UPDATE: Short video clips of key points in the meeting are now posted on Youtube.  From this meeting we clipped four call to the public comments and the entire process of the Survey vote, Agenda item 8.  Instead of watching two hours on Livestream, you can watch 24 minutes of video clips.

May 12th Meeting Agenda,  Meeting Packet, Manager's Report, Meeting Minutes (when published), and Livestream link.

At the May 12th meeting, the Board voted 6-1, Dockett dissenting, to hire Cobalt as the the sole bidder to perform a survey of Northfield Township voters.  Prior to approval, there was a cursory discussion of the survey vendor, Cobalt Community Research, and the issue of the single bid.  Trustee Kathy Braun seemed disquieted by Cobalt's troubling subcontractor, Douglas Communications.  What disturbed Braun was Douglas' explicit promise that it could overcome community opposition, bullet point #2 on its website.  She voted to approve the $16,832 contract anyway, but at least she noticed the bias.

The video clip of the twelve minute survey discussion and vote, on Youtube.

This survey may have an outsized impact on our community.  At least one Planning Commissioner has said that this survey should be the only fresh public input into the new Master Plan.  (youtube video clip and transcript of March 4, 2015 meeting where Commissioner Stanalajczo said this.)

Before the vote, at the first Call to the Public, the Board heard from township resident Tom Zelenock.  A researcher at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research (ISR), Tom is a bona fide expert on surveys.  He ran down a list of issues and reasons to reconsider going with the single bidder.    How well known and reputable is the University of Michigan ISR?  Consider this.  The ISR's survey of Consumer Sentiment moves Equities Markets around the world when it is released every month.  The UofM ISR is a big deal. 

You can watch Tom's 2 minutes here on Youtube or read our full transcription of his advice below.

Dr. Ed Wojtys asked and weighed several cogent questions, advising the board that they should themselves answer these questions before proceeding.  First among these: what would constitute an acceptable or useful response rate?  The board had no answer.  The board didn't really seem to care.  If anything, they ignored him with the same confirmation bias fueled stubborness with which they ignored Tom Zelenock. 

You can watch Dr Wojtys' two minutes here on Youtube or read our full transcription of his advice below.

Former Township Supervisor Mike Ciccella also addressed the board.  He asked why the three bid minimum was not followed.  He explained why residential development was a net cost to townships.  He recommended developing the downtown, which fifteen or twenty thousand people drive by every day.  He encouraged development of the long languishing Territorial Road Industrial Park because of the positive tax dollar inflow from Industrial property.  (In terms of community services, Industry costs 29 cents per dollar of tax revenue. Residential development demands $1.19 per dollar of tax revenue.)

You can watch Mike here in this 2 minute Youtube clip or read our full transcription of his comments below.  

Craig Warburton spoke to the board about the Board's flawed response to Cobalt's flawed proposal.

 Here are Craig's comments on youtube.   I will transcribe Craig's comments when I have another free hour.  (That's how long it takes.)

Later the board voted to bid out the Planning Consultant's job.  I doubt if this is coincidence. 

The backstory:  After working for the same rates since 2009, Carlisle Wortman asked for a 2.5% hourly rate increase and a $50/month retainer increase.  This request appeared in the 5/12/2015 Manager's report.  At the May 12 Board meeting, (about 1hr 22 minutes into the Livestream record) Supervisor Engstrom seized this as an opportunity to formally open the planning consultant position to new applicants.  Loyalty, quality of service, and knowledge of the issues be damned.  The idea was added to the Agenda in the middle of Fink's manager's report and later approved

Wasn't Planner Doug Lewan "flexible" enough for our Township Management?  After all, he did defend the Master Plan, in his way.  On March 4 he gave the Planning Commission a great presentation on the wide variety of options available to developers under the current master plan.  We can't blame Lewan for the attempts to subvert the Master Plan.  This didn't become subversion until Manager Fink inserted his office and his promises into negotiations between Biltmore and six property owners and speculators.

Since we're in full report mode, during the Department Head reports, Lt. Tim Green of the Northfield Township Police Department presented a new online crime reporting website.  This is intended for reporting crimes that have already happened.  No suspects known.  No imminent danger to anyone.  It does not replace a 911 call.  It can be a quick way of getting a report for an insurance company claim.  Lt. Green also previewed a new online crime mapping tool.  If you want to know where not to live, it's key.  I'll post a video clip of this soon.

A little background on the Township Board:  Trustees Janet Chick and Jackie Otto live in Shadowwood Farms, a small housing development called Little Livonia by their neighbors (not Northfield Neighbors!) in nearby Horseshoe Lake.  Little Livonia...  the name says it all.  Chick and Otto have lived there since about 2004, according to property sales records.  Most of us have lived in Northfield Township longer than they have.  Some of us have lived here a lot longer.

According to Otto's campaign website, she's a believer in farmland as farmland and is against "leapfrogging" development.  Her campaign website shows no photos of suburbs, bulldozers, rooftops, traffic congestion or sprawl.  Just photos of lakes, cornfields, all things peaceful and quiet. Your job, Northfielders, is to remind her of that and hold her to it.

If you've attended meetings you'll have noticed that Supervisor Engstrom barely looks at Neighbors when they speak during Call to the Public.   She writes notes or doodles.



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Selected Public Comments transcribed:  Times are offsets from the start of the Livestream video.

Tom Zelenock:   (Tom's 2 minute speech is here on Youtube.)  (On Livestream it's @00hr, 26min, 48sec from the start)

Good evening.  My name's Tom Zelenock; I live at *** Six Mile.  I'm going to read from my notes to try and stay within the time frame.  Regarding this proposed survey...  I work for the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.  We make our living conducting large surveys, collecting data, doing analysis, and managing data.  My opinions are definitely my own.


I applaud the decision to survey the Township residents and get input from them as a basis for shaping our growth plans.  A well done survey should provide information that is representative of the various constituencies in Northfield Township.  The hamlet and rural areas come to mind but there are certainly others.  It should also address the many issues that are of concern to these constituencies.  Development, preservation, and who pays the bills for these are just a few.  A well done survey will be valuable to the board, the planning commission, and the residents. 


Unfortunately, however, I'm already sceptical of the way that this is being implemented.  This board has made clear its desire for growth, any growth, regardless of citizens repeatedly expressing concern for open space preservation.  The Township is apparently satisfied with one survey proposal.  Regardless of how many were received, a more aggressive outreach could certainly be done.  One proposal is not sufficient unless it is the one you're already looking for.  Cobalt Community Research has an impressive set of customers.  No doubt they've done good work for them.  However most of these customers are established cities.  They are not communities such as Northfield Township, which is trying to determine the extent and the pace of development.  A firm with a track record of assisting communities more like ours would be a better choice.


Surveys can be designed to objectively help to determine the best course of action or they can be designed to validate a decision that has already been made.  The bid package from Cobalt Community Research states that the township is to provide Cobalt with feedback on preferred questions.  Preferred questions, revisions of survey instruments and cover letters, and approvals, presumeably final approvals of survey instruments and cover letters.


Are we really trying to determine the opinions of the Township residents?  This board is likely going to pay for a survey.  At some point the results will be presented to the public.  I hope that the township residents bear in mind that the answers that are gotten depend on the questions that are asked.  And I hope the township board bears in mind that we understand this.  Thank you for your time.


 Dr. Ed Wojtys:   (Ed's 2 minute speech is here on Youtube.)  (On Livestream it's @00hr, 17min, 04sec from the start)

I appears that we're going to be doing a survey in the township and I think that that's an excellent method among others to really know what the public sentiment is about a crucial issue.  Looking over the information that was available about Cobalt Community Research it's pretty clear that they're a public relations firm.  I don't think that that's the type of professional that you want doing your survey.  If a survey's done in a balanced, unbiased, non prejudicial manner, all parties that are involved with the controversy feel comfortable with, and if the survey instrument is vetted ahead of time so that it is really fair to the issues at hand, and there's ways to do that.  If you get multiple groups to bid you can tell them what the issue is and ask them to actually form the survey instrument and then see what the different groups feel about the applicability of that to the particular issue.  If it's done well no matter what the outcome is, the oppostion or those who are successful in their points can accept it.  Personally, I'm not for developing the farmland in our township but if it turned out in a fair unbiased survey that a majority of the people in the township wanted that, I'd have to live with it.  But if it's done in a manner that I find difficult to accept then it's not going to be the same.  

The other thing to think about is, that with surveys, you know you never get a high percentage of involvement.  So I think it's fair, ahead of time, to ask yourself what you're going to accept.  Are you going to accept 15% participation?  30%?  What is it going to be?  You can't wait until the results are in to say whether or not that percentage is acceptable because that wouldn't be fair.  Establishing that ahead of time, if the percentage is too low, if you say we have to have 35% participation and you only get 15, what's your plan B? How are you then going to resolve the issue?  But if it's done in that manner, no matter what the outcome is, I think it will be a lot easier for the citizens of Northfield Township to accept.


Thank you for your time.

Former Township Supervisor Mike Ciccella     (Mike's speech is here on Youtube) (On Livestream it's @00hr, 12min, 26sec from the start)

I understand we're looking at doing a survey and again spending some more money. I read the Cobalt letter to Marlene and the first or second paragraph it says "even the most prescient master plans, while they may not anticipate the possibility of development proposals may bring to the table," which is true.  And the reason for that is master planning really doesn't have a significant part to do with the economic conditions of the time.   We've had master plans historically in good times and bad.  It's really a master plan is a vision that the community has relative to what it's going to look like in the future, and that's why many of us moved here. I don't know why there's an insisting on spending money on redoing a two and a half year old master plan that's been supported by the residents.  Basically the community's already told the leadership what its likes and what its expectations are.  If we're going to do this every time we get a developer who wants to build in our community I think it sets a bad precident and a possible basis for future lawsuit by other developers.  A mass development does not necessarily make net revenues to the township.  The cost of creating and maintaining infrastructure is a significant offset to tax revenue.  And you read about it all the time why so many developed communities are in financial trouble and why you think Ann Arbor is annexing parts of the townships around it - because they need more money to operate the city.  My daughter lives there and I know what her bills have gone up to which are rather significant in terms of sewer and water.  


I would encourage you though.  I mean, you guys sound like you had a good visioning session. I would support redevelopment of the downtown area and acquiring the Van Curler property, create a city center with a mix of business, restaurants, office, mixed residential and some recreational, but work with Van Curlers to do that.  A city center like Plymouth or Northville by a lake would be attractive to the fifteen or twenty thousand people that drive by our township every day.  


And I think we ought to be aggressively marketing our Industrial Park.  We put it there and we've had hardly any growth in that area at all.  The infrastructure exists for these projects in what I think would generate a greater net revenue to our township.  


In terms of the process for getting this consultant, Cobalt, normally we require three bids.  And I don't know if we had that or not.  Even though they do a survey, if you decide to go out and do this, it doesn't preclude the rest of the process of master planning which includes community visioning sessions, community meetings.  Just because they had, a survey back in 1996 that everybody quotes, that didn't preclude us, several times, having our community meetings and visioning sessions, which I think is important.  Because people can verbalize at that point in time and actually see the leadership's proposal.  


Thank you for your time.


Oh, and I don't know... someone was passing this garbage out at the polls [Mike holds up May 5th flyer] and I don't know if we have any rules relative to passing out information, misinformation, and not identifying who prepared it.  Again, that's more of a question.  I don't know ... from a poll standpoint, if they're allowed to do that and pass out information without having any identification on who prepared it. Thank you.



The video clip of Dr Ed Wojtys two minutes is here, on Youtube..

Video of Tom Zelenock's two minute speech is here, on Youtube.

Former Supervisor Mike Ciccella's speech is here, on Youtube.

Video of Craig Warburton's speech is here, on Youtube.

Video of the Board's Survey discussion and vote is here, on Youtube.


Click to watch the entire May 12th Meeting on Livestream

Click to download the Meeting Agenda

Click to download the Meeting Packet

Click to download the Township Manager's Report

Click to download Meeting Minutes (when available)