SPECIAL JOINT MEETING OF THE CITY COUNCIL AND THE PARKS AND RECREATION COMMISSION
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 1998 AT 6:00 P.M.
NOVI CIVIC CENTER ACTIVITIES ROOM - 45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD
Mayor McLallen called the meeting to order at 6:04 p.m.
ROLL CALL COUNCIL: Mayor McLallen, Mayor ProTem Crawford, Council Members
DeRoche (arrived 6:05 p.m.), Kramer, Lorenzo, Mutch, Schmid
ROLL CALL PARKS & RECREATION COMMISSION:
Atiyeh, Colligan, Keuth, Mitzel, Shaw, Staab (absent), Wingfield
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING - To discuss the Golf Course proposal.
Mayor McLallen advised the purpose of the meeting is to hear how the potential of a golf course fits in the cityís overall recreation program from the Parks & Recreation Commission.
Mayor McLallen requested that Council limit audience participation to ten minutes because they are on a tight schedule and the nature of this meeting is informational only.
CM-98-11-367: Moved by Crawford, Seconded by Schmid, CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To limit Audience Participation to ten minutes
Vote on CM-98-11-367: Yeas: McLallen, Crawford, Kramer, Lorenzo, Mutch, Schmid
Bob Wilkins - advised he was an active supporter of the 1993 millage for the preservation of open space and wildlife and a golf course was never mentioned in that millage. Mr. Wilkins recalled in 1993 there were many people concerned that Novi would find themselves without any open space. Mr. Wilkins believes Council should not discuss the proposed golf course without also discussing the total development of all the property in that area irrespective of the value of that other property because the land that they are using has that kind of value to the citizenry. Mr. Wilkins believes if the city moves forward with this project without citizen confirmation, they will set a dangerous precedent.
Bruce McLeod - supports the golf course and believes the city should use the land in a way that will attract the most people.
Carol Davio - advised although she and her husband are avid golfers, she opposes a city owned golf course. She agrees that this issue should be a vote of the citizenry and should not be a decision made only by Council. She further believes the management and ownership of a golf course should be left to the professionals.
George Forsyth - advised that he had no opinion about the development of a golf course until approximately two weeks ago. He explained that he went out to try to find other parks in Novi and he could not find one. He advised that when he spent approximately 40 minutes at the North Novi Park, he is now convinced that Novi does not need a golf course. He believes the park property is priceless and the city will never be able to replace this land. Further, he believes it is a disservice to the citizens that the city does not have appropriate signage for the park and added that the citizens could volunteer to build wooden signs to direct the users of the park.
Chuck Tindall - asked whether Council is going to address the issue of wasting tax dollars on surveys that they are choosing to ignore. He reminded Council that he distributed a petition and came up with approximately 750 signatures opposing the golf course. He added that according to the Novi News, 88% of the Noviís citizens who responded also opposed the golf course. In addition, Mr. Tindall reported that a golf course was listed as fifth of eight on a survey distributed by the Parks & Recreation Commission and the golf course on the Planning Commissionís survey lost 46% to 31%. He added although Council can make the hard decisions, he believes they recently saw in Congress what can happen if government continues to ignore the majority of public opinion.
1. Discussion of Golf Course Proposal.
Dan Davis provided a history of the site master plan in process. He reported that the Commission and the consultants came up with four alternatives for the site. He then advised that they narrowed the alternatives to two. Mr. Davis reported one proposal had a multitude of recreational opportunities on the site without a golf course provision. He continued by stating that the second proposal included the golf course option along with other parks and recreational facilities (i.e., trails, picnic shelters, nature areas, boardwalks, etc.). Mr. Davis advised that the two plans were reviewed again by the Parks Commission and both plans were forwarded to Council at a joint meeting with the Parks Commission. Mr. Davis reminded Council that it was the preference of the Parks Commission to recommend that Council move forward with the option that included the golf course option. He explained that was done because if they excluded something without researching it entirely, they would not be able to realize what their options would be when it becomes time to make a final decision. He continued by stating that they then recommended that if they were going to look at a golf course option, they needed to get additional information such as a market and economic feasibility study for the golf course component. Since then, Mr. Davis reported that many things have changed and some of the ownership and uses of the property have changed. He explained they were originally looking at only city-owned property and now some of the property is being used for mitigation purposes and they may also move the DPW site to that location.
Member Colligan reminded everyone that the bond was really passed in 1992 as that is when they conducted all of the preparation work for the actual vote to take place in January 1993. Member Colligan reported they used approximately 70% of the bond money to purchase the north end property. However, he added they still needed property for active recreation (i.e., ball fields, tennis courts soccer fields, basketball courts, etc.) and because he believes the Novi Youth Baseball and Soccer Associations helped to pass that bond, they had a responsibility to spend the next two to three years to acquire additional land for that active recreation. Member Colligan reported the city now has a park with eight ball fields, six soccer fields, basketball courts, picnic areas, walking trails and the Pope Memorial.
Member Colligan advised once they purchased the north end land, they had the task of master planning and it was not until 1996 that they came up with what they thought was an appropriate plan for the property. Member Colligan recalled that they kept eliminating and adding different uses for the park and as recommending body, they developed many uses for the park. When the preliminary study was conducted in 1996 for a golf course, Member Colligan advised that they liked what they saw as far for being able to put everything together. He added that they were also under the impression that they had more than 500 acres of usable property that they now know they do not have. Member Colligan continued by stating that they then moved to the next level by conducting a feasibility study and he believes everyone knows that they received a positive recommendation for a golf course on that site. Further, Member Colligan stated because they cannot develop parks with revenue bonds, they felt there was a need to research a revenue area where perhaps the revenue from one could pay for another. Member Colligan noted that there was never an indication they would only support putting a golf course on that property. Member Colligan reminded Council that the Commission has stated twice that if a golf course fits, they would not favor constructing only a golf course without also developing the rest of the park (i.e., active bike trails and hiking trails, nature center, picnic area, etc.). Further, Member Colligan also reminded Council that this area was considered as a possible site for the ice arena. He restated that there is no way that this Commission would only propose the idea of a golf course for that property without developing the rest.
Member Atiyeh added that the Commission also looked at uses that would service the greatest number of people and they discovered that a golf course would service the greatest number of people.
Member Wingfield advised he is an avid golfer and has never seen an unattractive or financially unviable golf course. He added that golf courses are also environmentally sensitive. He reminded Council that the area is in the same condition that it was six years ago when they first purchased it and that there is no money available to develop nature centers or bike paths on the site. He believes that a golf course would generate revenue that they could ear mark to develop the site further. He also believes if this issue goes before the voters that it will fail and that had the ice arena gone before the voters, it would have failed. Member Wingfield reported that the ice arena is doing extremely well and believes it was needed in the community. He further believes the golf course is a viable project and that Council must take a hard stand to determine what is beneficial for the City of Novi.
Member Shaw would like to move beyond just talking about whether or not they should build a golf course. He believes the issue is whether or not they are going to develop a North Novi Park. Member Shaw believes the majority support a North Novi Park that will include a golf course and they are somewhat frustrated when the discussion only revolves around a golf course and does not include the other amenities that this Commission has planned for that area. Therefore, Member Shaw would encourage moving forward with the development of an all inclusive North Novi Park.
Member Keuth believes the existing use of that area has set a precedent in that there is a sense of public ownership. Although he agrees they must consider the siteís natural assets, there is also a responsibility to maintain and improve the property in terms of aesthetics and safety. Member Keuth believes the golf need is apparent and although they can argue the saturation level and the popularity of the game, a golf would fit a need in Novi. Further, Member Keuth does not believe this is a black and white issue. He believes the challenge is that the city needs a revenue stream to support the investment made in this property. He added that they must also find a way to find a way to fund the mixed use of the property because keeping it exclusive to one use is unfair.
Mayor McLallen asked whether there is any funding left in the current Parks & Recreation budget to proceed with further study and master planning? Mr. Davis replied there is currently no funding available for additional studies or master planning unless they submit a request through the budget amendment process.
Mayor McLallen appreciated the spirit in which Mr. Forsythe offered to build signs for the site.
Mayor McLallen asked how much usable acreage is available on the site? Mr. Davis replied that it is difficult to put actual acreage to the uses. He explained if they include the golf course or nature trails as part of the master plan on the site, some of the woodlands and wetlands could be included within those usable acres. In terms of what is available to build upon, Mr. Davis advised that would depend upon the site plan and could vary from designer to designer.
Mayor ProTem Crawford completely concurs with the comments made by the six Parks & Recreation Commissioners and Mr. Davis. As a result of this meeting, Mayor ProTem Crawford believes they need to focus on the comments made by Commissioner Shaw. He explained that they need a comprehensive plan for the entire park that will bring forward all of the amenities that are possible for that park and provide the maximum use of the park. However, he added the real challenge is where will the money come from to accomplish that.
Councilwoman Lorenzo asked what was the cost of the survey that originated from the Parks & Recreation Department? Mr. Davis replied the cost amounted to $5,000.00 plus the cost of postage.
Councilwoman Lorenzo asked what did they hope to achieve from the survey and how did they hope to use the results? Member Colligan replied that they had many different things in mind when they conducted the survey. However, he advised the most important thing they wanted to find out about was the departmentís service to the residents (i.e., registration procedure, suggested improvements, etc.). He added that they also wanted feed back about the golf course from a random selection of citizens, but noted that was a small part of their survey. He explained they felt that assessing their needs on an ongoing basis to find out where they stand as a department was important.
Councilwoman Lorenzo stated now that the information has come forward regarding the feasibility of a golf course, she asked how should they use the plan? Member Atiyeh believes they should work it in and noted that it was ranked as one of the top five in their survey. However, he added that trails also ranked high on the list. Member Atiyeh reminded Council that they surveyed their users and most of their users are families that have their children enrolled in recreational programs. Consequently, he advised that mostly parents responded to their survey and the golf course ranked higher than they anticipated.
Councilwoman Lorenzo asked whether the Commission believes they received a good response for all of the questions in terms of the number of responses that were returned. Member Atiyeh believes they received a good response.
Member Colligan believes the survey acts as a baseline for them to look at existing programs in terms of how they offer total services to the entire community. He noted that the department was rated extremely high in some areas and they must work toward maintaining that high rating. However, in areas where they ranked mediocre, Member Colligan advised that they want to move that category upward to the next level. Member Colligan restated the issue is not about a golf course and instead, they need to decide what is the best use for that park.
Member Atiyeh added they want more than a handful of people using that park because they have millions of dollars invested in the site.
According to the survey, Councilwoman Lorenzo noted that people were concerned about the development of existing parks and questioned where the funding will come from. She continued by stating that although a golf course would generate revenues, she asked if they have ever considered asking the public to increase the millage to improve the parks.
Mr. Davis replied that they have attempted to address this through the Capital Improvement Plan based on their needs. He advised they do have the money to finish funding some the items at the Community Sports, Rotary and Lakeshore Parks. However, he noted there is no way to include items within the budget process while they were still studying what the master plan should be for the site. He explained part of the process is to conduct the master plan, develop their needs and then put a cost to those needs. He advised they need to define further what the park is going to do before they can determine the cost.
Councilwoman Lorenzo is concerned that it is premature to move forward with further research on a golf course when the money could be spent on developing the cityís current parks (i.e., restrooms, landscaping, etc.). Further, she reminded everyone that unless they use revenue bonds for a golf course, they will see a referendum based on the response from the community. She then asked what would the cost be to conduct an election for a referendum? She restated she questions the amount of money they will be wasting if they need an additional $30,000.00 for research and $10,000.00 for a special ballot issue, when they could put that money toward further development of the park.
Councilman Schmid advised they always intended for this land to be developed as a park and that they did not purchase it for the sole purpose of a golf course. He recalled when they purchased this land it with the understanding they would develop it as a total park with both active and passive uses. He restated it is not their intent to use the entire site for a golf course, but that they are still exploring the possibility about whether a golf course would fit in the overall plan for the site. He added if a golf course does not fit in, he would be the first to oppose it.
Councilman Kramer believes they are currently in the mode of moving from purchasing park land to developing park land. Councilman Kramer believes that reviewing the overall needs of the city would be beneficial and that a golf course is one item of the list of needs. Further, he believes there is a need for the Parks & Recreation Commission to develop a Master Plan. Regarding the North Novi Park, Councilman Kramer believes it makes sense to include a golf course as a potential part of the park as long as it works in terms of the total development of the park. He recalled that he had previously asked whether they can design the course in a way that it includes mixed uses. He added that he believes they must work closely with their Master Plan and that it is critical to stay out of the woodlands. He would also like to know how much land is set aside for preservation. Further, because a golf course does not provide year round activity, he suggested that they propose uses for the winter (i.e., cross country skiing). He added their intent is not to encourage intensive uses, but to encourage maximum use of the site. Councilman Kramer understands there is concern that this property may be the last park, but he believes there are other areas that need to be defined as to whether they will be developed as a park. He advised that more than half of Rotary Park is available as a watershed or a nature area. He added that the state owned land also has the potential to be developed for passive uses. Councilman Kramer restated that they need to develop a solid master plan and that the money for additional studies will be money well spent as long as they are appropriate. He would also encourage that citizens and citizen groups are as involved as possible. In conclusion, Councilman Kramer stated that there are currently two financial opportunities; tax dollars or revenue producing activities.
Councilwoman Mutch stated that it often does not pay to have an open mind while sitting on Council because there are individuals in the community who decide if a Council member does not take an advocacy position either way that they will determine what side that member is on. She then restated that she does not agree with those who say that a municipal course is an inappropriate use for the city to be involved with. She understands that there are many communities pleased to have such an amenity in their community and she believes if Novi has a place to construct a well-designed course and a way to pay for it, that the citizens would appreciate that amenity. Further, Councilwoman Mutch believes if they develop a golf course on the north Novi property that it must be a part of a comprehensive master plan for the entire site. Regarding surveys, Councilwoman Mutch appreciates the questions addressing the purpose because the Commission had clear reasons for asking those questions. However, she added for other people to use that data and approach the results from a different perspective is a distortion of the original survey. She also believes the newspaper polls are generally unscientific and provide invalid results. Lastly, Councilwoman Mutch always commends anyone who becomes involved with these kinds of issues no matter what side they are on.
The more they meet on this issue, the more frustrated Councilman DeRoche becomes because he believes the point is about the golf course and that people do not want a golf course. Further, he disagrees with the point that any individual issue would fail if it were brought before the voters; he believes people will support what they want and they will not support what they do not want. He also believes the ice arena is a good example of something that the citizens do not want to see the city involved in. Further, he reminded Council that their bonding attorneys have already indicated that a golf course could only be funded by a Building Authority bond with a limited obligation of the city; not a revenue bond. Councilman DeRoche also reminded Council that they purchased the land as park land and the feasibility study indicated a golf course is feasible only because the property is already paid for. He continued by stating that if they did not already own the land, that a golf course would not be feasible. He asked the other members how can they support building a golf course on land that they own without going back to the citizens. In addition, Councilman DeRoche does not believe their discussions about a golf course is premature. He explained they have all the information they need to determine whether they want to proceed or not. Councilman DeRoche will support any revenues that they need to maintain what they have so the citizens can use the park for the purpose they purchased it. Further, he believes that it is not the responsibility of the Parks & Recreation Commission to be concerned about generating revenues for the city.
Mayor ProTem Crawford departed at 7:05 p.m.
Although there are strong feelings against moving forward with further study for the proposed golf, Mayor McLallen advised there still appears to be a majority that supports further review of a plan for the development of the entire North Novi Park. She continued by stating that before they move forward, they must further define the land, define the dollars and define the proposed uses. Mayor McLallen believes the most appropriate approach is through the budget process and she was surprised by the comment that perhaps they should look at a parks and recreation millage that will generate funding to maintain their current assets. The Mayor closed by stating that there is a majority consensus of Council to continue to assemble all the issues prior to the budget process so that they can move forward with this proposal.
There being no further business before City Council, the meeting was adjourned at 7:10 p.m.
Mayor City Clerk
Date Approved: December 7, 1998