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SPECIAL MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI
Mayor Clark called the meeting to order at 7:09 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
ROLL CALL COUNCIL Mayor Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Bononi, Council Members Capello – absent/excused, Csordas – absent/excused, Landry, Lorenzo, Sanghvi
PLANNING COMMISSION Avdoulos, Kocan, Markham, Nagy, Papp, Paul – absent/excused, Ruyle, Sprague, Shroyer
ALSO PRESENT Rick Helwig – City Manager
Clay Pearson – Assistant City Manager
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
CM-03-08-246 Moved by Bononi, seconded by Nagy; CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To approve the agenda as stated
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING
Mayor Clark noted that the purpose of this special meeting was to afford Council and the Planning Commission the opportunity to discuss some issues of common concern to each body, and also to the community at large.
Andrew Mutch, 24521 Hampton Ct., said he supports the residents of the Bristol Corners subdivision in their efforts to address Council and the Planning Commission about their concerns of both the Beck North Corporate Park adjacent to their homes, but also the general development process in Novi. The previous Wednesday evening, the Planning Commission denied the site plan and woodlands permit for the Beck North Corporate Park, but in doing so it became apparent to the Bristol Corners residents that something is wrong with the process of site plan review and woodlands review in Novi. The Bristol Corners residents have been a patient group. They have worked diligently in the past year to address concerns about woodlands removal, the proposed development, the site plan, screening for their homes, and the long term build-out of the development. They have been a reasonable group and have offered alternatives, but have found that the process has left them short.
A big concern which came forward at the last Planning Commission meeting was site plan review. It was announced by the City Attorney that the site plan was not even intended to come before the Planning Commission initially, and it was only upon Council’s statement that the site plan was reviewed by the Commission. There should be something explicit in the City’s ordinance that requires these types of hearings to come before the Planning Commission for review and public hearing. He did not find it acceptable that these residents’ first knowledge of this development would have been the construction of roads in their backyards.
Another major concern is the woodlands review. At that meeting, the Planning Commission was told that it could only consider the woodlands impacted by the proposed roads and utilities - not as it would impact the entire site – even though the City’s own woodlands consultant indicated that the potential impact of the development at build-out would be the loss of upwards of 29,000 trees, including 5,000 regulated trees. Another issue that came forward was the City’s light industrial ordinance. This developer is taking advantage of language in the ordinance that allows them to utilize City property as part of their setback. He hoped that at this evening’s meeting, Council would direct the City Attorney to revise the City’s ordinance to require the setback not to start at the residentially zoned property, but the developer’s own property line.
Mr. Mutch said that Bristol Corners residents would like to see the City-owned property between the Bristol Corners subdivision and proposed Beck North Corporate Park, which is 50 feet wide along the entire length of the property, rezoned from light industrial to residential. This would be a positive move for a number of reasons. First, this proposal is consistent with the goals and objectives of the City’s master plan, by protecting existing residential development from the negative impacts of the proposed development. This is also consistent with the intent of the City’s zoning ordinances, which are intended to "at all times protect neighboring residential districts from any adverse impacts", according to the light industrial ordinance. This rezoning, which would not allow the developer to use the City’s 50 feet of property as their setback, would then provide more opportunity for the preservation of existing woodlands. This would also provide more flexibility for providing buffering and screening required by the light industrial zoning district, one adjacent to a residential zoning district.
Mr. Mutch provided a visual overview of the area in question for Council and the Planning Commission. He noted that the 50-feet-wide buffer between the Bristol Corners sub and Beck North acts as a wildlife habitat corridor, and was donated to the City of Novi. This land is fully owned by the City, and the City is free to request the rezoning of its property. The property is not developable as it is currently zoned, and the residential zoning designation would be appropriate for its use, which is a habitat area and buffer. The intent of this property is to protect the adjoining residential property from the impact of the development of the Northern Equities property, which is not currently happening. Though the developer does not own the property or pay taxes on it, the land is included in the developer’s 100-foot setback. With the rezoning, the 100 feet would then move further back from the residential area, providing enhanced buffering and an improved setback for those residents. Rezoning this property would have no effect on the City’s tax base, as it is tax exempt. The developer has no vested interest in the property, at least the property adjoining the proposed second phase. There is no issue of takings in this situation. The Bristol Corners residents requested that Council and the Planning Commission discuss all of those issues at the evening’s meeting, and direct the City Administration appropriately to move these issues forward.
Kevin Pietrowski, 45716 Bristol Circle, said he agreed with Andrew Mutch and supported Mr. Mutch’s comments. Mr. Pietrowski noted that the City has ordinances that must be followed. There should not be ordinances that are somewhat-followed, and others that are followed. Ordinances should be followed by all people that they apply to, not only residents. There may also be an issue with the way the process is being held. The process should be in place for woodlands that actually protect residents, and he said he was not certain that this was occurring. The process needs to be examined for loopholes or ambiguities. There have already been 13 acres of woodlands removed from the area, and he did not want to see any more cut down. He agreed 100% with the previously mentioned 50 foot rezoning concept. Mr. Pietrowski reiterated that residents do not want water runoff from this new development to flow into the woods, as this would kill trees. In his opinion, the developer is not working whole-heartedly with the neighbors. It is crucial that there is a transition from industrial to residential property. Right now there are woods that provide a buffer, and these woods hold significant value to residents who back up to what will be industrial property.
Jason Roberts, 30377 Balfour Dr. asked that a letter (see attached) written by Derek Darkowski of 30369 Balfour Dr. be put into record, and said he would provide this to Council. Mr. Roberts recalled that residents of the Bristol Corners subdivision have voiced their concerns to Council and the Planning Commission during the past few months regarding the proposed Beck North Phase II development. Mr. Roberts stated that he is not opposed to a light industrial park, and he would like to work in a cooperative manner with both the City and the developer. The land was zoned light industrial, and the developers have the right to develop the property. His concern lies in the belief that the current plan is not in the spirit of business and residential cohabitation that should exist in a great city like Novi. This impacts existing woodlands, property aesthetics, future property values, and potentially, wetlands.
Mr. Roberts said he believes upwards of 13 acres of trees were inappropriately removed from the property without following documents, City ordinance and guidelines. This has already impacted residents’ views, and they are now able to clearly see West Road during the winter months. To his knowledge, there has been no recourse on the issue. Mr. Roberts noted that he was deeply concerned than an environmentally friendly city like Novi would grant a woodlands permit that removes about 26,000 additional trees. His concern is primarily focused on opacity around the perimeter of the development. Finally, he is concerned with how the Planning Commission, which was put in place by the City to enforce an appropriate balance between industrial and residential, could overwhelmingly vote against the current plan, only to be potentially overruled through appeals to other City departments based on interpretation of existing ordinances. He believes that a woodlands permit and a site plan should be a holistic plan that includes all aspects of the development from the start. Examples of this are current and long-term tree removal and preservation, residential screening proposals, and others. His opinion is that the current approvals process does not take this into account. Article 19, titled "Light Industrial Districts", section 1900 of the Novi Code states that "The light industrial district is intended to encourage innovations and variety in type, design, and arrangement of land uses, but at all times to protect neighboring residential districts from any adverse impacts." Mr. Roberts said he wished to respectfully encourage the City Council to act on the residents’ behalf and implement recommendations of the Planning Commissioners presented in past meetings. He said that Mr. Mutch’s idea was very innovative and he supported it.
Mr. Roberts reiterated that his primary concern involved opacity issues resulting from further tree removal, especially during the winter months. Some of his neighbors around Bristol Circle are also concerned with proposed water retention that could result in further loss of trees. He said he would appreciate further investigation into this matter, and thanked Council and the Planning Commission.
Linda Roberts, 30377 Balfour Dr., said that as a resident of the Bristol Corners subdivision, she is very concerned about the proposed Beck Road North Phase II industrial development. At the July 30th meeting, residents went before the Planning Commission with their concerns and proposed solutions, and the Commission voted 8-1 to deny the Beck North II proposal. Residents cited many reasonable alternatives that would satisfy the Commission, as well as the residents, to which the developer stated that the plan would continue "as is." She understands that this means the matter will come before Council and the ZBA for approval on appeal. It concerns her greatly that since 1997, approximately 13 acres of protected woodlands have been removed from the site with no reprisal from the City. The inappropriate tree removal has already negatively affected the abutting homeowners’ views and brought the development closer to the sub. This fact is documented by aerial photography, as well as in the report by the former City of Novi interim woodlands consultant Kenneth Weikal.
The current site plan calls for the protected tree removals for roads, sewers, and dissipation basins, but what is not said is that an estimated additional 4 to 6 acres of trees would be slated for possible removal. The City documentation says that this will include at least 29,000 trees. This area has high quality woodlands with a variety of large, native hardwood trees, and an abundance of wildlife. The developer’s position is that only the roads are currently up for approval. She asked if there is no site plan for the lots, whether roads, sewers, and water basins are needed that must cut directly through the forest. At the last meeting, the Planning Commission commented that the City interpretation of the ordinances is allowing the devastation of protected woodlands and wetlands throughout Novi. She is hopeful that the City will stand up for the ordinances, residents, and the environment. She said she hoped that City officials would take these concerns into account when the matter comes before them. She said she is also in favor of the rezoning of the 50 foot buffer, and thanked Council and the Planning Commission.
Wayne Hogan, 20923 Woodland Glen Dr., asked Council and the Planning Commission to put the first step forward in bringing Novi into the high tech age, by putting materials onto the Internet for review, for all matters which Council and the Planning Commission take care of and are placed on agendas. Using only kiosks and some newspaper ads is archaic, and the City should move forward in making these materials more widely available. Some other cities use alternative formats such as CD’s, and these could be distributed to persons so that they could print out only materials that they desired.
Mr. Hogan also said he would like to see Novi move forward as other progressive communities have, and become a showcase for handicap parking and other mobility impairment barriers. For instance, the ADA law is actually the minimum requirement to conform to, not truly an achievement. Even though the ADA requires that a parking spot must be at least 8 feet wide, all handicap parking spots should be at least 10 feet wide. When curb cuts and other drainage enhancements are made for developments, curb cuts for humans should also be considered. The value should be put towards people first. He would like to see the City put back handicap parking spaces and signs that were removed from Main Street, and would like to see new signs installed on the west side of Market Street, as there are no handicap spaces on Market or Main Street from Grand River to Novi Road. Mr. Hogan asked that people who have the ability to do so walk 750 feet, instead of the people with walkers and wheelchairs. He recalled someone speaking about a push button for the traffic light outside of City Hall, and noted that he had watched a family with four children wait about 5 minutes to cross Ten Mile one day. He would like to see this push button installed so that people can cross Ten Mile, especially during the Civic Center’s hours of operation.
Kellie Hallaron, 30361 Balfour Dr., said she was speaking for both herself and her husband, Scott. They wished to ask City officials to uphold the ordinances, protect its citizens, and be accountable for monitoring the progress of the Beck North Phase II project with due consideration and thought to the impact it will create to the citizens of the Bristol Corners subdivision. The City Planning Commission has twice overwhelmingly rejected Northern Equities’ plan for Phase II, due to numerous problems and detrimental effects to the woodlands, wetlands, and Bristol Corners subdivision. Northern Equities is coming to the City with a faulted plan, and has made itself very clear that it will get its roads approved. This, in turn, will cause even more tree reduction due to the self-imposed hardship of the road. Although Northern Equities and Amsen-Dembs owns this acreage, citizens who also have protected trees on their properties are required to follow ordinances designed to protect trees and wetlands, just as other developers have been required to do. Bristol Corners residents have come before the City and Northern Equities with a willingness to find a middle ground and protect the subdivision from catastrophic impacts that the industrial park will create for Bristol Corners. In addition, the Hallarons support the idea of rezoning the wooded buffer property, as this will help to protect residents from the industrial park. The current zoning of light industrial only benefits the developer to help them use more land, and only causes more encroachment upon the subdivision. Residents will hold the City accountable for upholding its ordinances, fighting for and protecting its citizens, and not caving into developers for fear of revisiting a Sandstone scenario, regardless of how much property Northern Equities is developing in the City. As elected and appointed officials, Council’s first and foremost obligations are to citizens of Novi. Residents will hold officials accountable for following the City ordinances, protecting the citizens, and approving a plan that retains a significant buffer between Bristol Corners and Beck North Phase II, and also retain a reasonable portion of the existing woodlands and wetlands. Alternative solutions to this project are available, and there can be a feasible solution to all involved.
Chairperson Nagy said that Item #1, a-c, were truly coming from the Master Plan Committee, as well as some of the Implementation Committee. The City is due to update the master plan by 2003. In light of the recently approved Gateway ordinance, the Planning Commission hoped to discuss these items to determine Council’s goals regarding these items, and how it foresees that area being developed.
Mayor Clark indicated that Mr. Helwig should feel free to contribute any information.
1. Establishing a City theme/image/identity before build-out
Commissioner Markham said that she serves as the chair of the Master Plan Committee, and wished to speak to this for a moment. The Committee has examined and debated what is important for the next iteration of the master plan. Main Street and the Town Center area are critical to the City. Main Street should thrive, and the Town Center area should be revitalized. What the Committee hopes for are creative ideas and discussion to help bring that along. That area has not established itself as quickly as the City had hoped for, and the Committee would like to work to make that area successful. This is related to the Gateway ordinance, because one would pass through the Gateway area to get to Main Street and Town Center.
Commissioner Markham said that item D is also related, in that the current Expo Center is a highly visible feature at the main exit off I-96 to Novi. The Master Plan Committee would like some thoughts about what to do with that entire corner of the City. The area should be eye-catching and economically viable, and needs to be considered.
Member Sanghvi noted his delight with the joint meeting of the Planning Commission and the City Council. He said the City is at a crossroads: 71% of the City’s tax base is residential; 1700 acres of land is eligible for industrial and other development. Issues such as theme, image and identity of Novi are crucial for the community. He said that if the City continues to develop only residential property while ignoring industrial and tech areas, taxes will eventually need to be raised. Ignoring those sectors will spread the image that doing business in Novi is a horrible thing to do. When he started his doctor’s office in Novi in 1977, he had to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals because he wanted a smaller sign than what was designated for that mall, and this was not a friendly experience for a new business owner. There seems to be a general feeling in City Hall and different Commissions and even parts of the County level that business is a necessary evil. The image of the City needs to be changed to let anyone passing by the City on I-96 and I-275 that this is the best location in southeast Michigan to develop a business in. There is no reason that Novi cannot attract more businesses, but these companies are passing the City up and moving further west. The City needs to announce that Novi welcomes business and industry, and that it is confident in its residential community and does not fear an overtaking by corporations. Novi is already a top-class residential area, and needs to establish itself as a top-class industrial region. All different sectors of our community are interrelated, and must function in unison like a well-oiled machine. New developments must be attracted to the City to ensure that Novi’s tax base is well diversified, so that the City can continue to function and provide good civic amenities.
Commissioner Ruyle suggested identifying those in attendance who serve on the Master Plan Committee, including Chairperson Nagy, Vice-Chair Markham, Commissioner Shroyer, Commissioner Ruyle, and Commissioner Papp now serves as an alternate. He noted that the master plan update is actually not due until 2004, and public input is always welcomed on the document.
Commissioner Shroyer noted that as he is a member of the Master Plan Committee, the City’s image is a very important issue to him. Although the master plan is a 5 year document, any good planner tries to forecast for 20 years. Novi faces the possibility of reaching build-out status within 18 years. If the Committee does its job correctly, the master plan holds an absolutely critical importance for the City. He said he is not yet convinced that Main Street is actually "Main Street." Many of Novi’s own citizens do not yet know where Main Street is. Those unfamiliar with Main Street consider the City’s "Main Street" to be either Novi Road or Grand River Avenue. The Novi Road Corridor Plan and the Grand River Corridor Plan are both very good documents, but he has not seen much actual movement towards implementation of any items, though some items such as the widening of Novi Road are in place. Now is the critical time to develop the center of Novi, if the center of the City is the crossroads of Novi Road and Grand River. He is concerned that if Novi continues moving forward without a City center, then it will never have one. He asked whether Novi wanted the Music and Motor Fest to be the festival for the City is known for. He recalled that his childhood hometown’s annual celebration actually gave people a reason to move to that town, but he has not found any event yet in Novi of such notoriety. It is critical that the City determines a direction that it wants to take to decide its identity.
Commissioner Kocan said she had concerns about the types of developments occupying and moving in to the Main Street and Gateway area of Novi. Those businesses tend to be "box" stores. Most downtown areas feature unique shops that draw customers in, which Novi’s Main Street lacks. Though people have become excited about the bars and restaurants in the City’s downtown, these are nighttime attractions. Parking remains an issue in the Main Street area, as many visitors do not know where to find parking in the area, even though there is considerable parking for customers. If the Main Street area will truly flourish, it needs some considerable change. She is concerned with developer comments encouraging residential development over OST and commercial construction, since the market changes frequently. Issues such as the addition of residential units to the Main Street area must be considered, as well as their potential impacts upon the City. Another item to consider is the future of the Expo Center area, and the Master Plan Committee is looking for opinions on the site. Further regarding the Main Street / Gateway area, beautification of the area also warrants consideration. Canton Township’s beautification requirements are extremely specific, very detailed, and she questioned whether this was the direction that Novi wants to head towards. Dr. Sanghvi mentioned that Novi should be more inviting for businesses to locate in, but very specific ordinances tell a developer exactly how developments must look. Though the Grand River Corridor Plan is very beautiful, it will also likely cost a great deal, and the City needs to determine whether it or developers will pay for these costs.
Member Landry said that developing a city theme is a "tall order." There is not a member of either Council or the Planning Commission that would not love to develop a theme; however, this is quite a difficult task because while the Commission and Council can agree on how they want the City to look, a substantial portion of the property to be dealt with is privately owned. Citizens who own their property have rights to do certain things with that property, and the City can only manage this so far. The other inherent difficulty is that the City is not prepared to spend the money to build the developments it desires. While he agrees with the prior comments that decisions should not be entirely driven by the marketplace, eyes and ears must be kept open to listen to what the market and property owners are saying. As a city government, there are several choices that can be made. Officials could decide on a direction for the City to go in, and pass several strict ordinances that are firmly adhered to. If those hold up in court, either the development will be wonderful if the market favors the required developments, or the City will have a Main Street with one side entirely vacant. One side of Main sits empty and undeveloped right now, while the other side of Main Street features restaurants, a jewelry store, and even a travel agency. Member Landry noted that Royal Oak’s successful downtown is very market-driven, features many restaurants as well, but has seen rental costs actually drive away many long-standing businesses.
Member Landry noted that the Gateway ordinance is on the next Council agenda. One of the things that the City should foster is mixed-use developments to give people a place to walk to. In his opinion, Main Street should be examined at the same time. He said that anytime a journal article lists something as being wrong with a downtown, a photograph of Novi’s Main Street is also printed, even though the City was brave enough to attempt construction of the Main Street area. The Main Street ordinance should perhaps warrant re-examination for relaxation of some standards, including size restrictions of developments. He said these discussions are crucial for the City, but that this is a "tall order."
Chairperson Nagy said that when sitting on the Master Plan Committee, the Main Street and Town Center area was examined because it is so close to the Gateway area and the Novi Road and Grand River area as well. A corridor plan was passed, as well as a beautification plan for Grand River which is very costly. While the restaurants in the Main Street area have been successful, the area still needs help. Some sign ordinances require amendments so that people can know what is in Town Center, and Main Street requires similar help as well. While Royal Oak also features many restaurants, it also features great cultural events to attract people. Another great city to compare to is Livonia, which has made changes to attract residents. The Master Plan Committee and Commission were not truly looking at a theme such as Disneyland, but rather at character. When one drives into certain cities, they can tell where they are at. When someone drives into Novi, the City is identified only by the mall. Farmington Hills is easily identifiable because the boulevard is beautifully landscaped. The City of Novi needs to be tied in as being user friendly, not only in terms of being pedestrian friendly, but also to be easily recognizable and identifiable by car. The market does bear certain things and somewhat drive development in the City, but planning for the future would prove beneficial. Some empty parking areas in the Town Center lots could have buildings added which face Grand River, likewise with the building once occupied by Vic’s Market. Chairperson Nagy commented that the City is much less than 18 years away from build-out, as it is already two-thirds built out. Businesses need to be attracted to the community, while businesses already located in Novi must also be protected. If much attention will be spent on the Gateway area, resources also should be dedicated to Main Street and the Town Center area to avoid seeing many empty storefronts.
Member Lorenzo said she agreed with much of what had been said, especially Member Landry’s comments about establishing a theme as being a "tall order" at this point. While themes are important, the City perhaps has several themes, or perhaps does not have as many themes as it could or should have. Novi is a regional commercial center, whether or not current Council and Commission members like it. There is not enough diverse land use in the community. Her greatest concern about the community, even more so than a community theme or event, is land use and the City’s tax base. Novi has reached the retail saturation point. Many national retailers have recently filed for bankruptcy, or are facing that possibility. She noted that many malls and retail centers feature empty stores in Novi, as even the brand new Fountain Walk is finding difficulty in attracting and keeping tenants. However, this is a part of what the City is. He concern is what the City will do to plan out the rest of Novi to ensure that developments are attractive, high quality, and ease the residential tax burden. Novi is almost a burden unto itself, as residents demand the most City services. Like Dr. Sanghvi, she worries about how the City will pay for itself when everything is built out. Because of these concerns, she is more concerned with land use decisions than the City’s theme.
Member Lorenzo said that beautifying Novi’s landscaping would be a good theme for the City to follow, as she wishes the City was known as a lush, green, diversely landscaped community. Beyond this, she said the City’s identity should be of a community with lower taxes that demands high quality construction, protects residents, and protects property values. Main Street was a vision of previous Planning Commissioners and previous Councils. Part of the reason for Main Street’s less-than-expected success has been retail saturation in the City. After Main Street was opened, the Planning Commissions and Councils focused instead on Fountain Walk, which was a major mistake. The City is now trying to fill Main Street, Fountain Walk, Town Center, and also keep the mall afloat. She suggested that some research may be needed to explain why Main Street has not been as successful as initially expected.
Member Lorenzo said that decisions made about Grand River will not necessarily be the "white knight" for Main Street, as the shops and restaurants along Main Street will be the magnets to attract people. She is concerned that the Gateway ordinance discusses allowing multiple family or mixed-use development, and then immediately discusses RM-2 zoning, with no sliding scale or reasoning. She said she did not want to extend the Gateway area to the northeast and southeast corners of Meadowbrook and Grand River. If mixed use development is incorporated, it should be kept to the west of Meadowbrook Road. The other side of Grand River has been developing, as much as it can, somewhat of a theme. Haggerty to Meadowbrook on Grand River has seen a number of attractive light industrial use buildings, which serve the public in ways that no other retail/industrial sites do. These sites also provide an enhanced tax base with less demand on City services.
Member Lorenzo said she is not very worried about the future usage of the Novi Expo Center site. She said she would be hesitant to do much with the site until the Expo Center moves to its new location. She suggested that OST may be a possibility for the site, particularly because of the site’s visibility from the highway. Commercial retail may possibly be appropriate as well, although the City is already saturated with this type of development. Member Lorenzo said she was sure that apartments and condominiums are definitely not desirable for the site, however.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said she heard the comments that the Planning Commission is very concerned with the City’s identity, but she feels that Novi already has an identity. There are five components of the identity, and Novi already fits three of them. She asked Council members and Planning Commissioners why they were in Novi, and noted that she chose to move to Novi from out of state. People want to live in Novi, shop in Novi, come to Novi, and stay in Novi. The components that she sees the City as already filling are regional shopping, housing par excellence, and desirability for new businesses, though this last item could be improved upon. However, the City’s parks and recreation system component is not yet "nailed", and Novi lacks cultural activity, as well as clean, industrial high tech to pay the City’s bills. Any city can do window dressing, but Novi has its own identity.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi noted that she was on the Planning Commission when Main Street was already approved, and she had reservations about this at the time. As a planner, she had seen many communities try to manufacture a downtown area, and the mortality rates for this are very high. However, this does not mean that Novi cannot succeed – it just needs to hold on long enough to do so. Community spirit is not created either, and community spirit creates identity – it just takes time to do so. One example that she saw that encouraged her to work on the landscaping ordinance revision was the landscaping around many subdivision entrances. Many of these areas put the landscaping of the City’s high-budget industrial business areas to shame. Though Novi is not perfect in this regard, its identity is reflected in this landscaping. The most important thing that the City can do, if it is serious about looking at build-out issues, is to remember that the zoning map is Novi’s legal land use authority. Simply rezoning a few high-use areas can equal the current traffic mess that the City faces. If the City does not hold the line on rezoning, then Council and the Planning Commission have only themselves to blame.
Commissioner Avdoulos said he agreed with Mayor Pro Tem Bononi’s comments, and praised the City of Novi’s merits. Novi is one of the most unique large cities in the area. The north side of the City features Walled Lake and interesting land undulations. The southwest corner is fairly rural, and borders a state park. Novi features some of the best homes and schools in southeast Michigan. All of these components can start to provide an identity. Northville, Plymouth, Royal Oak, and Farmington are cities because they evolved with a natural process of having a downtown center. Novi, Northville Township, Farmington Hills, Plymouth Township, and Canton Township have all evolved from other centers. The idea of creating a downtown area is almost "suicidal." Many urban planners say that it is almost impossible to create a downtown, because that is something that must evolve naturally. Right now, the City has fantastic potential on its Novi Road corridor, as well as along the Grand River corridor. The City should examine what exists along these arteries, and be tied into whatever decisions are made. From Twelve Mile down to Ten Mile on Novi Road, there is absolutely no residential use property, as this is commercial, industrial, or some kind of retail use property. There is an opportunity to create some kind of image, or to create something positive so that when people come to Novi, the big exit is Novi Road and I-96. It’s fine if the mall is the image of Novi, as the City of Troy faced similar issues not long ago with Somerset Mall. That city decided to expand the mall, created a boulevard and a connection, renovated and expanded its city hall on the other side of I-75, created a recreational center further down on Big Beaver, and has seen success as a result.
Commissioner Avdoulos commented that Main Street could have been a good idea, but this is a private development. He sat in a Master Plan meeting with Commissioner Markham and had discussed that area. It is important to look at what will happen with the current Expo Center site. He suggested perhaps eventually extending Flint Street to wrap behind the current Expo Center area, creating a service drive that would cross Grand River. The other thing that Novi lacks is a City center. This is a suburb, and the City lacks an area for people to congregate at other than to shop. He said he would love to see the area encompassed by the Civic Center, Novi High School, the historical farm, and Power Park, perhaps act as a future City Center of some form. Perhaps creating a larger green space to replace unused parking in the front of the Civic Center, and also constructing either a post office or chamber of commerce building would help to create a city center atmosphere. This center would feed off of the Novi Road corridor, and start tying everything in the community together. People are coming to Novi, houses are selling, and businesses want to locate in the community. As much as the Planning Commission and City Council are lamenting Fountain Walk’s vacancy rate, there are still a lot of people frequenting those stores. If the City begins to hold events and promote them on a regular basis, the community will continue to work. In order to make the City successful, it needs to be made accessible as well, which means improving accessibility across the freeway. On the west side of Novi Road, the next area to cross the expressway is at Beck Road, and many people avoid Beck Road at the moment because of traffic. If Novi Road will be the main avenue to reach the City’s shopping, downtown, and cross the freeway, people will begin to avoid the road. For example, many people go to the Kohl’s and Target near 8 Mile in order to avoid the Novi Road traffic or even Beck Road traffic. Twelve Mile improvements are starting to look fantastic, and he has begun using Twelve Mile again, as have many other people. Novi has a good base to work with, but needs to look at what it has, what types of businesses are coming in, resident input, and keep everything going forward. Commissioner Avdoulos noted that most residents are not truly opposed to new construction in the City, including light industrial, but want cooperation to create a good living environment.
Commissioner Sprague said that there are a number of positive aspects about the City of Novi. Housing is good, shopping is good, and the schools are great. When he thinks of Novi, he thinks of many attempts to develop a central city area, but the City has several different centers. Perhaps Main Street should be the City’s nightlife center, and it should function with mostly bars and restaurants, and Main Street will be a destination spot for that. The Gateway Ordinance may create competition for the Town Center area and Main Street, and he does not see this as a place where people will now stop when they come into town. He said he does not want to create competition for Main Street, because the City has made the investment there and the downtown area should be given every chance to thrive and survive. The Planning Commission needs direction regarding what to do with the Main Street area. The City needs to determine what it wants Main Street to be, or it will never be anything.
Commissioner Sprague asked for clarity about issues of business development versus residential development versus retail development. Bristol Corners is a great example of a merger of these issues, and that area is experiencing a number of arguments. Mr. Sprague said he felt like the Planning Commission’s hands are tied on the issue. While everything might be approved and meet the City’s ordinances for the site, perhaps the process or the City’s ordinances are wrong if those problems or arguments are occurring.
Mayor Clark stated that Council and the Planning Commission had heard a number of good comments during the evening’s discussion so far. It is fine to desire a City theme or image, but this will change with each generation. For example, Northville has a Victorian Festival, a Fourth of July parade, and different themes throughout the year to bring that community together. However, Northville, Plymouth and Farmington are communities that came into existence in the 1800’s. In that time, the job opportunities were nowhere near what they are now, income was not comparable to today, and most people were living in homes with 40 foot lots. Of necessity, people were also close to downtown, and the downtown services. Chicago is a success, and Detroit is on its way, because of all the people that live in those downtown areas. The Novi community needs to support Main Street, the Town Center, and perhaps the City is approaching this with the Gateway idea, including the townhouses that will go up there. The community evolves and changes with each generation. He grew up downriver, and can remember Wyandotte, including its large number of chemical plants. Those chemical plants are now gone, and there is a golf course where one of the chemical plants was. Every July, Wyandotte now has the second largest art fair in the state, and one of the best in the country. Wyandotte has reinvented itself, and as Novi gets older it will have to do so as well. Novi will eventually have to deal with a number of vacancies as well, whether at Main Street, Town Center, or West Oaks I or II. The Mayor said he agreed with Dr. Sanghvi that we live in a capitalistic society where people have the right to dream and to take risks, as well as the right to succeed. 95% of individual businesses have a lifespan of less than 5 years, but this is part of living in a free society.
Mayor Clark warned that the City needs to find a middle ground between various residents and companies, before the community cannot afford to sustain itself, or it becomes too pricey for the younger generation. The City needs to think out of the box, and do everything that it can to broaden its base so that the community can afford its services without raising taxes 20%. Though everyone wants increased services, there is no "free lunch", and someone has to pay for those services. Either the City can broaden its tax base by recognizing that it needs a certain amount of commercial land, OST, and industrial, and find a common ground that the community can live with ot Novi will not be able to afford itself. The City prides itself on having the sixth-lowest tax base of any community in Oakland County. This has happened because of a commitment to keep a mix of uses in the City, to avoid placing an overburden on the residents of the community. He agreed with the comments made relative to a city theme, and noted that the City can do more regarding arts and entertainment. He suggested that help was needed to construct a gazebo along Main Street for the Novi Concert Band, as this would be a natural fit for the area with all the restaurants and bars downtown. This would be one step to establishing a city theme or identity.
Mayor Clark said part of the problem of establishing a Novi theme is the society that we live in today. Years ago, people would sit on their front porch and talk with their neighbors after work, but today people come home and close the door. When neighbors socialize, they realize that they are part of a neighborhood, the neighborhood is part of a larger community, and it is easier to get people out and doing things together. The Gateway Ordinance will be examined at the August 11th meeting, and the time is now to start working on that area. If the City waits for perfection, whether in ordinances, zoning, or a Gateway plan, it will stagnate because there is no such thing as perfection in this world. The City previously zoned that area as NCC, Non-Center Commercial, and nothing happened for years and years. When he first came to Novi, he said that one of the most important things to do is to improve one of the City’s two main thoroughfares, Grand River Avenue. The City is now widening Grand River from the western boundaries toward the east to a modern road system. Novi was able to convince the State of the importance of constructing a new Beck Road interchange, which will also have a tremendous economic benefit to this community, as well as the region and the county. Not much has happened along Grand River east of Novi Road since the Town Center area and Vic’s Market went in. There are many parcels available to develop along that stretch, which can be beneficial to this City. At some point, that area of Grand River will also have to be improved, which will be of benefit to the entire residential corridor along Ten Mile Road.
Mayor Clark said the City is a bit premature on the future use of the current Expo Center site, considering that the new Expo Center is not on line yet, and Blair Bowman still holds a long term lease on the old Expo Center site, and whatever development that shall occur on that site must be consistent with City ordinances. Whatever development goes in there will be beneficial to this City, and enhance the tax base to further alleviate a burden that would otherwise be placed on residents. The City will do everything it can to keep taxes in line. It will also do everything it can to find the "happy medium" of abutting property uses. Most easy parcels have been developed in the City – what remains are primarily harder parcels to develop.
Chairperson Nagy wished to clarify some items. Novi is a wonderful place to live, and there are a lot of positive aspects to the community that were mentioned. The reason that these issues were brought forward was that when discussing the creation of a city image or theme, this entailed all of the things that the City is looking for to improve itself. The Main Street, Town Center, and Gateway areas entail residential, retail, and commercial. This is an area that she wanted to see Council discuss with the Planning Commission. The intention of the discussion was not at all to say that Novi lacks character theme. In the small area of examination, there is Town Center, there is the Main Street, and somewhat of an obligation to the existing businesses. Businesses along Grand River just west of Haggerty are very nicely established and landscaped; however, there is much undeveloped land west of this region.
Member Sanghvi said that when he had spoken earlier, he had confined his remarks only to the first item, and had not spoken about Main Street, the Town Center area, or the Gateway area. He wanted to first discuss the City’s overall "big picture." The first thing needed, and he hates to say it, is examine the City’s attitude. If we think we can, we will. The City needs to look at innovative things to bring about the changes in the Main Street / Town Center area, including the Gateway District. Everything is linked together, including residential and commercial developments, in that part of the community. The community needs to dream, and does not need to examine other towns around the area. He has lived on 3 different continents, and there is no reason that Novi cannot break out of the box and look at something magnificent, something nice which can make this even a greater City. He never said that Novi was not a good town; otherwise he would not have lived in the City for 28 years. Novi is a wonderful place to live, a wonderful place to raise children and a family. He begs to differ with people who say that the City should not aim for perfection. The City needs to have vision, and "break out of the box." This is a world of changing paradigms, and our community needs to be a part of that.
Dr. Sanghvi continued: one of the biggest assets never discussed is the people of Novi. People are excited about the City’s downtown, and have moved to the area for all kinds of things. He suggested asking the public for ideas for turning Main Street into a thriving place. Downtowns don’t survive without people, and people need to be able to walk to their stores, which cannot be done with department stores in a regional shopping center. Restrictive ordinances need to be relaxed to allow the downtown area to develop naturally. He sees no reason why the City cannot have apartment complexes or condominiums in the area. Condominiums are expensive; young people cannot live in these, because they typically cannot afford them. Affordable housing is needed in the area so that young people can afford to live here. These are the people who will make the downtown a living reality, rather than people who come home from work and turn on the television for the evening. Their thriving energy will make the downtown a living place. Dr. Sanghvi said he is not worried about the costs or what the development will take. He suggested even moving the library and the City Hall towards the new downtown area, in order to give the place an anchor. There is no better anchor for a downtown than a City Hall. He recalled a poem from his childhood: "Looking at the stars falling, gazing at the sky, how can you ever reach it if you never try."
Commissioner Papp noted that he is a computer analyst, and had quite a lot of material to analyze from the evening’s discussion. The first step in making a successful downtown area is the meeting of the Planning Commission and the City Council, the two bodies that support the City talking as one. The downtown is about "barred out" right now. The City of Novi needs to reach out to building owners and the people that it wants in the Gateway District to find their ideas about the area. A store owner had requested a façade variance on the Wonderland Music building, and the City basically told him to rebuild his building, even though he had just wanted to change the front of the store. This was an area that could see vacant buildings in the future. The City needs to lighten up its ordinances and be reasonable with businesses. There is a vacant building at Ten Mile and Beck Road that has sat empty for 3 years. A Panera Bread Company or bagel shop would be wonderful at that location. The City needs to approach people with vacant buildings and find out what it can do to help.
COUNCIL AND THE PLANNING COMMISSION RECESSED AT 9:12 P.M.
COUNCIL AND THE PLANNING COMMISSION RECONVENED AT 9:26 P.M.
2. Future water storage on the west side of Novi
Chairperson Nagy commented that this issue was brought forward because the southwest area of Novi is being developed, and that area will need sewer and water. There were 6 water storage towers proposed in the capital improvements, and the Council and Planning Commission did not agree that 6 were needed. There are different methods of storing water other than in towers, however. Underground systems can be used, as well as partially above ground systems. A major question is who will pay for these items if they are needed in this portion of the City. This was brought forward because the Engineering Department had said that 6 water storage towers were needed in the City. She asked if residents wanted to look out their windows and see water storage towers, or if other methods should be used.
Mr. Helwig said that Chairperson Nagy had accomplished the objective of grabbing peoples’ attention in the capital improvements process. City Council has mentioned this item, and it is now in a goal. The much-anticipated long range water study report is in its final iterations before coming back to City Council for strategic planning, setting, and so forth, probably in the next 30 days. He is being told that water can be stored with low-rise, perhaps even below-ground, storage facilities to help in times of catastrophe, and also to assist with sustaining water pressure.
3. Connecting Novi with the regional trail system
Vice-Chair Markham said that when the Planning Commission put forward the proposed budget for the master plan, one of the items that the Commission had indicated it wanted was a study of the City’s greenways. This was taken out of the budget, as it was felt this was not something that was supported in the community. She asked to "stick her foot in the door before it slams shut", and ask Council to open its minds one more time to the subject. In the spirit of Dr. Sanghvi’s dreaming, this too is a dream for the City. She said she wants to think ahead to the City in 20 or 30 years from now. About 50 years ago, decision makers developed the metro parks system with a partnership with the federal government, drawing on federal and local funds to set aside pieces of property so that we can today enjoy Kensington Metro Park and Maybury State Park.
Today, some of the same funding is available to develop trail systems. For all of America, obesity is becoming a greater and greater issue. Recreation is at a premium, and people must pay for most of their recreation. Handicap access is more and more of an issue. Traffic congestion and pedestrian safety are problems when someone tries to walk on roadways without a path set aside. A national survey showed that people want to walk or bike, and are willing to pay for it. Here in Novi, our paths are disconnected, but improving. The new path along Nine Mile Road east of Novi Road is an interesting path, because as soon as paving had begun on that route, an editorial letter in the paper criticized landscaping damage incurred because of the paving. However, the day after the trail was paved, Vice-Chair Markham noticed an elderly couple using the path to access the cemetery. She asked what better way there was to promote the City’s historical places than to put paths near them and draw the community towards them. Paths generate a lot of emotion. Her experience in Novi has been that where there is a path, there will be people on that path.
Vice-Chair Markham said that first and foremost, the City needs to connect the paths that it has. Also, Novi needs to connect its natural features. Community Sports Park at Eight Mile and Napier cannot be accessed without a car. If the community cannot reach the park by walking or biking there, then the City has work to do. She showed a map to the audience of the regional trail system being developed by the Greenways Initiative. They have raised almost $25 million for this project, and their long term goal is to connect the entire Metro Detroit area in a system of walk-able and bike-able paths. There is a path that runs from northern Macomb County down through Oakland County, and this path is well on its way to completion. There is also a path that runs from Lake Erie that is intended to end in Northville Township, and part of this includes the Hines Park system. If Novi does not think about connecting its own community trails and trying to link to the regional trail system that will encompass the area, the City will have missed the boat. It is the City’s job to think long-term about the families that live here, and think about how this can happen. Maybury Park should be connected to the Community Sports Park, and perhaps to Kensington as well. Funding is available, but to get the funding the City needs an established plan to apply for the grant money. Only $3.6 million of the available $25 million has been allocated for trails, so there is money out there for the City to tap into, but the City needs a plan. She hopes that the City can have a three-pronged approach, the first prong being to continue connecting sidewalks and bike paths. She recalled a conversation with runners, who complained about the need to avoid the intersection of Ten Mile and Beck Roads. There is no sidewalk at that intersection, which makes the location very dangerous for pedestrians and bikers. Many tiny connections need to be made to create a full pathway for the people who live here. On Eleven Mile Road, there is an unconnected path that runs to the school. Kids should be able to walk to school from their nearby subdivisions. The City should be trying to connect itself to the school system and to its parks.
Vice-Chair Markham said it is critical to think about the future of the area. Her father is 80 years old, and is a four-time stroke victim with arthritis, but still tries to walk. Two weeks ago, she received a phone call from him after he had attended a class reunion. He said he enjoyed using a motorized scooter, which she realized was a Segway. If her 80-year-old father who can barely walk can use a Segway for transportation, then there is a future for this type of transport. The City needs to provide ways for people to get around town on foot, on their bikes, on a Segway, or in a wheelchair, but not just in a car. If the post office would be put outside City Hall, people would walk to it, instead of driving up Novi Road to reach it. She said she was not asking for money at this point, but instead asked that the City have the ability to start thinking about writing some grants, developing a plan, and beginning a dialogue with neighbors in South Lyon, Northville, Walled Lake, and Farmington, to think about how to develop a regional trail system. The City has a Detroit Edison easement on the west side of town. A lot of communities have used the Detroit Edison corridor to enhance their trail systems. There is a lot of material on the subject, and many people who are willing to work on this. The regional community would like Novi to be part of what is being planned, and she wanted to encourage the City to do so.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said that Vice-Chair Markham had what the City had not had until now, an idea of having a concept plan of how a trail system could work. The Mayor Pro Tem has received many phone calls and communications of criticism about how people see the City’s current pathways. People see them as being too big, too expensive, and going places that make little sense. Where these pathways encroach has everything to do with many problems. She hypothesized that the City may have to put the measure on a ballot for the community to vote on, in order to obtain funding. Using a comprehensive planning route for developing this trail system is a good idea. She said that in the community where she lived before coming to Novi, abandoned railroad right-of-ways were used for that area’s trails. Another complaint that she has heard is that all area trails are concrete, and runners often do not want to run on concrete. She said that Vice-Chair Markham is definitely heading in the correct direction, and she is very interested in hearing more about the subject. Mayor Pro Tem Bononi thanked Vice-Chair Markham.
Commissioner Papp said that a key word for the trail system should be "grant." There is a lot of free money available that can be obtained simply by writing and submitting grants. His wife has done this for the Redford School District. If the City does not have a grant writing position, it may be worth looking at hiring a full-time position to focus on writing grants. Much research and time must be put into writing a grant. He could not believe that the City would not go after free money to help the community or the people in the community.
Member Sanghvi thanked Vice-Chair Markham for a wonderful idea and a refreshing thought, to walk. Society has reached an epidemic rate of obesity. It would open our eyes to know how many school children are obese. There is nothing wrong in finding free money for the trail system. A feasibility study for the map is needed, as well as someone to actually write the grant. It would be well worth it to find $10,000 to work on this project, and he has no hesitation to support this item when it is brought before Council. Eventually, the item can be put onto ballot for people to approve. Dr. Sanghvi thanked Vice-Chair Markham for her idea.
Chairperson Nagy thanked Vice-Chair Markham and the Master Plan Committee. She also thanked City Planner Darcy Schmitt, who was a great aide to Vice-Chair Markham.
Commissioner Ruyle noted that he served 6 years on the Parks and Recreation Commission. When he served, 10 or 12 years ago, they discussed using the Detroit Edison corridor for trails, and it was dismissed by the Parks and Recreation Director and other City decision makers. The City now has a Parks and Recreation Director who has open eyes and open visions, thanks to the City administration. This is an avenue that can be used, especially on the west side of the City. Possibly, Detroit Edison may cooperate with the City on building it on their land. Though the idea was dismissed years ago, he hoped that people would be more visionary about the concept today.
Member Lorenzo said the trail concept is a positive idea, and what Vice-Chair Markham had brought to the table was a much more structured, organized, comprehensive plan. As Mayor Pro Tem Bononi had stated, the City has been doing this piece-meal as budget allows every year. The two major recent projects were the board walk on Ten Mile Road, and the paths along Nine Mile between Meadowbrook and Haggerty. She had supported both of those projects, but the City took significant criticism for both of those projects, especially for the trails on Nine Mile. To her, the projects made sense, especially along Nine Mile Road, because there were destinations to get to with the trail. The biggest challenges to the regional trail system will be acquiring easements. The problem with acquiring easements is that they can be expensive to obtain. Her biggest concern with the Detroit Edison Easements would be liability in having people walking within that area. However, she likes the idea as this is something that Council has supported, but Vice-Chair Markham’s idea takes this several steps further in developing a comprehensive plan.
1. Process for undertaking ordinance revisions
Commissioner Kocan noted that the Planning Commission received a memo in April stating that all ordinances come to the Council table first for direction, and Council determines on a case-by-case basis, and if Council so intends, to establish a special committee. The Implementation Committee reviewed this policy and wrote a letter back to Council stating that the Planning Commission’s process is listed in the rules, that no one person can ever bring something to a committee regarding ordinances – it is brought to the table as a whole. It is voted at the table whether or not the proposal will go to Implementation, and this is where the ordinance revision begins. The Implementation Committee stated in its letter that it would continue to work in this manner if it had not heard from City Council. As the Committee had not heard from City Council, she asked if what the Committee is doing is ok.
2. Status of the Woodland Review Board
Chairperson Nagy said that as of right now, especially with one of the projects that came before the Commission, there is no Woodland Review Board. There is no one sitting on it, and no residents came forward for the interview process. Council changed the Woodland Review Board policies, and thus Commissioner Kocan is no longer on the Board either. She asked Council what to do about this Board absence.
Member Landry asked Mr. Helwig if the entire discussion about the item at the Council table was generated by the fact that Michigan Statute specifically prohibits a Planning Commissioner from sitting on another Board or Commission. Mr. Helwig said he believed this is what the City Attorney had advised City Council. Member Landry said this is why Council indicated that a Planning Commissioner could not sit on the Woodlands Review Board, because Council received a legal opinion that it had to be that way. He asked if the item was publicized to the community, and there were "no takers" to sit on the Board. Mr. Helwig said this was done in very close proximity to when Council had scheduled its interviews, in early June. Realistically there was not much time for the community to respond. Ms. Cornelius said this was part of the advertisement for Boards and Commissions, and appeared in the paper a minimum of 3 times. Mr. Helwig said this item could use an extra push, and special interviews. The major thrust was to remove staff from this role, and make the Board more community based.
Chairperson Nagy said that one of the problems that the Planning Commission had was that there was no one to go to regarding woodlands issues. The other problem was in handling appeals. The Planning Commission would like to see this problem taken care of. Member Landry agreed, and proposed to make an all-out effort to publicize the request to the community, in order to fill the Board as soon as possible.
Member Lorenzo said she did not doubt the legal limitations of the decision. Her understanding was that the reason behind having a Woodland Review board, as opposed to everything going to the Planning Commission, was to not have applicants for single lots needing to go through a full-blown Planning Commission meeting, but instead could simply go to the Woodlands Review Board. However, by not allowing Planning Commissioners to sit on Boards, the City is preventing the situation from happening. If there are no community volunteers to sit on the Board, the only other logical step is to eliminate the Woodlands Review Board and have everything go to the Planning Commission. The system did work before when Planning Commissioners served on the Woodlands Review Board, but if the law prevents Commissioners from serving on the Board and there are no community volunteers, then the City has no choice.
Mayor Clark said the City should put out another advertisement and see what happens. If the City receives no volunteers, then a decision can be made at that time. Or, if there are only 2 appeals a year, it can be structured so that the appeals simply come to Council.
Commissioner Papp asked if it is the responsibility of the Planning Commission to approve woodland permits. He asked why a Woodlands Review Board was then needed to approve the removal of a tree for a pool.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi asked if a sub-committee of the Planning Commission could be used to function in place of the Woodlands Review Board, since this body would be acting not as a Board, but as part of the Planning Commission. She asked if Mr. Helwig could inquire of the City Attorney to examine this possibility. Mr. Helwig said he would be happy to explore the item with Mr. Fisher.
Member Sanghvi said the possibility of finding more volunteers to sit on the Board needed to be explored. He did not like the idea of the same people performing 2 jobs in different capacities. The City has enough volunteers, and if it advertises enough it will be able to find people to fill the empty slots, and do things the way they should be done.
3. Increasing corporate partnerships for community improvements
Chairperson Nagy said this item did not require a lot of discussion, but in looking at some other projects that other cities have done, the Planning Commission had thought about partnering with some area businesses to do community improvements. This would not have to be on a large scale, but the City could explore this possibility.
Vice-Chair Markham said this was brought to the table as a brainstorming item. The City should be able to do a better job of getting corporate sponsorship in the community. There are businesses in the community that the City is proud of, and those businesses are proud to be here. Yet, the City does not seem to aggressively try to partner with those companies. She was at the Dearborn Performing Arts Center during Christmas, which is a beautiful complex with a theater, fitness center, ballroom, and other facilities, and over half of the money to construct it came from corporate donations. While $5 million of that money came from Ford, other smaller donations were also raised. Mayor Clark had previously mentioned the band stage idea for downtown, and this would be the perfect venue to try and find corporate sponsorship for construction. This would take the burden off the backs of taxpayers whenever something special to build community character is desired. Jaguar is a beautiful car dealership at one of the entrances to the community, and she asked if somehow the City could partner with that business as a possibility. Those sorts of partnerships could benefit everyone.
Mayor Clark said that the last time he had spoken with the president of Jaguar of Novi, they were very interested in doing something like this. Magna Corporation has sponsored the Novi High School robotics team, and Erickson came up with the extra funding so that the new fire equipment with the ladder can go the extra needed difference. The City could only expend a certain amount of money at the time for the equipment, and the ladder would have been shorter without this extra donation. The City needs to do a better job of partnering and selling itself to the business community. However, it also has to be mindful that when companies are willing to partner, those businesses need to be given appropriate recognition. This would have a synergistic effect throughout the business community.
Member Landry said he recalled raising the subject about the band shell. It is a wonderful idea and would be great to partner with some corporate residents, but the City must be very careful how it goes about this. If City Council begins soliciting funds from the very developers that appear before Council who ask for ordinance variances and changes, then there may be the appearance of impropriety. He could not think of any two boards other than the Planning Commission and City Council that should stay away from soliciting partnerships. Those two bodies must be very careful in partnerships with corporations.
Mayor Clark suggested that this may need to be done by way of a private community foundation. Member Landry said this would be wonderful. Dr. Sanghvi said that there was no reason that a private foundation could not be started, as it is a very simple procedure to begin a foundation. There are all sorts of prototypes available for doing this. A private community foundation is something that should have been taken on long ago. He advised pushing ahead with the foundation.
Commissioner Avdoulos said this idea dovetails into Novi’s image and identity, to identify those large corporations and businesses in the City that are part of the community. When he worked in Plymouth, the principals of his firm were members of the Rotary Club. The Rotary Club got together and provided the funding to fix up the fountain in the middle of Kellogg Park. His firm donated its architectural services, another firm donated the masonry services, and others did plumbing. The business community was involved with that project, unlike the play structure where residents provided most of the work. People get a good charge and feeling out of corporate involvement, and if the City can start identifying certain projects to work on, the community’s image can be improved. These are things that can act like rungs on a ladder – they can keep the City going up. However, there will be issues of conflict of interest.
Member Lorenzo said she agreed with everything that had been said. She wondered if the City should explore creating a Novi Community Foundation like Northville has. She did not know who pays the salaries of officers in the Northville Community Foundation, or how connected that organization is to Northville city government. However, the foundation may be a possibility to explore, since that organization would not have City employees or representatives trying to gather support for various projects.
Mr. Helwig said he has had experience with a large city community foundation. This was separate from the city government, and was a not-for-profit organization. The foundation eventually grew to have its own staff, and reached a dimension that far exceeded what the founders had in mind. He would love the task of doing some research with the City Attorney on the item, and would bring their findings back to Council for deliberation. The City is of a magnitude, vibrancy and scale where this is a very appropriate vehicle to accomplish things.
Member Sanghvi suggested that a consortium of the City, the School District, and the Chamber of Commerce could be formed to advertise the City for development, much like Oakland County has done in other parts of the country. There is no reason that Novi should not advertise its features and try to attract more people and businesses from the east and west coasts.
Richard Atto, 2150 Franklin, Bloomfield Hills, said he wished to speak about the proposed Gateway East Ordinance, which was formerly called the Downtown Gateway Ordinance. When the Planning Commission first created the ordinance, it invited property owners and developers to a display of what the content of the ordinance was. At that time, he and many other property owners embraced the ordinance. They spent much time working with people in the Planning Department on the original ordinance, when it ultimately went to Council. Though the property owners tried to create a dialogue with Council at the time, the meeting format did not allow for significant exchange. As time dragged on, properties were left completely undevelopable, because sites cannot be sold or developed when there are ordinance changes pending. The stakeholders bargained in good faith for about 3 years, but the item was eventually dropped by Council. There is now another proposal which will go before Council and may be voted in. The stakeholders embraced the idea of the downtown gateway all along, which is now the Gateway East area. They believed that the intents of Council and the Planning Commission and property owners aligned with each other, but the groups always disagreed about how to achieve the outcome. He still supports the intent of the ordinance and many of its components, but said the method of going about what the City’s goals are was incorrect, and is made worse by the latest version of the ordinance. The special development option, which is part of the ordinance, is very discretionary. Some parts of the option are completely ambiguous, some parts are illegal, and other parts have specific definitions which cannot be complied with.
Mr. Atto commended Council Members and Planning Commissioners for their comments during the meeting. He noted that a speaker had mentioned creating obstacles, and he said the ordinance creates many obstacles for businesses. He said the ordinance would create obstacles for any developments. A speaker had mentioned gathering community input about the ordinance. Mr. Atto requested dialogue, which he did not believe could happen at the Council meeting type of forum. There were meetings that he requested to be invited to in which he could share his input. He is very familiar and involved with one of the premier mixed-use developments in the country, which was started on the west coast in San Diego. He had invited Members of Council to visit the project at his expense, in order to get an idea about what a mixed-use development would be like. He was never invited to any meeting where there could be meaningful dialogue about some of the points in the ordinance. Some of his comments were merely about technical faults in the ordinance, but nobody bothered to read these. Some of the same technical problems that he had commented about were simply gutted out of the latest ordinance.
Mr. Atto said he agreed with the ordinance in its intent, but said there are some severe problems with the way the document is written, and he and stakeholders would like the opportunity to discuss those flaws. He has heard that he should not bring things on the day of the meeting, but he did not receive information on the latest version of the ordinance until August 4th, and the evening’s meeting was August 6th. He asked that his comments be put in writing, and that they be reviewed by the Planning Commission to make recommendations to Council, or possibly by Council itself. He has generated a site plan, dated March of 2002, which he was never able to submit at any meeting or under any ordinances, as these were not in place. The site plan is a mixed-use development which contains a retail component. He has retail tenants that he cannot hang onto much longer, but there are tenants who will go into retail areas when they are combined with other mixed uses. Two of his tenants are very strong regional tenants, one is a restaurant with a local owner who is very involved with communities, and the other is a specialty food market that provides great service to the community. Both are hard-working, privately owned corporations, who do not want to go to Main Street. They want to be in residential areas, closer to the communities. There is a demand and need for mixed-use developments, and there are people who want to be there. He has medical office tenants that would like to be on that corner of the District, but he cannot retain the clients forever. He has proposed a number of different uses and spaces in his plan, all of which are in demand. Specialty food stores were uses once gutted from a version of the ordinance. He had stated that if specialty food stores are not allowed in the District, then Council would be telling residents that specialty food stores are not allowed in the City. There are only 2 supermarkets in the entire City of Novi. The City needs an ordinance that allows for implementation, and Council must be satisfied with the controls. The ordinance cannot be left entirely to the discretion of Council, but the ordinance says that complete discretion lies with Council. The language does not allow him to have any faith in the ordinance. He said that if Council passed the ordinance at its August 11th meeting, he cannot even submit a site plan because he could not legally comply with it. Mr. Atto said he would be back on Monday night to discuss items in detail, and expressed his support for smart growth and mixed-use developments, as this could generate more money for the City of Novi to support the services that it needs.
Wayne Hogan, 20293 Woodland Glen Dr., said he had more comments regarding the Main Street area. He asked that handicap parking spots still be provided at the size that they would have been, had all previously planned parking spaces actually been installed downtown. The use of those handicap spaces will not diminish simply because the size of the parking lot does. Mr. Hogan asked that as islands are added to parking lots to break up the "seas of asphalt", that handicap spaces be retained, as the reduction in the space of a parking lot does not reduce the need for those handicap spots. In the future planning of places like the senior housing, he would like to see huge curbs not be constructed, as seniors find the curbs difficult obstacles. When large curbs are built, there is no place for snow to be plowed to, and those barriers are significant problems to anyone with mobility issues, as well as seniors.
Mr. Hogan noted that the front parking area of the Civic Center has been closed off for security reasons, but only half of the handicap parking spaces there had been replaced on the other side of Power Park. If someone parks in the Power Park lot and wants to see a baseball game, they must park on the City Hall side of Power Park where there are only a few handicap parking spaces. However, athletes can park much closer to the ball field. He asked that handicap spaces be added closer to the fields so that people using those spots do not have to walk hundreds of extra feet.
Mr. Hogan said that on Main Street from Market to Novi Road, when cars are parked on that road people must walk in the streets until they reach where the buildings are located, as there are no sidewalks to use. There is a sidewalk there, but there is a tree or lamppost every 12 feet, and the tree or the lamppost use all but 18 inches of the sidewalk up. Curb cuts in the same area have planter boxes which prevent wheelchairs and strollers from getting up on the curb. People with mobility issues do not go to K-Mart because they cannot get through the racks which are so close together. Instead, those people go to Target or Meijer’s where there are fleets of amigo carts for people, and they can have a pleasant shopping experience. Those stores also have wide aisles. Both of those stores also have few, if any, curbs, especially in their handicap areas. He asked to add the handicap spaces where they are supposed to be near Market Street, and to have several of those be 10 minute parking spots for quick stops at stores. Those types of features bring more commerce into the area, and also increase usability of the area. He also asked to increase handicap accessibility in restrooms, including the installation of wider doors so that wheelchairs can easily fit inside stalls. Many stall doors cause difficulty for persons using wheelchairs, as the stalls are barely narrow enough for the wheelchairs to enter. Vic’s Marketplace had been allowed to install a handicap stall that was not actually handicap-accessible because it was too small. Mr. Hogan was happy that Planning Commission had constructed several ordinances and was working towards making things safer and easier for both the disabled and businesses.
Mr. Hogan said that at Providence Hospital, handicap parking spaces are located 60 to 70 yards away from the entrance, and also have curb cuts which make accessibility difficult. Most builders do not object to making handicap parking safer, and in fact they sometimes proactively offer to do so without being asked. Restaurants such as Outback have excellent platforms for handicap parking, with "responsible access" on both sides of the vehicle. He cannot call ahead to a restaurant to reserve a parking space with right-hand access to a vehicle, and if there is no access to both sides of a vehicle he would be out of luck. At Outback, the restaurant is set up with wide enough aisles for wheelchairs to navigate, tables under which wheelchairs can fit, and handicap stalls which actually fit wheelchairs. Mr. Hogan said it is common for handicapped persons to have no access to a restaurant’s bathroom. He said that at Red Robin there are 6 handicap spaces, but these are 4 spaces away from the restaurant, as is also the ramp to reach the doorway. He said that some movie theaters place handicap seating places 6 rows from the screen, which is not comfortable, nor is it safe in emergency exit situations. The City of Novi has no para-transit other than the senior transportation vans, which only operate until about 3:00 in the afternoon. Right now, people with disabilities cannot go to work unless they own a car because they cannot get public transportation. Large diesel buses are not needed to operate a para-transit system in Novi, and even the SMART Bus System has subsidies for para-transit vans to operate with in opted-out communities such as Novi. There are federal dollars to pay for the vans and other items, but authorities have so far declined. The new van recently purchased for senior transportation was bought with money donated by Providence Hospital. This van, however, does not have slide-out steps for people to access the van with. He loves Novi, but is embarrassed at times because of quality of life issues for the handicapped.
There being no further business to come before Council or the Planning Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 10:39 p.m.
Richard J. Clark, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, City Clerk
Transcribed by: Steve King
Date approved: August 25, 2003