SPECIAL MEETING OF THE COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF NOVI

SATURDAY, MARCH 14, 1998 AT 8:30 A.M.

NOVI CIVIC CENTER - ACTIVITIES ROOM A, B, & C - 45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD

 

 

Mayor McLallen called the meeting to order at 8:37 a.m.

 

ROLL CALL: Mayor McLallen, Mayor ProTem Crawford, Council Members DeRoche, Kramer, Lorenzo, Mutch, Schmid

 

 

ALSO IN ATTENDANCE: Planning Commission Chair Eda Weddington, Planning Commissioners Bononi, Watza, Csordas, Capello

 

Staff Members Ed Kriewall, James Wahl, Don Saven, Steve Rumple, Greg Capote, Khanh Pham

 

Consultants Brandon Rogers, Rod Arroyo, Linda Lemke

 

Lisa Willard of the Chamber of Commerce

 

Members of the Chamber of Commerceís Economic Development Committee

 

Members of the Cityís Economic Development Corporation

 

 

MODERATOR: Novi News Editor Mike Malott

 

 

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - None

 

 

PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING: Economic Summit

 

 

1. Discussion of Economic Development in the City of Novi

 

 

Introductions

 

Mayor McLallen gave a summary of the economic development process in Novi. She advised that the purpose of this Economic Summit meeting is to "get it right." The Mayor then introduced Mike Malott of the Novi News and advised that he will serve as moderator.

 

Mike Malott introduced Bud Scott, who serves as the Chair of the Chamberís Economic Development Committee.

 

 

 

 

 

Where Are We Now? - "Novi at the Crossroads Development Report"

 

Bud Scott presented a brief summary of the 1998 update of the committeeís "Novi, At the Crossroads of Development" report. Mr. Scott reported that Noviís residential construction is outpacing its industrial and the implications could be serious for Novi. He explained it could mean greater taxes and jeopardize the citizenís safety and health. However, Mr. Scott added that they applaud the many steps the city has taken to change this balance. He explained the city has identified new industrial zoning districts, they have developed an OST ordinance and they are in the process of identifying appropriate areas for this zoning, they are streamlining the building process and they are addressing traffic issues.

 

 

Video - Community Development

Site Plan Manual Guide

 

Jim Wahl reported the cityís Planning and Community Development Department is currently in the process of developing a video tape to help streamline the site plan process. He reported that the departmentís Staff Planner, Steve Rumple is working closely with Lou Martin who serves as the cityís Public Information Director. In addition, Mr. Wahl reported that the consultants and the department have also developed a Site Plan Manual Guide that explains the process and provides answers to common questions raised by new developers in Novi.

 

 

Where Do We Go From Here? Part 1

 

Mr. Malott advised they propose that todayís meeting serve as a brainstorming session with free discussion. He added the speakers should limit their comments and avoid redundancy.

 

Mr. Malott asked whether the residential trend indicated in the Chamberís report is greater in Novi than it is in other communities? Mr. Scott referred to Table 1 on page 2 of the report and replied that residential in Novi is at 58%. Mr. Scott believes that percentage is not out of line as long as there is some growth seen in industrial; Novi should have more of a balance. He noted Farmington Hillsí residential is at 64% and noted that Novi could surpass that because they still have almost half its area to develop.

 

Mr. Kriewall agreed there should be a better balance and added that a lot has to do with the availability of assembled industrial land. He added there is zoning in place, but the area is not ready to develop from a utility or a road stand point. However, Mr. Kriewall believes they will see a shift.

 

Mr. Malott asked Mr. Kriewall to elaborate on the location of industrial land. Mr. Kriewall replied the city is looking to extend Taft Road and develop an industrial corridor on the west side of Walled Lake on two hundred plus acres.

 

Anamaria Kazanis asked when can they expect that area to be ready for development? Mr. Kriewall replied the spring of 1999.

 

Jim Koster of the Novi Schools asked what will the SEV skew be in terms of non-homestead and homestead once Novi is fully developed? Mr. Rogers understands Mr. Kosterís concern regarding this figure because it will affect the schools. However, Mr. Rogers replied they did not break that number out.

 

George Kortlandt asked whether the problem is with the zoning or with the process itself? Councilman Kramer replied that the Master Plan apportions land for the city and believes the challenge lies with its implementation.

 

Mr. Malott asked how Greg Capote markets the city? Mr. Capote replied he works as a partner with both the state and the county. He added that he works very closely with the Michigan Jobs Commission. Mr. Capote advised he is targeting certain industries and attending trade shows like the SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) show that was held in Detroit in February.

 

Mr. Wahl added that the EDC supports the idea of attending special trade shows in order to bring companies and cities together. Mr. Wahl advised this is a new initiative; they target industries and do not wait for them to approach the city. In addition, Mr. Wahl reported that Mr. Capote solicits the type of industry that fits Noviís ordinances and OST zoning is a big step toward that goal.

 

Mr. Malott asked if they are soliciting industries other than auto suppliers? Mr. Capote replied they are primarily targeting auto suppliers and noted that the Japanese are investing heavily in this area.

 

Councilman DeRoche asked Mr. Capote whether he sees the process as the major problem in Novi? Mr. Capote agreed the process is a problem and noted that other communities often streamline the process for some developments in certain zoning districts.

 

Councilman Kramer asked whether the lack of "in place zoning" is a problem? Mr. Capote agreed it is.

 

Councilman Kramer asked how can they address the "in place zoning" issues? Mr. Capote believes the answer lies in the assemblage of small industrial parcels. He explained the key is getting large tracts of land under one ownership and then with proper zoning and infrastructure in place they can move forward.

Councilman DeRoche asked Mr. Capote to comment about the lack of development along Grand River Avenue. Mr. Capote replied there are many individual parcels along Grand River in addition to price and visibility issues. He added that companies are also particular about whom their neighbors are in an industrial development.

 

Wendy Pierman Mitzel asked which comes first, zoning, infrastructure or the assemblage of land? Mr. Capote believes the assemblage of land comes first.

 

Commissioner Capello understands there are variables, but he believes if they compare Novi with their competition in Wixom and Milford, they could then prioritize the problems. Mr. Capote believes they have already begun to address those issues by looking at the review fees and the site plan process. Mr. Capote added that comparing Novi with other communities is difficult because their ordinances and site plan review process vary.

 

Commissioner Capello does not think the process is slow, but he does believe they consume time when developers try to comply with the ordinance.

 

Mr. Capote agreed and added that ordinance requirements also drive the price of a project. He added that he believes Wixom is attracting a different type of industrial development. Commissioner Capello agreed, but he would still like to see that industrial development in Novi.

 

Councilman Schmid disagreed with many of the things said about Novi because he believes Novi is an outstanding community. He further believes the problem with Novi is that it is expensive because of its success. In addition, he believes there is a problem with Noviís infrastructure. Councilman Schmid added that a developer stated to him this morning that he would never build again in Novi because of the slowness in the process. Consequently, he also believes service is a major problem.

 

Mr. Capote restated in regard to the review process that they have recently updated the Site Plan Manual, but agrees it still needs more work on communicating more clearly to the developers what is needed in order to secure site plan approval.

 

Councilman Schmid suggested that more approvals be given at an administrative level; Mr. Capote agreed.

 

Mr. Malott asked whether Council and the Planning Commission are willing to give up that control? Councilman Schmid replied he would if it would speed up the process.

 

Councilwoman Lorenzo believes developers should hold extra meetings and noted that it has been her experience that the Planning Commission has accommodated the developers for those kinds of meetings. Further, Councilwoman Lorenzo believes the planning aspect is falling on the back burner and they need to develop more of a balance between planning and community development.

 

Councilwoman Lorenzo is concerned about having more administrative reviews and asked why should administration be burdened with the reviews. She added that Council has been elected to act on the behalf of the citizens and therefore, they are accountable for these kinds of decisions. She added that administration and consultants do not have the same kind of discretion as elected officials have in terms of requirements and impact to the community. She also disagrees with Mr. Capote in that she believes having the infrastructure in place first is most important because of its cost. Councilwoman Lorenzo concluded by stating she is concerned about the city taking on the responsibility of the cost for rezonings.

 

Blair Bowman stated Councilwoman Lorenzo has raised many issues that the Chamber has already discussed. He added that special land uses bring uncertainty to the developer because the process is lengthy. Consequently, making a reasoned decision is impossible for a developer. Mr. Bowman suggested that if a developer meets the cityís ordinance requirements, then the plan should be approved. He added that he believes working under discretion would be difficult.

 

Mr. Malott agreed and added that is why the zoning should be in place.

 

Mr. Wahl added although there are many things the city can do, the most important thing they can do is improve the process. He believes developers need a clear consensus from the people in authority.

 

Mr. Malott believes that the Chamber wants the City to address the issue of the shift in the trend. He then asked if any member of the audience holds the view that there is already enough industrial development and enough land set aside for industrial development? Commissioner Capello believes Novi needs more physical industrial buildings, but he also believes they already have enough land set aside. He further believes there is an inadequate amount of OST property.

 

Anamaria Kazanis does not believe there are any problems in attracting industry to Novi. However, she does believe the infrastructure is inadequate for the development of more industry.

 

Mr. Malott understands that California makes sure the infrastructure is in place before they develop.

 

Anamaria Kazanis does not believe Novi will get economic development until the roads are improved. She then asked who will pay for improvements to the county roads (i.e., the bridge on Grand River Avenue).

 

Mr. Malott understands there are a variety of ways to pay for them (i.e., bonds, grants, SADís, etc.), but asked what is the best way?

 

Mayor McLallen believes this is a critical issue because the city has no control over major arteries. She reported that the Oakland County Road Commission has no money for improvements and then the city gets negative publicity about their roads. Further, the Mayor advised that the city takes in tax money for road improvements, but the money back formula to the city from the county is skewed. She then asked when have the owners of the road actually spent money on them.

 

Mr. Malott stated the other issue is the assemblage of land and asked whether it is the cityís responsibility to assemble land? Mr. Kriewall replied that the city has received complaints from real estate agents about land assemblage. He added those cities that do hold property, usually have difficulty developing it. Mr. Kriewall believes the city needs to assemble land only under certain situations.

 

Blair Bowman believes the process is still seen as difficult and added that he does not believe the assemblage of land or the development of the infrastructure as the cityís main concern. He believes at a minimum that the city should take proactive steps by identifying areas for zoning. He further believes the city should look closely at their ordinances and be certain to address the kind of development that they hope to attract. Mr. Bowman believes city initiated rezonings would be a good first step.

 

Mr. Malott asked whether the city needs an ombudsman to help get developers through the process? Mr. Wahl believes Steve Rumple serves that purpose in that he is responsible for the smaller projects as the move through the development process. He added that Khanh Pham is responsible for the larger projects. Mr. Wahl believes their staff is willing to work with developers, but added they are sometimes asked to do things that they cannot do.

 

Mr. Malott understands there should be accountability, but added Council and the Planning Commission should also know when to delegate. Mr. Malott finds that as an editor when he keeps too much to himself that things do not get done.

 

Councilwoman Lorenzo believes government operates differently than business. She believes those in business are accountable to a "boss," but elected officials are accountable to the citizens. She added that she personally feels a strong sense of responsibility to be accountable. She added that she believes the operative words should be, "If it is in the best interest of Novi."

 

Mr. Malott believes governments should have good management practices. Councilwoman Lorenzo believes they are already doing that.

 

Councilwoman Lorenzo would like to know what the specific problems are within the departments at the city and whether they are real or only a perception.

 

George Kortlandt offered a different analogy by stating they hire talent to perform certain jobs and they should give the responsibility to these key people.

 

Councilman Schmid agrees with much of what Councilwoman Lorenzo has stated. He added that he also wants strict ordinances, however he still believes there are some things that can be addressed in-house in order to speed up the process and provide better service to the public. Councilman Schmid would like to see the negative perception changed.

 

Mr. Malott asked how can the Planning Department service the public if they are in meetings all day? Councilman Schmid believes all they need to know is what the real problems are.

 

Commissioner Bononi also wants a better definition as to what the real problems are (i.e., land use, ordinances, etc.) so they can begin to propose some sort of solution. She agrees there are still some problems with the Site Plan Manual and that they should amend the ordinances more often than having to conduct a major overhaul of the ordinances at one time.

 

Councilman DeRoche sees Council as a Board of Directors in that they need to detach themselves from the process and review the end result. However, he added that he believes Council should provide parameters that the city staff and developers can follow.

 

Joe Sutschek of Ramco-Gershenson believes they need a practical solution for this critical issue. Mr. Sutschek stated he would support stricter standards, but he sees "time" as the biggest cost to developers. For example, Mr. Sutschek reported it took five years for their company to add 2,100 square feet to the already existing JoAnn Fabrics and he believes that is too long. He suggested that preliminary plans should go before both the Planning Commission and the City Council where developers can receive conditional approvals. He does not believe Council needs to see the final site plan as long as the developer includes the conditions in their final site plan.

 

Art Bates stated he is currently working on constructing a building for Bearing Service in Novi and reported it took five weeks for fee determination. Mr. Bates advised he can live with the costs, but he would like to see a shorter turn-a-round time.

 

Steve Rumple advised that he will provide a perspective of what goes on in the Planning Department on a daily basis after the break.

 

 

BREAK - 10:30 until 11:05 a.m.

 

 

Where Do We Go From Here? Part 2

 

Steve Rumple reported he is the contact for projects and that developers should contact him directly with any problems they may have. He noted when Mr. Wahl made a comment about "things that cannot be done" he was referring to those things that do not follow the ordinance. For example, Mr. Rumple advised they recently received a request from a bank for an outside ATM and that request was not permitted per the cityís ordinances. He added that he has heard complaints about the timeliness of the consultantís reports, but reported that the consultants follow the time line as it is outlined in the ordinance.

 

Mr. Malott asked whether the department is overloaded with work? Mr. Kriewall replied they are currently working on some departmental changes. He explained they are upgrading one position, but added there has been some recent staff turnover within the department also.

 

Mr. Malott asked whether Mr. Kriewall could provide a percentage of the expected staff increase? Mr. Kriewall replied the city conducts an annual review of each department during the budget process and base their staffing needs on the departmental demand.

 

Mr. Malott understands that budgets are set according to permits in the Building Department; Mr. Kriewall agreed that is true for the staffing in the Building Department.

 

Mr. Malott advised there is a land owner in the audience who has some concerns about the property she owns along Haggerty Road.

 

The unidentified land owner advised that her family has owned 22 acres for sixty years along Haggerty between Twelve and Thirteen Mile Roads that is currently zoned RA. The speaker advised that the city has control over what she can do with her property and that she is limited because of the zoning.

 

Mr. Malott asked what would she have the city do? The speaker replied she supposedly has valuable property, but does not understand how it can be valuable when she is unable to sell it to a developer. The speaker would like her property rezoned to OST.

 

Mr. Wahl interjected that there is a Public Hearing scheduled for April 1, 1998 to consider changing that area on the Master Plan from RA to OST.

 

Mr. Malott understands there is a business owner who would like to address the development of industrial along the Grand River corridor.

 

Tom Creech of Wilkens Parts & Equipment advised he is spending more time looking to move from his location on Grand River than stay. He advised his business has been operating in Novi for thirty years and that he has been an owner for three. Mr. Creech reported the foundation is already in place for them to double the size of their building, but he understands he must wait five years. He advised he needs to grow or he will fold. Mr. Creech would like to seek a variance, but he is not certain that he can afford to stay. Consequently, he would like an informal assessment of the surrounding area conducted by the city.

 

Mr. Malott believes that taking care of the people who have been in Novi for a long time is important for the city.

 

Blair Bowman believes the city should review their light industrial ordinance as well as the OST and that proper location for light industrial is important. Mr. Bowman would specifically suggest that the industrial be a high quality corridor not adjacent to residential. He also believes the city should look closely at Grand River so that they can develop it as it should be.

 

Steve Weiner of Harvest Land Company echoes the earlier comment made about more administrative decision making. He believes the issue is how can the city act more like a business instead of a government. He added that he believes the cityís staff already knows what would make the process faster and simpler.

 

Mr. Malott asked Mr. Weiner to provide some examples. Mr. Weiner believes his company had a positive experience with their project. However, he added that they were willing to take the time to go through the process. Mr. Weiner suggested that the staff be asked to define those things they are enforcing that they feel are ludicrous. He added that he does not believe Wixom is their competition because they are built out in terms of industrial and that Lyon Township is now Noviís competition for OST. Further, Mr. Weiner supports Councilís vision about infrastructure issues because he believes it affects everything west of Taft Road.

 

Mr. Malott stated if they give staff more authority that the public would become concerned when meetings are not public. Mr. Weiner stated as a developer, he has an open door policy. However, Mr. Weiner does not always think business dealings must always be in the news. He explained closed door meetings are common for union discussions and land acquisition. Mr. Weiner is proposing that the Planning Department knows where the glitches are and that incentives should be provided to them when they have good ideas.

 

Bill Bowman thinks they are all talking about balance and that the OST zoning will do the same thing for Novi as it has done for Farmington Hills. Mr. Bowman also reported that Farmington Hillsí EDC took the money from their Industrial Revenue Bonds to prepare a plan for the Twelve Mile improvements. He advised the government then provided Farmington Hills with 90% of the cost because the plan was already prepared.

 

Mr. Bowman added that cities should not wait for industry to request a rezoning; he believes city initiated rezonings should be part of the planning process. Further, he believes wetland and woodland issues will be addressed at a site plan level. He would like to see the buildings built so they can increase the cityís tax base.

 

Lisa Willard advised that they plan to schedule another summit in six months.

 

Emmett Lippe of Novi Schools applauded the Chamberís efforts and added that he appreciates the close relationship between the school and city. Mr. Lippe then raised three points. He advised that zoning impacts the schools in terms of density; the tax base impacts the schoolís ability to pay for additional facilities because of the increased density and the roads affect their transportation system.

 

 

Conclusion

* Solutions

* Who

* Time Frame

 

1. What: Lists & details of specific problems with developers

Who: Chamber of Commerce/Lisa Willard

When: September, 1998

 

2. What: Policy Making/Administration Empowerment

Who: Council

When: Spring, 1998

 

3. What: OST Implementation/City Initiated Rezonings

Who: Planning Commission/Council/Mayor McLallen

When: June 1, 1998

 

4. What: Roads

Who: OCRC, Economic Development Committee, Economic Development Corp.

Ed Kriewall/ Bud Scott

When: June 1, 1998

 

 

 

ADJOURNMENT

 

There being no further business before City Council, the meeting was adjourned at 12:35 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mayor City Clerk

 

Transcribed by Barbara Holmes

 

Date Approved: March 6, 1998