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SPECIAL JOINT MEETING OF THE COUNCIL AND TOWN CENTER STEERING COMMITTEE OF THE CITY OF NOVI
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2000, AT 6:00 PM
COUNCIL CHAMBERS – NOVI CIVIC CENTER – 45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD
The meeting was called to order at 6:05 p.m.
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
COUNCIL:Mayor Clark (arrived at 6:30pm), Mayor ProTem Lorenzo (arrived at 6:30pm), Council Members Bononi(arrived at 6:30pm), Crawford, Csordas, DeRoche and Kramer
STEERING COMMITTEE: Canup (absent/excused), Capello (absent/excused), Marcus, Rzepecki (absent/excused), Stevens (absent/excused), Watza, Wahl
Also in attendance: Blair Bowman
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - None
Council Member Crawford chaired the meeting.
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING
Brief overview of Committee activities past and present – Rod Arroyo
Mr. Rod Arroyo passed information out referencing activity for projects, zoning, and planning from 1994-1999.
Starting with the Projects Map, Town Center Area, it identifies projects that have been submitted since 1995. There has been a significant amount of activity in the southeast quadrant with large projects, including, Main Street, Main Street Court, Main Street Village, and the Vic’s project. In the northeast quadrant there has been infill activity within the Town Center Shopping Center project. Several hotel developments have occurred east of Town Center Drive. The plan lists one hotel as the Fairfield, the north half has been resubmitted as a Best Western Hotel, the south half has not been spoken for, a hotel or restaurant is anticipated. In the northwest quadrant there is a Wendy’s, The Novi Crossings Project which is the Baby ‘n Kids Bedrooms, and the demolished areas, and in the southwest quadrant, the City Center Plaza, a significant project. The concept of a Town Center for the City of Novi dates back to the 1980 Master Plan. In 1984 a more detailed study was performed, and set the ground rules. The Town Center Shopping Center was built in 1985. A study done in 1988 – 1990 by Oakland County includes the entire Town Center Planned district as a significant undertaking that set the ground rules and the frame work for much of the development that has occurred including the Main Street project. There have been additional planning studies done for the northwest and southwest quadrants. The northwest quadrant was a study done a couple years ago, for
the potential to extend the TC-1 Zoning classification north of Grand River. Concept designs were also done. In the southwest quadrant there has been a conceptual road alignment study done for the extension of Main Street into this quadrant. Land use analysis has not been done in detail at this time. There are also TC sign ordinance issues and City initiated rezoning. Much of the property south of Grand River is zoned TC-1 because of City initiated rezoning of property that had multiple zoning classifications which brought it into conformance with TC-1 to better assure future development in this district.
2. Discussion of future direction/focus for Committee
Heidi Hannan stated the Chairman; Mr. Frank Stevens was unable to attend. Mr. Stevens had previously met with Mayor Clark to discuss many issues. She believes that this evening’s meeting was to discuss what Council and/or the Committee Members in attendance would like to concentrate on for the future. The Committee started out primarily dealing with the Town Center development, then there was Main Street, now they are at a point to decide what the next steps should be.
Mr. Jim Wahl said a Town Center Planning Study chart, posted was the most current program being pursued. Two quadrants have been followed through to implementation, the Main Street proposal and the Expo Center proposal. These date back to 1990. The northeast quadrant, which is primarily the Town Center Shopping area, was under development. To the east, the DPW site was originally conceived to be residential neighborhood. But this location has not moved in that direction. The other quadrants are areas the Committee is hoping to discuss with Council. The question is what do we need to do to finish the job, and what can we do to help the project from the public sector standpoint? The west has stymied them with Transit Mix Corporation. They could move, they want to move, and the City is trying to help them to the extent that the City can.
Council member DeRoche queried Mr. Wahl about an ongoing need for the Town Center Steering Committee to take on new charges for the quadrants that have not found solutions. Mr. Wahl responded he viewed the committee in the context that many Cities have organizations, such as a Downtown Development Authority, sponsored by the City, as having ongoing responsibility. The heart of the City is considered a priority. In the case of Novi, we chose to go with a Town Center Steering Committee. He feels there is a role for the committee. The question is how can they work in cooperation with the Planning Commission and Council and all be on the same page?
Council member DeRoche would like to know why the Town Center Steering Committee needs to operate outside of the normal mechanisms that the Planning Commission and Council operate in for every other planning direction that the City holds? He would also like to hear that there is a demand for this committee.
Mr. Wahl said he has found that the majority of cities have a designated group focusing attention on the downtown. It is usually a mixed group of City officials, business owners, and property owners who follow accepted planning practices and keep "the plan" moving. Having a Steering Committee is following accepted planning practices nationally. Council member DeRoche stated a sticking point with him is the verbiage
Town Center Steering Committee, it says to him Town Center Shopping. This may be one of the biggest problems; it is not just the Town Center any longer but the downtown area being focused on. Mr. Wahl responded when the downtown was envisioned in 1985, it was given that name and zoning district classification and a boundary. The charge of the committee was to fit businesses in the district. Council member DeRoche said when they speak of their charge it needs to be clarified that we are talking about concerns over the new downtown we are trying to build up, not necessarily the operations of the Town Center Shopping. Mr. Wahl agreed there could be confusion, the project came after the district, which is the same name.
Council member Kramer asked to hear more about the process, is it working? Is the charge appropriate, does it need any revisions? Is the membership appropriate, is there a segment missing? He would also like to hear about the successes, problems and issues with regards to future projects. There has been discussion about creating a River Walk in the southwest quadrant, any new discussion? Is there an appropriate relationship with the people they are advising? Where is the committee on any Expo Center redevelopment? In the recent past there has been controversy about a Gateway District and use, comments? Council member Kramer is interested in their thoughts on any residential options in the southwest quadrant or elsewhere in the area?
Council member Bononi added the following questions. She shares Council member DeRoches’s concerns about language. Her experience with steering committees has been they go away after a time. Initially they provide direction and are comprised of expert volunteers. It may mean changing the name of the group to a "downtown group" to bring the identity forward on paper. Council member Bononi, as a member of the Town Center Steering Committee, feels there is a disadvantage in not having any paperwork with regards to yearly goal establishment with Council, why these particular goals, their accomplishments, and lessons learned. She would like to focus on adaptive reuse of existing facilities on Grand River, in particular are the ones that would benefit from a more polished image, also existing businesses would benefit. Is there any assistance the City could offer to encourage them to do this? She is also interested in a general "beefing up" of the landscaping requirement for this area. There is a lot of failing landscaping. She has concerns with Fendt Concrete business near Main Street. If they are truly looking for another place, it is her priority to help them, or at the least look at doing something different with the waste discharge. Council member Bononi stated she would be happy to work with the Steering Committee to create a priority listing if none exists.
Council member Csordas spoke that he too has been involved in the Steering Committee the last couple years. He asked what is the reality of the committee now. When he had the opportunity to attend meetings it appeared the energy was focused on assisting developers with preparations to go before the Planning Commission and working with Mr. Chen on signs. His view of the Steering Committee as it meets now, is not remotely close to what it started out to be. Has there been evolution? What can Council do to help the committee retain its viability? His opinion is the Steering Committee has evolved to a Pre-Planning Commission review. The volunteers on the committee are a good mix of talent and are extremely valuable.
Mayor Pro-Tem Lorenzo also served on the Steering Committee. Her concern is Council making sure all of the current ordinances on the books are enforced and applied evenly and accordingly. Also any policy or rezoning possibilities would touch base with Council before going forward with them. Another concern is the Steering Committee getting ahead of itself, before approaching Council or checking for interest and benefits in pursuing amendments or rezoning.
A Steering Committee member asked if they report to Council on a regular basis?
Mr. Wahl answered the Steering Committee came forward at the time when Council had the same questions about several other committees. He believes that in 1995 a resolution was passed updating their charge. The committee’s connection to Council is that some specific ordinances have been dealt with, such as the TC-1 District. The committee, which has three Council Members, has had input through these Council members as opposed to the committee showing up at a Council Meeting to bring something forward. Mayor Pro-Tem Lorenzo stated Council operates as a majority, not as a minority. Mayor Pro-Tem Lorenzo continued, the danger is not remembering this is a seven-member council, majority rules. We would not want any member to misrepresent the majority opinion. She feels it would be a good idea for the minutes, ordinances, or zoning classifications to be forwarded to Council on a regular basis.
Council member Bononi reiterated wanting to know what the committee’s priorities are.
Ms. Hannan explained the Steering Committee has been very focused on projects that have come through, assisting them with feedback on meeting ordinances, and information on meeting with the Planning Commission. A specific focus has been Main Street and helping Mr. Chen with signs. Another area was the planning studies that were done. The Steering Committee has been very successful in getting the property owners in the northwest quadrant, to join in the committee’s goals. Beyond these items they have not set goals. This was one of the reasons for this meeting, to look to Council for direction, and goal setting.
Council member Kramer agreed with Ms. Hannan about setting goals, looking at the charge, possibly a new name; reinventing yourselves in the new millennium.
Mr. Wahl said in the last five years, the planning related items have decreased each year but the project focus has been ongoing. The big question is where do we go from this point from a planning standpoint? Where can the Steering Committee be helpful? Many of the issues can be challenging and need team work for the correct direction. An example is the southwest quadrant, we are at the same place we were fifteen years ago. We need help and ideas to get this moving.
Council member Bononi asked Mr. Wahl if the City has uses planned that we have not utilized, that we are willing to seek out? Speaking for himself Mr. Wahl responded that the City is not halfway to where they should be with the thirty-one projects completed. This is why we still need an ongoing organization.
Mr. Blair Bowman spoke that his understanding of the Town Center was a place and district of extreme importance to the community that had special standards, and properties that were challenging in and of themselves. The Steering Committee provided an environment to come to and talk with people who would give direct feedback about your plan and suggestions before going through the formal planning processes. He agrees with Council member Csordas’ view that there is still a lot of work to be done with the entrenched uses that are still operating. They may be interested in moving, and have expressed the desire, but feasibility and economics is a big factor. They need active involvement and the Steering Committee needs to find out the mix and blend of what this community is willing to do actively to participate in this process and infrastructure. His opinion of the challenges being faced by the Committee is infrastructure and if the ordinances in place are flexible.
Mr. Tom Marcus agreed that the name change is a great idea. The Committee was started to encourage Developers to move into this area. The Town Center has come a long way already, but still has further to go. It is very important to work together with the Planning Commission and Council.
Mr. Mike Watza echoed Council member Csordas’ comments. The Steering Committee gives the developers an opportunity to come in and get their thoughts disseminated among smaller groups. He agrees with the name change, a clear set of goals and reporting to City Council and the Planning Commission.
Council member Bononi spoke of an idea she had after listening to speakers in Lansing on how best to utilize downtowns, how to specify infill, and how to direct people interested in your town to parcels that are available. She feels it would be helpful if the City published a map that shows a precise delineation of the area. It can be used as a marketing tool when businesses inquire as to what is available here.
Council member DeRoche commented on the previous discussion and his agreement with Council member Bononi’s comments. He said we are blessed with a northern boundary, I – 96, but a southern boundary may need to be chosen. He is also encouraged by the consensus that has occurred at this meeting.
Discussion occurred on how the name change needs to occur. It was decided that it takes a revised resolution.
Council member Kramer suggested that the Steering Committee be allowed to brainstorm for a new name and redefined goals. Let them bring back the recommendations to Council.
Mr. Wahl said the planning study boundaries shown on the map posted in the Council Chambers is fifty percent larger than the current Town Center District. The planned areas are key to the future of the downtown but are not within the district. The big question, in his mind, is what are we going to do with the current Expo Center in the west, the DPW site in the east, or Trans-X Drive? The boundary is clear on the north, with I-96, and clear on the southwest with the railroad tracks, the other areas are
ambiguous and require further study. He is looking to Council for direction regarding the boundary issues.
Mayor Pro-Tem Lorenzo stated if the Committee is willing to come forward with a recommendation, Council will consider it.
Council member Kramer hopes the Steering Committee does not lose focus. As indicated the development has not been finished. He feels the bulk of the charge should remain focused there, but the outer boundaries need to be looked at because they need to be supportive of the central area. He suggested a process that would retain the focus on the core.
Council member Kramer asked if anyone had any updated information on the bridge work that is to begin soon and the impact it will have on the Town Center arrangement? No one had any updated information.
AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION - None
There being no further business before the Council and Steering Committee the meeting was adjourned at 7:03 p.m.
Richard J. Clark, Mayor Nancy Reutter, Deputy Clerk
Susan E. Blumer
Date approved: March 20, 2000