a better position to have a final say on the master plan. Ms. Kocan said that because Council is elected, she has no problem with Council having the final say. She said that the Planning Commission has to be involved with the process, but the more eyes involved on a document, the better that document will be. She understands that there are relatively few things that the Planning Commission has responsibility for. If Council takes the Commission’s recommendation and hears what the Commissioners have to say, Council will have the information to make the best decision. Member Landry said that he felt the decision should rest with the Planning Commission, but thanked Ms. Kocan very much for her answer and for being willing to serve again.
Mayor Clark recalled Ms. Kocan’s prior involvement as a citizen who shared her input at numerous Planning Commission meetings when an industrial facility was proposed behind Meadowbrook Lake. The resolution of the matter had a great deal to do with her input. She has given countless hours to the City as a concerned citizen. He said that any community would be very fortunate to have Ms. Kocan as a member.
8:49 Susan Engebretson, Parks, Recreation & Forestry
Ms. Engebretson said she has lived in the Novi community for the past 16 years. She has been a stay-at-home mom for the past 5 years, but before that was in the insurance industry for the prior 12 years, including 6 years in public accounting. She is a C.P.A. in the State of Michigan, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Michigan with a concentration in accounting. She has 3 sons, all of whom have participated in Novi Parks, Recreation, and Forestry programs. She is married, and her husband has coached various youth programs for the past 6 years. She is interested in participating with the Commission because it is an opportunity to contribute talents to the community, and the Commission has enhanced the talents of community members. Ms. Engebretson asked to outline qualities that she would bring to the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission. She has demonstrated in her professional life an ability to prioritize effectively. When she worked in the financial analysis arena, she prioritized between projects with limited resources. This is a crucial asset to any organization with limited resources and unlimited means. She has effective organizational skills. She spent 1 year with the Novi youth baseball league, and she was personally responsible for the registration, evaluation, and drafting of over 360 youth in the Novi community. She received many positive comments about how effectively and efficiently the process was run. She has family that participates in the community, and knows many longtime residents who can provide important feedback about community issues.
Member Sanghvi asked Ms. Engebretson what role she felt she would be playing in the creation of the foundation if she was selected for the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission. Ms. Engebretson said she has a financial background and understands costs and benefits well, which is important with an organization, especially when soliciting funds from the community. It is important to communicate where those funds will be spent, and to use them efficiently. Dr. Sanghvi said that she had told him enough, and said that Ms. Engebretson would be a great team player in the coming exciting time for the Novi Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission.
Member Lorenzo asked Ms. Engebretson what she hoped to accomplish, and what she hoped the Commission to accomplish, in the time that she would be serving. She also asked for comments about how the City’s recreational programs are run, and how facilities appear. Ms. Engebretson said that the two answers are intertwined. The biggest challenge facing the recreation and forestry area is the growth of the community. Anyone who has been to Community Sports Park can tell that the facilities are greatly used. With the continued growth, there will have to be significant thought as to how this will be managed, and provide for adequate participation in programs, for all ages and groups. This is a good challenge, as this is a tremendous city with numerous resources. She said that some facilities are rather dated, and hopes to be able to improve those facilities for future use.
Member Lorenzo asked Ms. Engebretson if she was aware that the Commission is currently undertaking the Strategic Master Plan, which Ms. Engebretson said she was aware of. Member Lorenzo asked how important Ms. Engebretson felt communication is in the process, and how she would accomplish this. Ms. Engebretson responded that public participation is crucial, because she believes in service to the ultimate customer, which is the community taxpayer. Without their input, a plan can’t be created that works for the best of the community. She does not know how the Commission meetings are run, but she believes that they should be an open forum that encourages input from the community as to what they feel the Strategic Plan should be.
Member Landry thanked Ms. Engebretson for her willingness to serve the City. He asked her what she thought would be the appropriate mix of recreational activities for the City, split between sporting and non-sporting activities. Ms. Engebretson said this depends on the community and what the demand is. She said it appears that the sporting arena has a greater demand in the City, adequate demand would be ample reason to expand the Theater program. Member Landry asked if she believed that the Board should wait and react that to the demands of residents, or if she felt the Board should be pro-active and should look into developing programs to encourage people to be active. Ms. Engebretson said she would strongly prefer to be pro-active, because "it is too late to close the barn door if the horse is already gone." If a program is already filled, it is too late to allow others to participate in that activity. The best way to be pro-active is to listen to the community’s needs.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi proposed a scenario to Ms. Engebretson: she has a magic wand after having been a user and customer of the City’s recreational facilities, and can do a single thing to improve the Parks and Recreation system. She asked Ms. Engebretson what this would be, considering her prioritizing skills. Ms. Engebretson said her interest would be to make sure that every child in the youth sports program has a positive experience, with an emphasis on development instead of winning. Her interest would be to allow any adults that want to participate in adult programs that ability. She said there is no easy answer to this question, but that youth especially need to be encouraged to participate without some constrictions consistent with today’s society.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi proposed another scenario to Ms. Engebretson: there is a hot, loaded issue with many polarized opinions, and Ms. Engebretson is the swing voter. She asked how Ms. Engebretson would justify her position. Ms. Engebretson said she believed she has always voted her conscience, and does what’s right for the community as a whole. This is how she would vote.
Mayor Clark asked Ms. Engebretson if she felt that the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission is heading in the right direction. Ms. Engebretson said this is absolutely the case.
9:01 Charles Staab, Parks, Recreation & Forestry
Mr. Staab said he has lived in Novi with his family for 20 years. They have owned 2 different homes and are proud to call Novi their home. They have 3 children that have participated in Parks and Recreation programs and graduated from Novi High School. He loves Novi and calls it home. He has served on the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission for 9 years, and has been through many ups, downs, positives and negatives. He believes that the Commission is heading in the right direction. The Strategic Plan will eventually be presented to Council for review and acceptance. This document will provide a roadmap for the future direction of the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry department. Going forward, he sees many challenges on the forefront. The biggest challenge is measured in dollars. This subject has been broached well recently by considering the formation of a foundation for alternative financing. He has worked with foundations through civic organizations. He is past president of the Novi Jaycees, and was past community development vice-president of the Michigan Jaycees. That program and training helped him find different ways to finance programs, and this is needed at Novi to make its parks world-class.
Member Sanghvi asked Mr. Staab if the city’s recreation program should be concentrating on other areas than sports and athletics. Mr. Staab answered that the City needs a good blending of various programs. He said that Novi does a good job of this right now, with an excellent arts and theater program. The needs of seniors are also addressed with the opening of the Meadowbrook Commons establishment. He said the City does an excellent job of addressing other sectors than just youth sports. Dr. Sanghvi said he agreed with Mr. Staab’s views on the subject, but asked if the City is doing enough for after-hours and summer teen programs. Mr. Staab said that there was a sponsored program that closed last year that offered drop in programs for teens in the summer. He said that to the best of his knowledge, this needed to be addressed better. Mr. Staab noted that many teens still participate in youth sports, as well as the theater program.
Member Lorenzo said that because Mr. Staab has a significant amount of history on the Commission, she would ask him some questions. She asked what his position was when the Ice Arena was first recommended to City Council. Mr. Staab said he was very favorable towards this. Member Lorenzo asked why. Mr. Staab responded that it provided another venue for the community’s youth to participate in. He also felt that the Ice Arena could eventually be profitable for the City. When it was finalized, the Ice Arena was under a separate domain, Community Clubs, which provided no oversight at the time. Member Lorenzo asked him if he was happy with the circumstances, and if he was aware that the Ice Arena owes the City’s general fund almost $800,000. Mr. Staab answered he was very aware of this, and that this problem has been addressed by hiring different Arena management.
Member Lorenzo asked how the Novi Parks, Recreation, and Forestry program has only reached "adequate" levels, and not "world class." Mr. Staab said that Commission has brought forward a program for Community Sports Park that could get the City’s program close to being world class. Member Lorenzo commented that this occurred this year, and asked what happened last year, and five years before that. Mr. Staab said that because of the Sandstone issue, many proposed projects and programs were put on hold. The Commission had spent countless hours trying to determine the way to develop the North Novi program. He noted that money is still a concern, and alternative financing needs to be investigating so that programs can pay for themselves, and also to bring more money into the coffers. With the approval of the Strategic Plan, the Commission will be able to apply for State grants.
Member Lorenzo asked how important public participation is, and how the Commission plans on undertaking that. Mr. Staab said that public participation is the bedrock of the land. A year ago, brainstorming groups were held, and these ideas were formatted into different programs and such. This has been formatted into a plan, and will soon present it to Council, then will have another public hearing to get more input, and finalize the plan. Member Lorenzo asked if it is essential to have citizens buy into the Commission’s plan, or to get input of what citizens want to see in the plan. Mr. Staab responded that it is more essential to find what citizens want in the plan.
Member Lorenzo asked Mr. Staab if there were any frustrations, challenges, or accomplishments that he would like to share. He responded that Community Sports Park has come a long way, but needs to go further. The Senior Citizens’ Center is a fantastic facility, and Kathy Crawford and her group do an excellent job of running that. The Commission’s biggest accomplishment during his tenure was the construction, with no City money, of the Tim Pope play structure 6 or 7 years ago. This was done with a group of concerned citizens, used public input, and was put together on a Fathers’ Day weekend. The largest challenge continues to be funding for various programs. Also, the lack of a plan was a problem until the present. He said that an organization without a plan is like a boat without a rudder. The Ice Arena has been an albatross at times. At times, taking directions from Council on how to move forwards has also caused challenges.
Member Landry noted that Mr. Staab must be very proud of his children’s accomplishment, which Mr. Staab said he definitely was. Member Landry said that unlike other applicants at the meeting, he does not know Mr. Staab personally, but has seen him operate in his position. Member Landry commented that at a meeting in 1995 regarding the Aquatics facility, Mr. Staab sat on the Board, and provided the most direct answers at that meeting. He asked Mr. Staab what is unique about parks and recreation in Novi. Mr. Staab answered that the City offers such a wide range of programs. The City is a great backer of parks and recreation, and it can get citizens’ groups together. The community is still growing, and still has a ways to go in finishing its programs and facilities.
Mayor Clark noted his appreciation that Mr. Staab is willing to dedicate his time and service to serving the City again, and thanked him.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked how Mr. Staab utilizes his team building skills at the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission, particularly regarding problem solving. Mr. Staab responded that because he is the sage of the organization, he can reflect on historical data and information many times. Often, newer members aren’t aware of historical events and information. He always consults other opinions and seeks input before making decisions.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked if Mr. Staab was satisfied with the financial resources provided to the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission in the City’s current budget, and also asked if he could be provided with a percentage of the budget, what it would be. Mr. Staab answered that he was not satisfied, but he has never been satisfied. He appreciates what Council goes through to allocate money to all the different needs of the City. He said that percentage-wise, he would like to have double what the Commission currently has, if not more than that.
9:21 David Lipski, Planning Commission; Beautification;
Parks, Recreation & Forestry
Mr. Lipski said he has two sons and a wife. He believes he has a responsibility and an opportunity to bring expertise to the Planning Commission. He said that he submitted the application with ranked priorities for the commissions that he would like to serve on, but having listened to earlier interviews in the evening, did not believe he was qualified to serve on the Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Commission, and wished to withdraw the application to serve on both that commission, as well as the Beautification Commission.
Mr. Lipski believes that the Planning Commission could use a resource that could sense "red flags" in drafting documents and decision making. In his profession of law, preventive drafting is used, in which things are looked at ahead of time to avoid consequences. It is important to watch things from a global perspective and from a legal perspective. When the Commission has the appearance of being heavy-handed on an issue, there can become community movements with dissention and resulting tension. He believes the Planning Commission could use someone who watches presentations and comments from the bench. He has had little involvement with the City or the Planning Commission, but knows what he knows more from reading the newspaper. Mr. Lipski’s second reason for applying is that he loves the town. He said that it is amazing that he never has to leave during the week. Deerfield Elementary School is one of the most remarkable schools that he has ever seen. He would like to offer expertise, as the head of a real estate department in a firm with 100 lawyers and offices in Michigan and Illinois, as a real estate litigator, and he just wants to help his community.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked Mr. Lipski if he would consider serving on the Zoning Board of Appeals, which was not being discussed during the evening, which Mr. Lipski answered that he absolutely would. She asked him if he anticipated possibly greeting past, present, or future clients as a Planning Commissioner. Mr. Lipski responded that should he be confronted on the Commission by a present client, there would have to be a system to recuse himself on the issue. He said he would also not accept representation if it involved the City of Novi. There are rules governing his conduct as a professional. He speaks the language of the developer, as well as the language of being a citizen of Novi. He said it would "go miles" in assisting the Commission in understanding issues involving developers. His involvement in organizations and publications in the area would make him a well-educated Planning Commissioner. He is protective of his town, and he is loyal of where his family is, but it would also be useful to have a strong understanding of developers.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked Mr. Lipski for his opinion on the Bolt decision, and its implication on storm water issues. Mr. Lipski said he could not comment because he was not aware of the decision.
Member Landry thanked Mr. Lipski for his willingness and zeal to serve his city. He asked Mr. Lipski if he is the head of the real estate division at Howard and Howard. Mr. Lipski replied that this was correct, and noted that the real estate department is a sub-group of the corporate practice group, but he is the youngest head of the department in the firm’s history. Member Landry asked how many lawyers worked in that real estate department. Mr. Lipski said there were a "strong 10" attorneys, but that a number of people had joined the group and that the actual mailing list went to 20 lawyers. Member Landry asked Mr. Lipski if he appeared often before other planning commissions in other municipalities. Mr. Lipski stated that he appears mostly in District and Circuit Court, and the Court of Appeals, on various real estate disputes. He has a specialist on his firm who typically handles cases before Planning Commissions. Member Landry thanked Mr. Lipski for his application, and noted that if he was not selected for the Planning Commission that he should apply again.
Member Lorenzo asked Mr. Lipski to identify the case and the community that he is currently participating in litigation against. Mr. Lipski said he is representing a religious institution that at times has been adverse to the Township of West Bloomfield. In the case, which has been difficult, involved the Township blaming the synagogue for the death of 5 acres of trees, which was actually due to the blockage of a culvert. Member Lorenzo commented that she was familiar with similar issues, such as Briarwood. Mr. Lipski said that in the case, while the Planning Commission had persons with personal issues against the applicant, the Township Board had the power to trump the decision of the Planning Commission. He said that in this decision, justice was served because a higher body had the ability to review what a Commission had done at a lower level.
Member Lorenzo asked if Howard and Howard had an Ann Arbor Office, which Mr. Lipski said was correct. Member Lorenzo asked if Mr. Lipski was aware that Howard and Howard was representing the plaintiff in the case of Paragon vs. the City of Novi. Mr. Lipski said that this was true, as the attorney representing the plaintiff had just recently joined his firm. Member Lorenzo said she would not feel comfortable with Mr. Lipski representing the City on its Planning Commission. Mr. Lipski asked when the term of the Planning Commissioner commenced, which Member Lorenzo said was July 1. Mr. Lipski said he respected Member Lorenzo’s opinion.
Member Sanghvi said that other than the conflict of interest item mentioned, he had no trouble supporting his nomination for the Planning Commission. Dr. Sanghvi said that there could be an obvious conflict of interest by this appointment, but that Mr. Lipski is a very valuable asset to the community. He said that the City should find a way to utilize Mr. Lipski’s services in one form or another. Dr. Sanghvi said he was very impressed with Mr. Lipski’s experience, personality and presentation, and would be quite an asset to the City. Member Sanghvi said he was very happy that Mr. Lipski is willing to serve the community.
Dr. Sanghvi said he did not know if Mr. Lipski was aware that the City is rewriting several ordinances, including wetlands, but said that his opinions regarding the documents would be extremely helpful. Mr. Lipski said he would make this a priority and would be glad to help.
Mayor Clark wished Mr. Lipski well, and said that he hoped to see Mr. Lipski serving in some capacity for the community.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - None
There being no further business to come before the Council, the meeting was adjourned at 9:40 p.m.
Richard J. Clark, Mayor Nancy Reutter, Deputy Clerk
Transcribed by: Steve King
Date approved: July 7, 2003