Northfield Township's third planner in less than a year has confirmed what the two previous planners reported. 

In a report signed by McKenna Associates President Phil McKenna and Senior Vice President of Planning Sally Hodges, our Township Planners recommend denying Biltmore's request that the Northfield Township Master Plan be amended so that Biltmore may plant a huge residential development on some of the few remaining large agricultural parcels.

My favorite quote:

10: The requested amendment would be a betrayal of the Plan’s major goals and objectives, which were developed based on extensive and substantial public input, based on our review of the planning process.

McKenna also factored in the high cost to taxpayers:

8: Our road analysis has shown that the impacts of the Master Plan amendment would require major changes to the infrastructure, and there is no plan in place to support those changes.

 

Page 14: "Should Review Area MDR development build-out at its maximum (a 75% increase in Township population), a case could be made for added public safety facilities and service west of US-23."

We already knew the Public Safety Building was too large and too expensive.  It concentrated the public safety system resources and debt in one place.    Now we're told that we must build another one, (75% as large?).
 
The original PSB plans were for a one story building, similar to those used by many of the Townships around us.  Those PSB plans, which cost taxpayers over $288,000, were thrown away by the 2001-2004 McFarland administration and a new architect hired.  His plans resulted in the building and debt we have now.  By the time it was over, the architectural fees paid by taxpayers totalled $718,931.95. 
 
When the Public Safety Building was finally completed in 2003, the Supervisor and Building Committee's mismanagement led to $3,878,774.26 in cost overruns not covered by the voter approved $3.8M Northfield Township bond. The cost overruns were paid for out of the General Fund.  To avoid bankruptcy, Northfield Township was forced to borrow $500,000.00 just to pay its routine operating expenses.  That borrowing was not paid off until 2014.   We are still paying for the building.

 

On June 3, 2016, TetraTech, Northfield Township's sewer system Consulting Engineers, also issued a report saying what they've already told Northfield Township many times.  The existing sewer system cannot handle the Biltmore project's demands.

The Reports:

Northfield Township Planner (McKenna Associates) formal review of the Biltmore LLC Request for a Northfield Township Master Plan Amendment, dated June 3, 2016

TetraTech's report on the capacity of the Northfield Township sewer system to handle the requirements of the Biltmore's plans for development of southwest Northfield Township, dated June 3, 2016

History:

Biltmore Development LLC's 5-14-2014 request for a Northfield Township Master Plan Amendment

This is the letter referenced by Township Manager Fink on March 4, 2015, when he told Planning Commissioner Sam Iaquinto that the Biltmore Project entailed the possible building of 1500 homes.  At the December 8, 2015 Board meeting, Fink denied having said this.  Here's Fink on video, saying it to Iaquinto.

 

 

 

 

A lakeside park, a public beach, and lake access have long been on the local wish list.  If the Van Curler parcel purchase goes through, it becomes very suddenly possible.

The dream of lake access is discussed on pages 86-87 of the 2015 Northfield Township Parks & Recreation master plan.

Chelsea didn't want it; they couldn't stop it if they tried, but Green Oak got it.  For the next ten years, visitors to Green Oak's Island Lake Recreation Area will share the sounds of nature with the sounds of heavy mining equipment.

But why worry?  The Michigan DEQ is looking out for us.

- by Paula Gardner, January 28, 2016, MLive

Walmart will close two local stores, a six year old Walmart Supercenter at US-23 & M-59 in Hartland Township, and a Sam's Club in Waterford Township — today at 7 p.m..  The questions of what will happen to the buildings and what that will mean to their host communities — in terms of employment and tax revenue, remain unanswered.

The Hartland store is 176,000 square feet, about average for a Walmart "hypermarket" that includes a full grocery. It sits on 27 acres at US-23 and M-59, anchoring a corner of the interchange's retail hub that also includes Meijer, Target and Kroger.  The store was built in 2009, following a decade-long residential building boom, which in turn prompted commercial construction along the corridor.

Waterford township Supervisor Gary Wall said "I'm not shocked.". But having the Sam's Club remain at its 14-acre location near Telegraph Road and M-59 in Oakland County was important to the community, Wall said. The location is adjacent to Summit Place Mall, a 1.3-million square foot shopping center that has been vacant since 2009.  That's a lot of vacant commercial real estate," Wall said.

Both communities will lose six-figure tax revenue: 2015 bills totaled $171,140 in Hartland on the $4.185 million assessment, and $146,033 in Waterford on the $2.8 million assessment.

Read more of the MLive story here

ArtCraft Building 2015 12 16 v2 360wAt the December 14 meeting of the South Lyon City Council, Attorneys Paul Burns and Bradford Maynes explained their role in Brighton's transformation into a Downtown dining destination.

`Brighton officials began by forming a team called “Blight Busters” to identify what the city needed to do to inspire new and existing land owners to work together. The group identified problem properties and ranked them from worst to the least bad.

 

“We created a list to work our way through town, from biggest to smallest problems,” Burns said. Their tools were ordinances, statutes, building codes, and tickets.

 

Paul E. Burns & Associates represented Brighton in a 2014 Supreme Court ruling that said two Brighton homes, owned by Marilyn and Leon Bonner, should be demolished. The Bonners also own multiple South Lyon properties, including the Art Craft building on Lafayette. The empty storefront in the heart of downtown has been unoccupied for more than 20 years.'

Unmentioned in Diane Andreassi's Hometown Life report is downtown South Lyon's more serious eyesore, a car repair business and its parking lot located in the middle of downtown.  Relocating would cost the business a small fortune.

 

Much more detail is in the source for the quoted text, Diane Andreassi's report in Hometown Life, South Lyon eyes Brighton as possible downtown model, 12-15-2015.  The photograph is mine.  Paul Burns & Associates are Northfield Township's legal advisors.

HamburgTwp PineCreekBluff NE 320w

Despite being Livingston County's most populous Township, the Planners and Developers of our northwestern neighbor, Hamburg Township, have in the past twenty years preserved as open space over 2,000 acres.  Today's buzzword?  Conservation Subdivision. 

The idea was Randall Arendt's, so I'll let him explain:

'Subdivision regulations are one of the principal tools for
shaping our communities. It is through the subdivision review process that communities most directly assure that residential development is designed in a way which promotes community objectives such as the preservation of open space and natural areas.
 
But to back up a step, why should we be concerned about protecting open space? In a nutshell, by preserving open space we protect streams and water quality, provide habitat for plants and animals, preserve rural “atmosphere,” provide recreational areas, protect home values, and reduce costs of municipal services. In short, land conservation makes our communities better places to live.

SEMCOG logo

Reported by WHMI, 93.5 FM Livingston County News

"After several years of not being a member of the SouthEast Michigan Council of Governments, the city of Brighton has decided to rejoin the regional organization. Brighton had left in 2010 due to budgetary reasons.  City Manager Dana Foster says that the annual membership to SEMCOG for the city is just $1,176.  Foster says SEMCOG engages members and other municipalities in directing regional plans and policies and recommends positions on state and federal legislative and regulatory proposals. He adds that SEMCOG provides a wealth of data that the city uses on a regular basis in preparing its annual budget document."

For more Livingston County News, check out the WHMI 93.5 FM News Home Page.

SEMCOG Reports:

Retrenchment and Renewal: The Economic and Demographic Outlook for Southeast Michigan Through 2040 
Southeast Michigan 2040 Forecast Summary 
SEMCOG 2040 Forecast, Population by Age Group by School District 
2040 Forecast presentation to General Assembly (3-22-12) (pdf, 4.8 MB) 

2008 Land Use Report

SEMCOG: 2040 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP)

SEMCOG: 2014-2017 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP)

SEMCOG: Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)

SEMCOG: Bicycle and Pedestrian Travel

SEMCOG: Placemaking,   Complete Streets,    Green Infrastructure Vision

Related Links:

NEMCOG: Northeast Michigan Council of Governments  US-23 Heritage Route Corridor Management Plan

Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan (RTA) includes Washtenaw, Wayne, Oakland, & Macomb Counties

Michigan Association of Regions (MAR) - Michigan is divided into 14 regional planning authorities. This website has been neglected but contains a few useful links.  The Upcoming Events section is seriously out of date.

National Association of Regions - NARC - Enter this prepared for an onslaught of Acronyms.  NARC represents Regional Councils (RCs), Councils of Government (COGs), and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) which in turn represent the interests of over 35,000 local governments.

Click here for NARC's complete list of Regional Councils (RCs), Councils of Government (COGs), and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

- excerpts from Diane Andreassi's November 27, 2015 report in Hometown Life (Gannett)

After Lyon Township residents armed with petitions came out in opposition, the Lyon Township planning commission tabled a revised master plan that calls for more homes per acre in rural areas of the township.

Residents objected that it was too soon to revise the Lyon Township Master Plan, which had been adopted in April, 2012.* 

[- What you're about to read is the October 28, 2015 Vox article, How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult, by David Roberts]

In the Atlantic, Julie Beck has a great new piece on "How Friendships Change in Adulthood." It will ring true for Vox readers of, uh, a certain age. Like my age, for instance. Old, is what I'm saying.

I do think, however, that Beck left out an interesting piece of the puzzle. Our ability to form and maintain friendships is shaped in crucial ways by the physical spaces in which we live. "Land use," as it's rather aridly known, shapes behavior and sociality. And in America we have settled on patterns of land use that might as well have been designed to prevent spontaneous encounters, the kind out of which rich social ties are built.

We get by with a little less help from our friends

It's a familiar tale that Beck tells: Early in life, friendships are central to our development and sense of self. This is true right up through to those early post-collegiate years, when everyone is starting out in their professional lives.

And then people get married. They have kids. Their parents get older and need more care. They settle into careers. All those obligations — spouses, kids, family, work — are things we have to do. Friendships are things we choose to do. And that means, when time contracts and things get busier, friendships get bumped.

So as we get older, time with friends tapers off. "[In a study we did,] we asked people to tell us the story of the last person they became friends with, how they transitioned from acquaintance to friend," researcher Emily Langan told Beck. "It was interesting that people kind of struggled":

In a set of interviews he did in 1994 with middle-aged Americans about their friendships, [researcher William] Rawlins [of Ohio University] wrote that, "an almost tangible irony permeated these adults' discussions of close or ‘real’ friendship." They defined friendship as "being there" for each other, but reported that they rarely had time to spend with their most valued friends, whether because of circumstances, or through the age-old problem of good intentions and bad follow-through: "Friends who lived within striking distance of each other found that… scheduling opportunities to spend or share some time together was essential," Rawlins writes. "Several mentioned, however, that these occasions often were talked about more than they were accomplished."

This is a sad story. People almost universally report that friendships are important to their happiness and well-being. They don't want to lose touch with friends and stop making new ones. They lament it constantly. (I can testify to all of this firsthand.)

But as the habits of family and work settle in, friendships become an effort, and as every tired working parent knows, optional effort tends to get triaged.

Is this an inevitable state of affairs?

Our missing tribes

There's a temptation to say that this is inevitable, just the way things are. People grow up, they don't hang out with friends as much anymore, it's kind of sad, but that's just how it is.

But it's worth remembering that it is not inevitable. In fact it's quite new! For the vast majority of Homo sapiens' history, we lived in small, nomadic bands. The tribe, not the nuclear family, was the primary unit. We lived among others of various ages, to which we were tied by generations of kinship and alliance, throughout our lives. Those are the circumstances in which our biological and neural equipment evolved.

It's only been comparatively recently (about 10,000 years ago) that we developed agriculture and started living in semi-permanent communities, more recently still that were thrown into cities, crammed up against people we barely know, and more recently still that we bounced out of cities and into suburbs.

So everything about how we live now is "unnatural," at least in terms of our biology. Of course, that doesn't mean it's bad — it's generally a bad idea to draw normative conclusions from evolutionary history — but it should remind us that socially constructed living patterns have shallower roots than we might think from our parochial perspective.

Point being, each of us living in our own separate nuclear-family castles, with our own little faux-estate lawns, getting in a car to go anywhere, never seeing friends unless we make an effort to schedule it — there's nothing fated or inevitable about it.

Why should it require explicit scheduling to see a friend who lives "within striking distance"? Why shouldn't proximity do some of the work? That answer, for many Americans, is that anywhere beyond a few blocks away might as well be miles; it all requires a car. We do not encounter one another in cars. We grind along together anonymously, often in misery.

The loss of spontaneous encounters

Why do we form such strong friendships in college and form so few afterward?

I read a study many years ago that I have thought about many times since, though hours of effort have failed to track it down. The gist was this: The key ingredient for the formation of friendships is repeated spontaneous contact. That's why we make friends in college: because we are, by virtue of where we live and our daily activities, forced into regular contact with the same people. It is the natural soil out of which friendship grows.

This study isn't it, but it's similar, to wit:

The researchers believed that physical space was the key to friendship formation; that "friendships are likely to develop on the basis of brief and passive contacts made going to and from home or walking about the neighborhood." In their view, it wasn’t so much that people with similar attitudes became friends, but rather that people who passed each other during the day tended to become friends and later adopted similar attitudes.

And this also reinforces the point:

As external conditions change, it becomes tougher to meet the three conditions that sociologists since the 1950s have considered crucial to making close friends: proximity; repeated, unplanned interactions; and a setting that encourages people to let their guard down and confide in each other, said Rebecca G. Adams, a professor of sociology and gerontology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. This is why so many people meet their lifelong friends in college, she added.

Some of this natural social mixing follows us to post-collegiate life. We bond with people we work with every day and the people who share our rented homes and apartments.

But when we marry and start a family, we are pushed, by custom, policy, and expectation, to move into our own houses. And when we have kids, we find ourselves tied to those houses. Many if not most neighborhoods these days are not safe for unsupervised kid frolicking. In lower-income areas there are no sidewalks; in higher-income areas there are wide streets abutted by large garages. In both cases, the neighborhoods are made for cars, not kids. So kids stay inside playing Xbox, and families don't leave except to drive somewhere.

Thus, seeing friends, even friends within "striking distance," requires planning. "We should really get together!" We say it, but we know it means calls and emails, finding an evening free of work, possibly babysitters. We know it would be fun, but it's so much easier just to settle in for a little TV.

Those of you who are married with kids: When was the last time you ran into a friend or "dropped by" a friend's house without planning it? When was the last time you had a spontaneous encounter with anyone who was not a clerk or a barista, someone serving you?

Where would it happen? What public spaces are there in which you mix and mingle freely with people on a regular basis? The mall? Walmart? How about noncommercial spaces? Can you think of one?

Living with people

Say you're a family with children and you don't regularly attend church (as is increasingly common). There are basically two ways to have regular, spontaneous encounters with people. Both are rare in America.

One is living in a real place, with shared public spaces, around which one can move relatively safely. It seems like a simple thing, but such places are rare even in the cities where they exist. (I live in North Seattle, undoubtedly coded as urban for census purposes, but my walkshed is pretty lame. Meanwhile, a few miles south of me they're building million-dollar single-family homes square in the middle of a perfect walkshed, right across from the zoo.)

A robust walkshed is an area in which a community of people regularly mingles doing errands, walking their dogs, playing in the parks, going to school and work, etc. Ideally, cities would be composed of clusters of such walksheds, connected by good public transit.

But we don't live in such a world. Walkable communities are very difficult to find in the US, and because there is such paucity of supply relative to demand, they are expensive, accessible only to the high-income. Places where they exist, like San Francisco, tend to have absurd zoning restrictions that prevent growing them. (Our own Matt Yglesias has much to say on these issues.)

The second, even more rare, is some form of co-housing. There are many kinds of co-housing, too many to get into in this post, but my favorite, a common model in Germany, is baugruppen, or building groups. I wrote an enthusiastic post about baugruppen here:

In practice, baugruppen are basically like condos, but with much more robust shared spaces and collective ownership rather than developer ownership. (If you want to know much more about them, passivhaus designer Mike Eliason has a seven-part series I highly recommend. He summarizes it as "private owners collaboratively building affordable multifamily projects.")

The idea behind baugruppen, and co-housing generally, is that it's nice to live in an extended community, to have people to rely on beyond family. It's nice to have bustling shared spaces where you can run into people you know without planning it beforehand. It's nice to have friends for your kids, places where they can play safely, and other adults who can share kid-tending duties.

Refusing to accept the status quo of default isolation

Both these alternatives — walkable communities and co-housing — likely sound exotic to American ears. Thanks to shifting baselines, most Americans only know single-family dwellings and auto-dependent land use. They cannot even articulate what they are missing and often misidentify the solution as more or different private consumption.

But I do not think we should just accept that when we marry and start families, we atomize, and our friendships, like our taste in music, freeze where they were in college. We shouldn't just accept a way of living that makes interactions with neighbors and friends a burden that requires special planning.

We should recognize that by shrinking our network of strong social ties to our immediate families, we lose something important to our health and social identities, with the predictable result that we are ridden with anxiety and loneliness. We are meant to have tribes, to be among people who know us and care about us.

To some extent, economic and employment trends have made us rootless. We move around much more and remain in jobs for less time (or work in the "gig economy"). We don't stay in one place the way our parents and grandparents did. Those trends, which have brought good along with bad, are likely irreversible.

But we can do something about the places where we live. We can make them more conducive to community and spontaneous social mixing. We know how to do it — it's just a matter of agreeing that we need it and changing policy accordingly.

[- What you've just read is the October 28, 2015 Vox article, How our housing choices make adult friendships more difficult, by David Roberts]

 

2010 survey ten best things 688w532h

 Chart: page 9    Data: page 53-54 of 101 page report

Watch video of Beckett & Raeder Planner Leah DuMouchel explaining the significance of the 1996 and 2010 Community Surveys to the Northfield Township Planning Commission.

Read the Powerpoint document DuMouchel used to explain the 1996 and 2010 Northfield Township Community Surveys.

 

2010 survey Question 24 priorities bar chart 688w561h

 Chart: page 11    Data: page 57-58 of 101 page report

 

2010 survey ten worst things 688w 505h

 Chart: page 10    Data: page 55-56 of 101 page report

 

 

2010 Northfield Township Survey

   
 

23. What are the 3 worst features of Northfield Township?

%

Responses

       

1

Combined local tax burden

35.50

129

2

Lack of commercial development

31.10

113

3

Inadequate road maintenance

29.50

107

4

High local taxes (township)

27.00

98

5

Lack of downtown identity/feel

22.90

83

6

Lack of nearby shopping options

21.80

79

7

Lack of safe non-motorized transport (bike)

16.80

61

8

High local taxes (school)

16.30

59

9

No municipal water supply

15.40

56

10

Other

14.00

51

11

lack of park and recreation options

8.00

29

12

Lack of cultural opportunities

7.70

28

13

Traffic congeston

7.70

28

14

Lack of public transportation

6.90

25

15

Whitmore lake schools

5.80

21

16

High cost of living

5.50

20

17

Lack of proximity to my employment

3.30

12

18

Too much commercial development

1.90

7

19

Lack of affordable homes

1.90

7

20

Limited housing options

1.90

7

21

Public safety

1.90

7

22

Proximity fo Dexter

1.70

6

23

Access to top tier schools

1.40

5

24

Close to highways

1.40

5

25

Proximity to A2

0.80

3

26

Rural character

0.60

2

 

Ann arbor schools

0.30

1

 

Dexter schools

0.00

0

 

South Lyon schools

0.00

0

       

At the March 4th Planning Commission meeting, Township Planner Doug Lewan showed the commissioners the range of options for developing an 80 acre parcel.  I captured his drawings to go with the following transcription.  A few umms, a few uhhs, and a few grammatical missteps have been edited out but other than that, this is verbatim.

80 Acres TitleDensityComparisonsZoning 

[Beginning of Transcription]

Doug Lewan: "At one of the last meetings we talked about making sure the planning commissioners understood about, and this goes along with our previous discussions, about densities and things like that.  So at our last meeting, or a few meetings ago, I brought up the point that, perhaps, the planning commissioners can't visualize, necessarily what's permitted in our zoning ordinance and how our open space provisions work and how various projects might occur on property.  And I'll hit this stuff here.  I was going to hand this out.  I was going to email this to everyone before hand so if you don't have it, I've got copies.

[Click Read More for the rest of the presentation and 13 slides]