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SPECIAL MEETING OF THE
COUNCIL and PARKS,
PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
ROLL CALL COUNCIL Mayor Clark, Mayor Pro Tem Bononi, Council Members Capello Ė absent/excused, Csordas, Landry, Lorenzo, Sanghvi
PARKS, RECREATION & FORESTRY Paul, Engbretson, Enright, Kopeika, Place, Staab,
ALSO PRESENT Rick Helwig Ė City Manager
Randy Auler Ė Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry
Jack Lewis Ė Deputy Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
CM-03-08-267 Moved by Sanghvi, seconded by Csordas; CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: to approve the agenda as presented
Voice Vote on CM-03-08-267 Yeas: Clark, Bononi, Csordas, Landry, Lorenzo, Sanghvi, Paul, Engbretson, Enright, Kopeika, Place, Staab, Staudt
Andrew Mutch, 24541 Hampton Court, said a well-crafted master plan is both a snapshot of the present and a vision for the future. A good plan will provide a realistic picture of todayís park system, and will also serve as a guide to show the community the way to a better park system tomorrow. He hoped that the plan that would be approved would achieve both objectives. Mr. Mutch has had a chance to review the plan, and he had a number of questions about the revision. He said the plan uses a population number of 72,000, based on a SEMCOG estimate, which surprised him because the Cityís own master plan uses a build-out population of 74,000. He said it would make sense to use the Cityís master plan population estimate, which would be more accurate than the number provided by SEMCOG. However, even the 74,000 figure underestimates the Cityís build-out population. In light of the Sandstone development and other changes to the master plan and zoning map, Novi is looking at an additional 3,000 to 4,000 more units beyond what was projected in 1999 when the master plan was approved. The build-out population is probably closer to about 80,000 people. The deficit of facilities and acreage would be much higher from this kind of build-out. He estimated that there would be a deficit of 177 acres of park land, which is something that must be resolved. If the City is planning for a build-out population of 72,000 but will actually have 80,000 people, then it will definitely be short of park acreage.
Mr. Mutch said he also had concerns about how the Cityís park land acreage was calculated. He did not question the figure of 673 acres, but did question the usefulness of this number. This is a quantitative number analysis, not a qualitative analysis. A number of the City parks are impacted by natural features like wetlands. Mr. Mutch provided a visual display of various Novi parks, which are largely surrounded by wetland areas. Those natural features are a significant element of those parks, but they also impact the amount of active and usable area for recreational space. Even a walking trail needs dry land, and this cannot be constructed through the wetland areas without expensive boardwalks. He also questioned the school acreage figure; the plan uses the number 228 acres of school property. He did not question this number, but commented that perhaps not much of the 228 acres is actually used for recreational purposes. In fact, some of this land will not remain for recreational uses. The plan suggests that the Bosco property will be used for active recreational uses in conjunction with the School District. A significant portion of that property is impacted by wetlands. The City will not be able to use 80 to 100 acres of this land for active recreational uses. Another item not addressed in the land is park locations. The previous Parks and Recreation Master Plan identified geographic areas of the City east of Novi Road and south of Grand River, west of Novi Road and south of Grand River, and north of Grand River, and assigned park land needs and facility needs based on those geographic areas. These are no longer addressed in the plan. Southeast Novi was very much underserved by park land and facilities in the previous plan, and no land has been added to this area. In fact, the tennis courts were removed from Brookfarm Park, so that need still remains. At build-out, southeast Novi is projected to have a population of about 20,000 residents, and in the previous plan that area alone had a deficit of 80 to 100 acres, so he would like to know how this will be addressed.
Mr. Mutch said he also had concerns about north Novi. Lakeshore and North Novi Park have been lumped together as a single park. Based on the Sandstone development and changes in the master plan, there will likely be a build-out of 30,000 residents served by a single unified park, a significant portion of which is wetlands. He questioned how active recreation would be provided for those areas. To highlight the problem, Mr. Mutch noted that in southeast Novi, there are only approximately 46 acres of vacant land remaining, of which about half is not dry land. This same problem also arises in north Novi, and raises serious questions about how the City will provide park services for upwards of 50,000 residents if more land is not acquired soon. In the plan, he would like to see specific recommendations saying, for example, that in 2004 the City will apply for a Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant to fund acquisition of 80 to 100 acres of park land. The plan also needs to better address the passive park land recreation needs.
Wayne Hogan, 20923 Woodland Glen Drive, said he would like to see the City participate with the licensing people more regarding child care, adult foster care, and nursing home issues. The City does not have enough oversight at the moment and depends on licensing people and the Community Mental Health Department to "police" the area. He asked Council to continue monitoring those facilities, as they are very important for helping a number of people. The ADA Plan is a significant step forward; however, it is not very complete, and there are a number of items not addressed in it. He asked Mayor Pro Tem Bononi to pay special attention to the number of things on those pages, over 160 of them. Out of that, there are 120 that are important, 70 which are safety issues that require immediate attention. Very little attention was brought to parking, and he recalled only seeing 1 issue that was addressed regarding parking, by the new childrenís play apparatus at Power Park. There are other spaces that need to be recovered, and handicap parking that needs to be installed on the south end of Power Park. Currently, people with disabilities have to walk almost 20 car lengths further than the athletes do, and he asked that something be done on that area. Mr. Hogan asked that some internal building issues be addressed, regarding restrooms and other facilities located within the buildings.
PURPOSE OF SPECIAL MEETING
Review the final draft of the Parks, Recreation & Forestry Community Recreation Plan 2003-2008 and the Americans With Disabilities Act Transition Plan 2003-2008
Chairman Paul thanked Council for joining the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission at the meeting. The Commission has put a lot of time and effort in putting together a strong plan that focuses on the issues that the Novi community faces regarding parks and recreation. He announced that a Power Point presentation would be provided to highlight main topics pertaining to the Community Recreation Plan.
Commissioner Staab stated that the objective in the development of the Community Recreation Plan was to gain a clearer understanding of public opinion and desires regarding parks, recreation and forestry in the City. Both existing information and public input were incorporated into determining the needs and desires of the community.
The objectives in the development of the plan were to gain a better understanding of public opinion and desires regarding facilities and programs. The Planning Committee utilized such tools as a review of existing information, public input, and public notification. The plan was developed by a Strategic Planning Committee of Randy Auler, Charles Kopeika, David Staudt and himself, but all members of the Commission participated in the many different drafts of the document.
Review of Existing Information
Commissioner Staab said that after the eveningís meeting, the Commission would like to take Councilís recommendations, tweak the plan where needed, and then enter a public hearing process to obtain further input from the Novi citizenry. To review existing information, such items as the master plan, the 20/20 transportation plan, and a demographic analysis were used. State and national guidelines for parks, recreation and forestry services were also examined. In the past 20 years, Noviís population has increased by approximately 30,000 people, which has put tremendous demands on City services, and what the City can offer for parks, recreation and forestry.
Commissioner Staab continued with the Commissionís Power Point presentation. The Cityís median household income is approximately $72,000. Many upper-income families that have moved into the community have come from cities with quality programs, and they expect the same type of programs and services from Novi. Novi has significantly gained in its Asian population, and its senior growth is expected to triple by 2020.
The City used focus groups, public meetings with citizens, and program evaluation forms to obtain information about its recreational programs. In addition, Randy Auler implemented the Mystery Shoppers program in to the department, which has worked out well. The Access Recreation Group has been contracted with to assess the Cityís Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) needs, which has helped to develop that plan.
The entire Commission reviewed and discussed the Community Recreation Plan. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission prioritized actions and capital improvement programs.
Commissioner Staab continued: he said there would be a public hearing in the future, following the joint meeting with Council. Homeowners associations and partners in and out of various City departments would be notified of public hearings. He said local cable television would be utilized to announce public hearings, as well as the City Recreation Guide, website, and newspaper articles.
Commissioner Kopeika said he would review the administrative assessment of the department, and also review a recreation inventory. He noted that everything being said by Commissioners is also printed in the handbook provided to Council. Currently the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department at the City of Novi has 20 full-time employees, and 200 part-time seasonal employees to deliver services for the community.
The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department delivers what it calls "Core Activities." These core activities include youth sports, adult sports, community events, senior programs, the street tree program, theatre, the Ice Arena, and maintenance of all these activities. All of these items are important and try to meet the needs of the community. Benchmarked against other communities, however, there are opportunities which the City is not meeting today. The Department can offer better programming for youths, teens, coordinated adult and family recreation, and possibly offer more passive, nature-based programming.
The Commission examined the current administrative structure of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. Commissioner Kopeika said this was in no way disrespectful to the current department activity, but as a neutral group they compiled an assessment of todayís department. The findings were that the staffing levels of today are inadequate to meet community expectations, which ties into the growth of the community and what the City will need to deliver in the next 10 to 20 years; the current organizational structure is not as efficient as it could be; the informational technology systems within the department are somewhat outdated, which restricts the department from working as efficiently as possible; park maintenance is not being achieved to desired standards Ė the City likely not meeting the National Recreation and Parks Association standards for park maintenance; and there is a severe backlog of forestry issues confronting the City, including the emerald ash borer.
Commissioner Kopeika said the Commission performed an inventory of all recreation facilities to record the current level of amenities Ė the age, condition, safety and accessibility of these Ė and also assess opportunities for additions and expansions. A comparison was made against the standards established by the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA). The NRPA standards suggest that the City of Novi, with its current population, have 296 to 498 acres, and based on the current assessment the City has sufficient park land for the decade of 2000 to 2010. In 2010, based on expected population growth, the park land required will rise to 433 to 728 acres. Under these requirements, Novi will have a deficit of at least 55 acres. In the year 2020, based on the projected build-out population of 72,000, there will be a minimal deficit of another 83 acres.
The next presentation slide highlighted a comparison of the Cityís recreation facilities compared to the NRPA standards. As an example, according to the NRPA, a city should have 1 basketball court for every 5,000 residents. Based on about 48,000 residents, this standard would suggest that the City needs about 10 basketball facilities. Today, Novi has 13 of these facilities. While the City is in good shape according to 2000 facility standards, Novi will have a deficit in its number of recreation facilities in almost every category by the year 2010 if it does not adopt suggestions in the plan for increasing these numbers. The worst affected facilities would be tennis, with a deficit of 9 facilities in 2010; soccer fields (a deficit of 6 facilities); and adult softball facilities (a deficit of 10 facilities).
The City has a lack of fully accessible parks and facilities as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Additionally, there is a lack of maintenance standards for each park and facility, as the City is slightly behind in its spending for equipment per facility. Finally, there is a lack of park planning and construction standards for each park and facility, which makes maintenance more difficult at each site.
Director Randy Auler continued the presentation: the Commission conducted a Benchmark Analysis, which compared the Cityís facilities to those other communities with a population base of 80,000. The City was also benchmarked against a city that has won the National Gold Medal Award from the National Recreation and Park Association, which is awarded to a park system that meets the highest measures for service and facilities. The cities that were utilized were Farmington Hills, Troy, Canton, and Cary, North Carolina. Novi ranked the lowest in the number of parks available, but ranked second in the amount of total park acreage available, meaning that the City has parks of considerable size. Novi ranked second in the number of sports fields available to serve the community. Novi ranked the lowest in the total operating budget for recreational parks and facilities of the communities of comparison. In addition, the City generates only 32% of its budget through fees and charges. In comparison, Canton, MI generates 61% of its budget through similar fees. Novi has the lowest capital improvements budget for parks and facilities in comparison to the other communities. The average of the Michigan communities was $4.1 million. In comparison to the other benchmark cities, Novi ranked the lowest in the number of full time employees, which is approximately 50% of the staffing levels of those other cities.
Mr. Auler said that in summary, the Benchmark Analysis showed the Commission that the City has the available parkland and facilities right now, and it needs to continue to plan for this in the future. Novi is currently competitive with neighboring cities in being able to serve its citizenry. However, the City of Novi lacks in available personnel resources, and financial resources to maintain, program, and update and develop those facilities.
Following all of the assessment research that was conducted, it was determined that the City faces a large demand for its resources. The Commission attempted to determine the best action strategies that it could implement over the next 5 years that will move it towards accomplishing its vision, being able to service the community at the desired level.
Mr. Auler said the first item in the Action Plan was to implement Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements. The Commission contracted with Access Recreation Group, a nationally recognized firm that specializes in ADA legislation Ė particularly in Parks, Recreation and Forestry services. Access examined all of the Cityís facilities, programs and publications, and citizens were interviewed, and a plan was developed. The total investment in this plan required approximately $500,000 to achieve compliance. These needs were broken down into three categories: items that can be done internally with existing staff and existing resources; things that must be contracted out; and items that require capital investment through the capital improvements program.
The second priority that is critical for the City to accomplish is to deal with its backlog of forestry issues. The emerald ash borer situation and street tree program continue to ring up a deficit in Parks, Recreation and Forestryís ability to service the community. There are likely about 2100 or 2200 ash trees that need to be removed through the emerald ash borer program. Staff is presenting a strategy to Council and the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission, hopefully in September, for discussion of a replacement program and options that may be available to address this need.
The third item of the Action Plan is to enhance revenue opportunities. Some of these opportunities include grants, a park foundation, the park millage rate, bonds, sponsorships, fees and charges.
Along with the Action Plan, the Commission is recommending a capital improvement program that would be consistent in funding mechanisms so existing facilities can be updated and future development on facilities can be planned for.
Mr. Auler said the fifth component of the Plan is to achieve staffing levels required to meet the communityís expectations.
The sixth component is to establish equitable partnerships for the benefit of the community. Something which was implemented this year was written partnership agreements with all of the various sport groups which have utilized the Departmentís facilities. These are continually being enhanced and improved to develop an equitable relationship. There is value to an organization that provides a program, but there also has to be value to the Department in not placing an additional burden on its operating budget.
The next item of the Plan is to achieve NRPA mode II park maintenance quality standards. The NRPA has published maintenance standards and guidelines. Mode II is the basic level of service, but is not the enhanced, top level of service.
Mr. Auler said the final component of the Plan is to acquire 80 to 100 acres of parkland to meet active recreation needs of the community. This could be done through partnership opportunities, donation opportunities if a park foundation existed, or through land acquisition.
Commissioner Staudt said that Mr. Auler presented a very aggressive action plan with a lot of items that are both things that need to be done, and things that the Commission wants to do. Funding is a critical element of the planning process.
The Commission is working on sponsorships and strategic partnerships. The park foundation has been discussed during the past 6 months, and this is something that needs aggressive action. There are exceptional resources within community partners and within the Department that have to be taken advantage of. The Commission has established goals of 10 to 15% of the budget revenue through sponsorships and partnerships, and would like to generate a minimum of $50,000 annually through a foundation. Those foundation funds would be for things such as parks and other things that are not included in the budget process. Finally, the Commission would like to apply for and secure $500,000 in grant funds in the next five years. With approval of this proposal, the City would be eligible for many different types of federal and state funding.
Commissioner Staudt said the current fee structure funds 32% of the Departmentís annual operating budget. The goal is to increase this to a minimum of 40% of the annual budget. This would come about from increasing fees for programs, and possibly increasing usage fees. These are topics that the community needs to strongly consider as the Commission moves forward with these programs. This type of fee is the most direct cost, outside of a millage, that a user sees. Those fees have been raised consistently throughout the past year, and they are reflected in the calculated revenues.
The current park millage does not provide sufficient funding for operations. Therefore, a fund transfer from the Cityís general fund is required annually. This funding gap will continue to widen each year because of reduced millage from Truth in Taxation provisions. The Commission asked Council to consider establishing a park maintenance millage. This would support the parks and growth of existing parkland in the City, and work towards improving those parks for better community usage.
Commissioner Staudt said that capital funding for the Department has been inconsistent. Approvals are provided on a per-project basis, but are not sustained on an annual basis. The City needs to fund an average of $1,576,000 in capital each year for the next five years to allow the Department to achieve the level of service that the community desires. It is very important to establish some kind of capital millage or bond issue so that the Department can continue to move forward. Many things mentioned in the Action Plan, such as ADA improvements and the ash borer issue, must be funded. The proposal is to consider a millage and/or a bond issue.
Chairman Paul said that in summary, the City needs to focus on maintaining what it has today, and improve those facilities to the standard that citizens expect.
Mayor Clark reiterated his gratitude to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission, and also the committee that worked so diligently in putting the Action Plan together. To solve any problem, one has to be willing to recognize that there is a problem. Novi is the fastest-growing community in Oakland County, and there is a lag between what it would like to do, and what the City is actually able to do. He said the presentation was an open and honest recognition that the City has a long way to go, but that it has also come a long way in a very short period of time. Recognizing that the problem exists is halfway along the route to a solution. What has been provided by the Commission is a road map on how to get Novi to where it wants to be. A tremendous effort went into this plan, and he said that not only Council, but also the community, thanked each member of the Commission for their work. The Mayor said that this effort will bear fruit and help the City achieve its goal.
Member Csordas said the presentation and plan were a tremendous project, and he appreciated all of the efforts that went into the documents. He said he did not know how the 4 focus groups were set up by the Commission, or who participated, but that the 28 people who did participate represented only .00056% of the community. Though there may not be a community demand based on these groups, there is no question that the plan has provided a nice road map. He would like to see more of the representative community demand. He asked why 1 person sat on 3 of the focus groups. Mr. Auler said information was sent out to homeowner association presidents, partners, community school districts, and key stakeholders. People were invited to attend any or all of the focus groups, and their comments were recorded. If a person attended more than one focus group, the Commission tried to record their comments only one time.
Member Csordas asked how many invitations were sent out. Mr. Auler said he believed there were about 200 or 250 invitations sent out. Member Csordas said he knew it was not official, but Providence Hospital would donate some parkland, and asked Director Auler to take this into consideration. He noted that the City has some tremendous school playscapes and recreational property, and asked if those sites were included in any of the figures. Mr. Auler said that the 228 acres of school recreational property were identified, but not included in the recreation inventory. The school property was shown as additional acreage, and is utilized particularly for sports programs. Member Csordas asked if the inventory included any of the new tennis courts at the middle school. Mr. Auler said the tennis courts were included in the inventory.
Member Csordas asked if the CIP rankings on page 129 of the Community Recreation Plan were in the same order as in the Capital Improvement Program, or if they were simply being listed, which Mr. Auler answered was correct. Member Csordas said he knew what a mystery shopper was in a retail situation, but asked for a definition of a mystery shopper in a parks and recreation situation. Mr. Auler said that when he first came to the City, the Department advertised for mystery shoppers through its brochure. Individuals that responded were met with, and those persons were asked to measure certain criteria about Noviís parks and recreational facilities. Those participants then provided feedback and information back to Mr. Auler, and that information is used to continue improving the Cityís Parks, Recreation and Forestry programs and facilities.
Member Csordas commented that the ADA regulatory requirements are no doubt substantial. He asked what the grandfathering issues are on some ADA issues. Addressing some of the ADA issues noted by the Commission would be remarkably expensive. He asked if when new parks and facilities are constructed, they are ADA compliant, which Mr. Auler answered was correct. Member Csordas asked what the regulatory requirements are on facilities which existed prior to the ADA. Mr. Auler said he would like Counselor Fisherís opinion on the matter, but said he believed that the City has to bring all facilities into compliance, even if they were built before 1992 when the legislation went into effect. If it is cost prohibitive, reasonable accommodation must be provided. Member Csordas asked if a particular facility which is not being touched, and will remain as is for a while, still must be ADA compliant. Mr. Auler said that if that facility is available for use, it was his understanding that it does.
Member Csordas said he had compared the city populations of Novi and the other communities which it was compared to in the presentation. Noviís population is 58% of Cary, North Carolina, 59% of Troy, 60% of Farmington Hills, and 62% of Canton. This does not mean that the ratio of employment is not in line. At current populations, Canton has 45 full time Parks and Recreational employees, Farmington Hills has 41, Troy has 39, and Novi has 19. However, if examining Noviís growth pattern and investments in personnel on an annual basis, it would have about 30 at build-out. 30 is a smaller number than that of the other cities, but perhaps as the City develops its tax base it can add personnel as money becomes available.
Commissioner Kopeika said he presented the administrative assessment because the Commission was uneasy with Mr. Auler discussing his own department. He said Member Csordasí comment about ratios was correct, but it was also tied to the point that organizational structure is not efficient. "Not efficient" means that while the City might have 20 people on staff today, they may not be allocated in the proper activities. The Commission states in the Action Plan that the number two action to be taken care of is the forestry situation confronting the City. With those 20 people on staff, the plan says that not only is the Department not staffed with the right amount of people, but those who are staffed may not be properly for tasks. The number two action is forestry issues, but the City does not have sufficient resources for forestry activity. He said that these components build upon each other. Member Csordas said he understood, and knew that everyone in the Department works very hard. He said that at a build-out population of around 80,000 people, the Cityís Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department would be staffed at between 66 and 73% of the levels of the other comparison cities. It appears that there will be a deficit of employees at the Cityís build-out time.
Chairman Paul commented that there was a deficit in employees right now, and that productivity is not necessarily linear. Thus, the fewer employees the City has, the less productive the City is, which Member Csordas agreed with. Based on this, there are some challenges, and the Department needs people and financial resources to implement the plan effectively for the community. Member Csordas said he noticed on page 26 of the presentation that Novi has the lowest capital improvement budget of the comparison cities, at $280,000. He found it curious that Farmington Hills has a capital improvement budget of $12,000,000, and said that though he believed the figure, he found it quite remarkable. He repeated his thanks to the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission for their hard work.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said she found the document quite interesting, not only from the standpoint of where the City wants to be, but particularly where it currently is. She did not think Novi was so short of resources as reflected in the presentation. She felt the proposal for a new software program to make operations more efficient would make a great difference for the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. This would cost $28,800, and she would look for documentation for how this cost was determined, and who assessed the sufficiency of that new software. She was also curious about the ranking of the natural features map, and asked who performed the rankings. She said she would have appreciated seeing public meeting documentation with the Action Plan. It has been suggested that focus groups can be controlled to a particular point of view, which is the reason that these are least attractive for reflecting what a community-at-large is looking for. She suggested using a non-scientific survey, or a customer service form survey, something which could be randomly sent out to 500 or 600 community residents. This would provide a broader base and reflection of what the community is looking for. Most people are willing to fill out a survey, but they may not be willing to spend a few hours of time.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi said that how the Cityís parklands are used largely determines how much acreage will be needed in the future. Though she advised using the NRPA benchmarks as a guideline, Novi does not necessarily need the recommended additional amount of land. She suggested the Commission consider storm water retention areas as a source of future recreational land, particularly for nature observance and study. She also advised exploring the use of presently-held conservation and preservation easements, and whether or not those easements could legally be used for passive recreational purposes or nature observance.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi commented that it appeared new equipment is sorely needed to allow the Department to do its day-to-day job. She asked why Council has not seen requests for this equipment in the last two budget cycles. The creation of a foundation is a great idea, though she would like to see the idea become grander than $50,000 a year. There are many resources in this community, including businesses, manufacturers, and the professional community. With all of the grant opportunities available, the City still does not have a grant writer, and she did not understand how the Department could search for grant money without someone with the qualifications to deliver that service.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi noted that Council had received some information about the emerald ash borer program during its annual budget cycle, and said that the current tree removal program to remove about 200 trees this year was simply inadequate and would not help to prevent the emerald ash borer from causing more destruction. It was also not clear in the document whether only City-owned property was referred to with this program, or if the Department would be assisting citizens or other privately-owned lands.
There was a comment made that approximately a $1.3 million capital improvements budget needs to be brought forward annually to support a parks and recreation program that the community desires. The Mayor Pro Tem said she could not find anything in the document to indicate that the community had expressed this.
Member Lorenzo commended the Commission for its well-prepared and comprehensive document. While she knew many of the details, especially budgetary items, there were many that she did not know as well, and she appreciated this information. She said that she was not confident in the knowledge about the communityís desires. The information showed what 28 or 30 people desired, but not what the community-at-large desires. She asked if the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has a newsletter that is distributed to households. Chairman Paul said there are a few items which are distributed. One is a brochure which is sent out either twice or four times a year about activities and programs. There are also notes that are sent out through the schools to different grade levels, based on what activities may be coming up in the future. Member Lorenzo suggested that whatever community newsletter is sent out, questions be printed for response on the front or back of the document. Those questions should ask what the community believes the City is not succeeding in with Parks and Recreation programs. This would be cost effective and provide the Commission with free survey information. Chairman Paul said that at one point, a business reply card within the Parks and Recreation Guide was discussed, and this is something that the Commission has an interest in. Member Lorenzo suggested simply printing the question on another piece of paper in the publication, which could then be cut out and submitted.
Member Lorenzo said her next concern also concerned budgeting. She did not believe Novi, with a population of less than 50,000, could be compared to a community like Farmington Hills, which is completely built-out. Novi is only 60 or 70% built out, so it has a while before its revenue generating stream will be complete. She also would like to be informed about how Farmington Hills funds its $4 million per year parks and recreation budget, or where other communities receive their parks and recreation money from. She noted that the report stated that Canton receives 62% of its budget from user fees and charges, but Novi is only receiving 32% of its budget from these sources. She said the math was obvious that the City should perhaps raise user fees if that additional money is truly needed. This is not popular, especially with users, but is less popular than increasing a tax millage or proposing a bond issue. It is easy for people to mention tax increases, but it is not as easy for Council to actually raise them. Whether discussing a millage increase or a bond, there is a potential for increasing peoplesí taxes. She wants to find ways to be more cost efficient and acquire services without raising taxes. Some of the Commissionís suggestions are excellent, such as creating a foundation or applying for grants. Member Lorenzo agrees with the Mayor Pro Tem that someone with expertise and time is needed to apply for the mentioned grants. If there is not enough staff in the office right now, she wondered how the Department would find the time to apply for grants. Member Lorenzo commented that she wished there would have been more of this type of discussion during Councilís budget process. On the scale of Council priorities, services like Police and Fire must take precedence over Parks, Recreation and Forestry, but the Community Recreation Plan provides Council with a strong blueprint to build on.
Member Lorenzo asked if the Commission had calculated how much revenue would be generated by increasing fees and charges to 40% of the total budget. Chairman Paul said he was not aware if this figure had been calculated, but that this would depend on the individual program. Some programs are very profitable, and some operate at a loss and are subsidized. Member Lorenzo said an analysis needed to be completed, and it should be determined how much revenue would be generated by charging the 50 or 60% that Canton charges for its programs. She said she was disappointed that charges and users fees were the last item scheduled for examination, when communities like Canton use these fees largely to fund their recreation programs. Starting a foundation is a great idea, and it would hopefully be successful, but this is not a certainty. Increasing user fees and charges is a practical reality that other communities may be doing.
Member Lorenzo said the City has increased personnel based on priority, with police and fire coming first. There was a forestry technician position added, particularly to help with the ash borer situation. Adding more people to the City where they were not originally planned for in the master plan requires staffing changes and some difficult decisions. She was very glad to hear that Novi ranked 2nd in park acreage among the five compared communities, and was encouraged by the number of sports fields available throughout the community. She advised the Commission not to expect a millage increase or bond issue, and would like to see other alternatives deeply explored before discussing those possibilities.
Member Landry said he could not recall a joint meeting like the one of that evening between the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission and the City Council. He said that Parks, Recreation and Forestry had "clearly upped its game" in the City in the past few years. Administration is to be commended, and the Commission is excellent. It was a wonderful exercise to take a critical look at the Cityís Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, but he advised everyone to remember that the Department has improved significantly in the past few years. Member Landry said that Mr. Auler is doing a great job, and he commended everyone on the Commission.
Member Landry noted that many people spent a lot of time on the document. He was impressed with the critical analysis of active versus passive recreation. A person does not need to be a "jock" to participate in recreation, so he applauded the Community Recreation Planís vision of arts and passive recreation as opposed to just sporting activities.
Member Landry said it was heartening that the City currently has enough parkland. The Departmentís needs are not necessarily for more land, but rather for people to run an effective program. Capital funds are needed for the facilities that the community requires. While more acreage is needed, that is not problem number one. The City has to be careful, because there may not be available land when the acreage issue becomes a larger problem. However, it is heartening to know that Novi is not far behind in the real estate aspect of the analysis.
Member Landry applauded the Commissionís consideration of volunteers, which he saw frequently mentioned throughout the plan. He felt that a volunteer coordinator position would grow increasingly helpful in the community, as the Cityís senior population is predicted to triple by 2020. It is a wonderful idea to create a monthly Department television show. The Mayor frequently mentions that Channel 13, the public access station, is not used enough. There is no better way to raise money than to show requests in a personís living room every night. Member Landry suggested showing people the aging park facilities and the Commissionís requests, because if people donít use the Cityís recreation areas, they donít realize what problems exist.
Member Landry noted that the Novi Theatre is self-funded and completely revenue driven. It is no secret that he is a big fan of the Theatre, and he has participated with the organization before. That program is the only one that he knows of in which everybody pays. A person pays to participate: $140 per play, per role. It doesnít make any difference if a person is a lead character or a smaller part. Anyone who comes to see a play also pays, between $10 and $18. That $140 participation fee is very unusual for community theatres, as it is very high. He would like the Commission to see if there is a way to actually reduce these fees, because though the program is self-sufficient, it is also very expensive for participants. He commended the Commission for considering a variety of funding sources, not just a millage. For example, the foundation idea is an excellent concept. He agreed with Member Lorenzo that this is a perfect example of why the residential population increase must be monitored as the City is built out. As Novi approached build-out, OST and non-residential uses which create greater tax revenues, but donít require as many City resources, must be considered. He said the Plan was a wonderful document. As Yogi Berra said, "If you donít know where youíre going, youíre not going to get there." Member Landry said he totally supported the Community Recreation Plan, and wished the Commission luck.
Member Sanghvi said he was very excited after reading the Plan, as he likes to dream. There are some philosophical issues to deal with, including that the government cannot do everything for people, whether the Federal, State, or Local government. Citizens must participate and take responsibility for what they want for themselves. The second philosophical issue, which he was very glad had been mentioned, is that business, industry and OST are not "dirty words." The City needs those entities here as much as everything else. He has always believed that parks are the lungs of the cities. If a city does not have parks, it will choke itself before long. Dr. Sanghvi wants to see more green areas around Novi in every possible situation and development.
Dr. Sanghvi said another question to consider is how much of each park is actually usable for park activities, as much area is wetlands and woodlands. He would have liked to have seen this type of discussion 20 years ago. There is a saying in the Indian language, "Your morning begins only when you wake up", not what the clock shows. The City is now waking up. He expected the session to be more of a dream and wish session, and he would have taken a much larger definition of the word "recreation." Primarily, the items discussed were the six monthsí worth of summer sports, but not winter or water sports or museum activities. Though the Theatre was discussed, he feels that a performing arts academy in Novi should be discussed. Novi has a very highly educated, polished, cultured citizenry. The discussion about community recreation should not confine itself to baseball fields; while these are essential, there are other essential things as well. The Cityís entire cultural mix needs to be examined. He asked why no ethnic festivals were proposed, or other things to attract more people to Novi. There are various ways of improving the City, and everyone must dream big. He is not worried where the money will come from. He is a people person, and said the most important thing is to get people using the Cityís facilities. He would like to have more time to discuss this long term plan, as Council must rectify City recreation actions of the past 25 years. Dr. Sanghvi suggested that decision makers go on a retreat to discuss their ideas about improving parks, recreation and forestry in the City. The City must find a way to geographically distribute parklands so that they are more spread out through the area. There are places where Novi could trade land with people to accomplish this parkland distribution. The City needs to talk with citizens and learn their ideas, or else only a few people will represent the entire community voice.
Chairman Paul said he had taken notes of some items that Council desired the Commission to examine. A customer survey, either as a business reply card or as an addendum to the Parks and Recreation Guide, would provide excellent input. He noted that Council had not seen any requests for equipment, and said he would discuss the item further in a few moments. The grant writer position is a great need for the Commission and the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department. The Commission can obtain more community input through more public meetings which will be held. Best practices should also be shared, both by the community and with other communities. Details on funding options and scenarios are critical to the Community Recreation Plan, such as what the funding effect would be from increasing fees in two or three key areas.
Chairman Paul said he was glad that Council understood the Commissionís plight, that while the City has enough land at the moment, it must be maintained and developed to a standard that the citizens appreciate. The Commission should examine how it can better address the performing arts. Finally, the Commission needs to "look big" and dream about the Plan, but the Commission will need Councilís help in achieving this vision. He asked Council how the Commission could give more visibility to the operating budget of the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, and also to the CIP process. There are multiple layers of committees and organizations between Council and the Commissionís ability to make a recommendation related to those two areas. Chairman Paul asked Council to take a look at allowing Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission members to operate on different budget, improvement and planning committees.
Commissioner Staudt said that another item, the Cityís cultural mix, also should be added to the Commissionís agenda. One of his children is in a class with 18 different nationalities represented. Perhaps the presented Community Recreation Plan does not truly consider the changing faces in the City of Novi.
Commissioner Staab re-emphasized that the Community Recreation Plan is a guide for the City to go forward with. He said that 4 or 5 five years ago, the Commission tried to get a marketing/grant writer. The Commission will re-entertain this now, because as it goes forth seeking the needed dollars, that person is greatly needed. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission looks forward to obtaining more community input and coming back to Council for further review and approval.
Member Lorenzo requested an administrative viewpoint on the Commissionís presentation and recommendations. In choosing one insurance firm over another, Council was able to save several hundred-thousand dollars this year. She could not say how much a grant writer would cost the City, but perhaps this is something that Council should entertain as a budget amendment to get the process going, not only for Parks and Recreation, but just in general.
Mr. Helwig echoed the comments made during the evening about the importance of the gathering of Council and the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission. Novi is a community on the threshold of coming of age. There is no mystery why equipment has not been approved. This yearís budget approved replacement police cruisers and one piece of equipment valued at about $65,000 to help resolve drainage issues, but that was it. The concentrated focus for the past few years has been on public safety, roads, and Sandstone. The focus of the eveningís meeting was ushering in a new era, and this work product could help guide the City in that effort.
Mr. Helwig said that as City Manager, he welcomed the opportunity to wrestle with these challenges. City Council has, in the past three years, eked out a few hundred-thousand dollars for capital improvements. It has been extraordinary that Council was able to do this. Things are now beginning to loosen just a bit. In April and May of this year, Council was concerned with how much to set aside based upon how the State budget crisis would be resolved, which is only a one-year fix. The State budget crisis has been resolved for one year, largely because of federal funding of a one-time nature. Councilís rudder has been to guide the City fiscally very conservatively. While the State drew its rainy-day funds almost down to zero, Council set aside additional funds so that the City can deal with emergencies and basic needs afforded to the community. A communityís long-term vitality is tied to the things which were discussed at the meeting, so that Novi will distinguish itself as the family town and place of choice that it is today. This is not guaranteed unless the vitality of the community is emphasized. The City is still behind in public safety, behind in other critical resources for the community in terms of meeting service needs. However, the Commission is bringing a heightened awareness to the City of what it needs to do. If the grant writer position becomes a significant priority as a result of the meeting, then the City needs to act on it. He would like to hear Councilís expectations about the document, so that staff can be in position to immediately leverage their efforts to obtain dollars. He would like to know when the expected adopted date would be of the Plan, so that the City can plan for that eventuality.
Commissioner Enright said she was thrilled that Council and the Commission were meeting together as a group. Steps are being made in the right direction about the Plan. If the Plan can be finished, it is the right direction to be going in.
Member Landry echoed Member Lorenzoís request to see administrative input on hiring a grant writer. As he recalled, the City hired a grant writer several years ago, but that person was terminated for disciplinary reasons. He would like a basic report about who approved the person, and why no one was hired to replace that person. When the Plan becomes adopted, seeking grants will be a vital part of the program. He echoed the City Managerís comment that administration needs the tools to get on with the program as soon as it is able to. Mr. Helwig said this information could be provided to Council. He said he would very much like to know what the shared target date is for adoption of the Plan, if it was appropriate.
Mr. Auler said the target date for completion of the Plan is in October, when it should be completed for Council to adopt. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission is considering the item in its September agenda, so that it can be forwarded to the State in November and have their approval in November/December. Based on the eveningís feedback, the Plan is headed in the right direction, though there is some more work yet to do on it. It is still realistic to return the Plan to Council in late October for review and approval.
Chairman Paul wished to echo Mr. Aulerís comments, and said the document needs to be completed to "get the ball rolling." Community input is needed, but he does not want to prolong the process another year.
Mayor Pro Tem Bononi suggested that in addition to examining grant writing services, the City should also examine contracting this service. It is not necessarily an employee service, and there is a lot of competition in that area.
Commissioner Place thanked Council for the opportunity to meet. The Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department has done an outstanding job, and people on the Commission work very hard in gathering information. She appreciated Councilís appreciation for the work that went into the Commissionís master plan.
Commissioner Staudt said that sometime after the approval of the Plan, the Commission would be coming back to Council with recommendations about funding. He agreed that the $50,000 was a low goal for foundation money, and he is more inclined to aim for $250,000 and go after community businesses to create a foundation which can not only fund capital improvements, but also day to day items such as new basketballs and volleyball nets.
Member Sanghvi thanked the Commission and Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department for their hard work. He suggested also sending a thank you note from the City to the School Board for opening their facilities during the recent power outage as comfort stations. This is how a community should work together, and the City should feel very proud about what went on during the two days of the blackout. He feels even prouder now, following these events and everything that occurred, that he lives in Novi.
CM-03-08-268 Moved by Landry, seconded by Csordas; CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY: To support the Community Recreation Plan 2003-2008 and the Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan 2003-2008
Roll Call Vote on CM-03-08-268 Yeas: Clark, Bononi, Csordas, Landry, Lorenzo, Sanghvi, Paul, Engbretson, Enright, Kopeika, Place, Staab, Staudt
Luanne Kozma, 23837 W. LeBost, said the sections in the two plans about historical and cultural materials were based on previous reports which included proper credits, and these credits must be reinserted into the plans. She did not know about the first historical park, and there was not an adequate description of what the park is, or whether it truly is a park. She asked if the park had been master planned as parkland. The area listed as the park is the Cityís only site on the National Register of Historic Places. There is no mention of the Novi Historical Society or the Novi Historical Commissionís roles with that site. She also said the entire Community Recreation Plan is prescribed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as to exactly how communities should write these plans. The Community Recreation Plan is designed to meet the DNRís guidelines to be eligible for their grant program. She has attended DNR workshops in the past, and has learned a great deal about how to write these grants, and has offered to write those grants as a volunteer. She was glad to hear Council discuss looking into hiring someone to write grants, because that is a very big job. The City has lost parkland, and she asked if the report addressed this enough, as it should disclose this to the DNR. The DNRís requirements also must be addressed, that specific types of parkland replace those specific types of parkland. The recommendation to have active acreage added to the park system does not address the DNR requirement that the City replace passive recreation and passive parkland, which is what was lost.
Bob Shaw, 40612 Village Oaks, served 9 years on the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission. He took one month off of work two-and-a-half years ago to put together the first draft of the new Plan. About 4 years ago, the City hired Vic Chasen of Eastern Michigan Universityís Parks and Recreation Department to do a study. He did not see any reference to the community survey study which was conducted. The Chasen study was certainly much more comprehensive than the user group information. National trends show that people want open space and parks. He was disturbed to hear several people say that the City has adequate parkland. He does not believe this, and this is not what surveys have shown in the past. The City has lost parkland, and he agreed with Ms. Kozma that if the City went to the DNR with the Plan but did not address what happened to the previous parkland in some form, the City would not meet the DNR requirements and will not be eligible for any grant money. Page 10 sites increased demand for alternate transportation, pathways and sidewalks, and says that services should be geographically balanced. The City is not doing anything about geographic balance, and he appreciated the recognition of this by the Commission. He also saw nothing in the document about sidewalks and pathways, and although this is not in the Parks, Recreation and Forestry budget, there are still many deficiencies in this area. Page 29 discusses the wildlife habitat plan. There is a map which does not describe the plan or what it is, but identifies very clearly the core reserve area in the southwest sector, sections 29, 30, 31 and 32 as high quality habitat. In compiling the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, environmental issues were completely ignored. He asked that on page 54, data be included on outside groups. Substantial interests are represented from Novi Youth Baseball, Novi Youth Hockey Association, Jaguar Soccer, and other groups, but these are not reflected in the document. Page 83 discusses Lakeshore Park, but does not recognize the complete lack of service anywhere outside of the entrance area. There are no restrooms, no facilities, and no services provided anywhere else in that passive area. Page 85 discusses field lighting of Community Sports Park. He questioned this because in June and July when the baseball fields are used, it is light enough until 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening. Residents near Power Park would be very upset if the lights were on past 10:00.
Mr. Shaw continued: page 101 mentions that Novi is second in the number of fields. Page 103 discusses fees. Canton has Summit in the Park, compliments of tipping fees. Novi does not have a Summit in the Park to charge $450 per family for an annual membership as a resident. Troy has an aquatics center and golf courses. Canton has golf courses. Cary, North Carolina has golf courses. Those are sources of fees that Novi does not have. When Novi tries to increase its fees as those communities have done, the City does not have the facilities to charge for. Regarding the CIP on page 104, Farmington Hillsí $12,000,000 budget is largely for the new Nine at San Marino and their golf facilities. Cary, North Carolina had a large CIP budget, but they are building a new $8.5 million facility for USA Baseball as the national training facility. He noted that Cary operates 3 community centers, has a 7,000 person amphitheater, has an arts and history center which operates out of an old hotel, and their CIP spends a great deal of money on greenways and pathways, which are not mentioned in Noviís Plan. On page 107 of the Plan, the focus group feedback showed strong interest in park acquisition and trails for walking and biking. He did not see these items emphasized in the Plan. Mr. Shaw noted that the City owns about a 13-acre parcel of land along Walled Lake, which no one has discussed converting to parkland. He asked that this be turned over to parkland before it is lost to somebody else. He said he was amazed that the CIP was not mentioned at the end of the Plan. There is lots of money being spent in trying to create beautiful ball fields. He commented that perhaps the City is creating athletic fields for prima donnas, and the City does not have the money to do this with. The needs are for overall community benefits, such as open space, greenways, and things of this nature.
Wayne Hogan, 20923 Woodland Glen Drive, asked Council and the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission to remember that the ADA is not a high achievement, but is rather the minimum allowed. Too often, these minimum requirements are followed, rather than exceeding them. There is now a chance to improve City facilities with the ADA. When fixing these, he asked that the facilities exceed the ADA requirements. For instance, while there may not be requirements for the distance that a baseball field fence is installed at, one would not build the fence too close. He asked that the same consideration, such as extra space, be given for people with disabilities. Mr. Hogan said he had heard at the joint meeting of the Planning Commission and Council a suggestion that the Woodlands Review Board be absorbed by and become a sub-committee of the Planning Commission. This was because the Planning Commission could not find enough people from the community to serve on the Board, or perhaps the search was not sufficient. If the Woodlands Review Board became a separate committee, then there would be 8 Planning Commissioners serving 2 jobs. The ADA has been around not since 1992, but rather since 1972, and other years during the 1970ís and 1980ís, when Section 508 was done, when the Rehab Acts were completed and amended. These items were worked into the ADA when it came out. There were years of grace time put in for corrections to be made. He asked that if the City was amending its American with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, that the Plan be done right and exceed the ADA requirements. There are grants also for transportation, which he did not recall hearing during the meeting. Trail areas could be picked up as Adopt-a-Trail programs, such as those along highways. This would be another way to bring attention to the area.
There being no further business to come before Council or the Parks, Recreation and Forestry Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
Richard J. Clark, Mayor Maryanne Cornelius, City Clerk
Transcribed by: Steve King
Date approved: September 8th, 2003