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PARKS, RECREATION AND FORESTRY
CALL TO ORDER
The meeting was called to order at or about 7:30 p.m.
1. ROLL CALL
Present: Commissioners Burke, Enright (arrived 7:35 p.m.) Schwarzlose, Staab, Staudt, Wingfield
Absent: Commissioner Zyczynski
Also Present: Randy Auler, Director; Jack Lewis, Deputy Director; Steve Printz, Forestor
2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE
The meeting attendees recited the Pledge of Allegiance.
3. APPROVAL OF AGENDA
Moved by Commissioner Burke, seconded by Member Schwarzlose:
VOICE VOTE ON AGENDA MOTION MADE BY COMMISSIONER BURKE AND SECONDED BY MEMBER SCHWARZLOSE:
Motion to approve the Agenda of July 14, 2005.
Motion carried 5-0.
4. AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION
No one from the Audience wished to speak.
5. COMMISSION COMMITTEE REPORT
A. Resource Development Committee
Commissioner Staudt asked Commissioner Staab to comment. Commissioner Staab said that the Park Foundation Golf Outing will be held on August 4, 2005 at the Links of Novi. Presently there are over twenty foursomes committed, although the Foundation is anticipating over thirty foursomes. Donations are rolling in. Another Foundation meeting will be held in the following week.
Commissioner Staab stated that based on the Grant work that the Commission is presently working on, there will be no Naming Rights activity until August. Hopefully at that time the contract will be completed, and then the marketing plan will be their focus. At some point there will be a presentation made to City Council.
Chair Enright joined the meeting at 7:35 p.m.
B. Park Development Committee
Commissioner Wingfield stated that the roof will be replaced on the Lakeshore Park shelter by the end of the summer. Several ADA improvement currently in process should also be completed by the end of summer. In the Fall the work will begin on irrigating the three ball fields at the Community Sports Park. Finally, Commissioner Wingfield stated that several sign posts are being installed at the Lakeshore Park Trail and should be completed within the next two or three weeks.
ADMINISTRATION STAFF REPORTS
A. Recreation Division
Deputy Director Jack Lewis told the Commission that over the Fourth of July, in the Seniors Division at Meadowbrook Commons, the Detroit Blues Pig Band entertained at their big party. Ms. Rachael Zagaroli reported to Mr. Lewis that the event was very well attended.
Mr. Lewis continued that the Novi Police visited Meadowbrook Commons the previous week and held a Personal Safety Training seminar for the seniors.
Mr. Lewis stated that the Kids’ Concert Series started on June 23, 2005 at Lakeshore Park. Over 200 people attended that evening’s event. The concerts will continue to be held every Thursday night throughout the summer.
Mr. Lewis stated that Mr. Derek Smith’s youth camps – Oakland County Camp, Mad Science Camp, Lakeshore Camp and Road Warriors Camp – are all doing well.
Mr. Lewis continued that the youth baseball and softball leagues held their opening day on June 25, 2005. The league is now in full swing.
Mr. Lewis stated that Ms. Linda Wickert’s theater program has been concentrating on Kids on Broadway. This is a camp-like atmosphere, with the children attending daily for rehearsal at the Civic Center. The show will be performed in August. Mr. Lewis indicated that approximately 85 children are attending the program.
Commissioner Staab asked about the replacement of the Lakeshore Park shelter roof. Mr. Lewis replied that the work would not be performed until September. The classifications of the Department’s projects are: Work in Progress, Significant Progress Made, and Complete. Work In Progress indicates that the project is being put together – paperwork, bidding, etc. Significant Progress Made represents that the project is at least 85% complete. Complete indicates that the work is complete and the project has been closed out. At this time the shelter roof is in the planning stage, not the construction stage.
B. Park & Forestry Operations Division
Mr. Lewis said that in the Parks Division the Maintenance Staff has been busy working on the athletic field for the various league play. Now that the soccer season is over, the Staff has begun preparing for the work necessary on the soccer field. There is a small window in which the Staff can prepare those fields.
Mr. Lewis said that in the Forestry Division, over 600 hazardous trees were removed during Spring 2005. They are half-way through this project.
Chair Enright asked if there is a rotation schedule for the soccer fields. Mr. Lewis replied affirmatively; some times the fields are designed in a north-south pattern and are occasionally alternated to an east-west pattern. There is an attempt made to steer clear of the worn out goal areas. This year sod will likely be laid in the really bad areas. There isn’t time to cultivate grass seed.
C. Administration Division
Director Randy Auler addressed the Commission. He has been actively meeting with the team that is leading the construction of the Singh Trail project. This includes representatives from both Singh Development (Legacy Parc) and Mozart Homes (Provincial Glades). They have an onsite walkthrough planned for Thursday, July 21, 2005. The actual trail should be staked. Clearing of the project should take place within two weeks of the walkthrough. The City has already received the $45,000 commitment from Singh for this project. It will be used to establish a fund to cover current and future maintenance costs.
Mr. Auler said that the transition with the new Meadowbrook Commons management company is going well. Some personnel changes did occur. There are some new policies and procedures in place as well. The City is pleased with the progress.
Mr. Auler told the Commission that a survey was included in their packet that was developed by the Planning Department for the Greenway and Pathway Study. He reminded the Commission that they also handed these surveys out at the mountain bike race. There are several public input meetings scheduled over the next six or seven months. This survey will also be included in the next recreation guide as an additional effort to obtain community input. Ultimately the City hopes to put a Greenway and Pathway Master Plan into place.
Mr. Auler said that review of the registration software is ongoing. This software aids in the facility scheduling and sports schedulings. Hopefully a fifteen-minute presentation will be on the Commission’s August Agenda. This item’s progress has been slowed down to accommodate the Grant proposal.
Mr. Auler said that he provided the Commissioners with an overview of a grant program for urban forestry management and tree inventory. Essentially, as a brief overview, the City has an opportunity to apply for a grant that must be received by July 29, 2005. The maximum amount that can be received is $20,000.00. One of the key focus points this year is the development of a tree inventory that will help communities better manage their street tree operation. He reminded the Commission that this was an objective identified by the Commission and the Staff during their Master Plan process. He said that their hope is to have this item on the July 25, 2005 City Council meeting. Mr. Auler said that the Commission will be asked to forward a positive recommendation on this item to City Council.
Commissioner Burke asked whether the Greenways Master Plan was expected to be complete by the end of 2005, and what the window was for returning completed surveys. Mr. Auler stated that he believed that surveys would be collected through September and possibly October. He anticipated that the Planning Department would provide additional clarification on their process, and Mr. Auler stated he would update the Commission as he learned more about their plan.
Chair Enright asked how long the Meadowbrook Commons management contract was. Mr. Auler recalled that the contract was for three years, with two one-year options.
Chair Enright asked whether the registration package would still be available by January. Mr. Auler answered affirmatively.
Commissioner Wingfield asked for the status of the pro shop at the ice facility. Mr. Auler responded that City Council approved an agreement for the pro shop lease at their July 11, 2005 meeting. It is a five-year lease agreement and the company is Summit Sports. They have other sporting goods stores and they are also located in the Kensington Valley Ice House and a couple of other arenas. They plan to remodel the pro shop area, so that all of the product can be housed in one location, which will reduce the need for extra staffing. As the facility is right now, the supply and storage are located in another part of the rink. This doubles the requirement for staffing. They have signed the contract and they hope to be up and running very quickly.
7. MATTERS FOR COMMISSION ACTION/DISCUSSION
A. Approval of June 9, 2005 regular meeting minutes
Commissioner Staab asked that his comment regarding being out of town over the weekend (page 10) could be restated as his being out of town over the June 4th weekend for clarification purposes.
Moved by Commissioner Burke, seconded by Commissioner Staudt:
VOICE VOTE ON JUNE 9, 2005 MINUTES MOTION MADE BY COMMISSIONER BURKE AND SECONDED BY COMMISSIONER STAUDT:
Motion to approved the minutes of June 9, 2005 as amended.
Motion carried 6-0.
B. Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant Application
Director Randy Auler stated that a packet was distributed to the Commission in the prior week that outlined the Grant application, communications that have taken place, etc. The City has met with some concerned citizens and everyone is working cooperatively to prepare the Grant application for review. At the July 11, 2005 City Council meeting, some of its members brought forward the possibility of including an additional 36 acres, for a total request of 51 acres. Mr. Auler reminded the Commission that these two areas of parkland would be separated by Meadowbrook Road. The Department of Natural Resources indicated that they would accept the Grant Application on both parcels. There are some unknown factors at this time, but all of the information will be available and part of the Grant application. The citizens have taken responsibility for some of these items. One such item, which is significant, is the appraisal of the land. Mr. Auler needs these numbers in order to complete the application. These amounts will determine what the necessary matching funds will be, and what the source of that money is.
Mr. Auler said that two Public Hearings have been scheduled. One is for July 21, 2005 at 7:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers, and is the Public Hearing on the Grant application itself. The City will be seeking public input. Mr. Auler said that they will also be seeking comments on the proposed amendments to the Community Recreation Plan. Whenever a Grant application is submitted, the Master Plan should be reviewed for consistency and timeliness of the plan. The Public Notices have been posted. (The other meeting is the July 25, 2005 City Council meeting.)
Chair Enright said that Mr. Claudio Rossi of Mirage Development has offered a generous donation of 36 acres on the west side of Meadowbrook. It shows real support for this community.
Chair Enright said that the City spent several years putting the current Community Recreation Plan together. At the time, the City thought that it was the best plan in place. One year went by and the Commission reviewed their plan and the action strategies, with the purpose of always delivering the best service to the community. Changes were made that the Commission felt were necessary for the upcoming year. Certain issues have been raised in the past several weeks, somehow suggesting that the Commission should jump up and change their Community Recreation Plan. Chair Enright wanted to ensure that before these changes are made, the Commission is doing the right thing, and they are not placing themselves in a vulnerable position of having to make continuous Plan changes with every change that occurs within the City. She asked the Commission to a take a good, hard look at what they do in this situation, because it sets a precedent. That said, she opened for the floor for comment.
Commissioner Wingfield asked Mr. Auler if it was imperative for the Recreation Plan to be amended accordingly before the Grant application goes forward. Does the City’s success hinge on the plan being updated? Mr. Auler said that although it wasn’t imperative, it would be a supportive measure. Adding language such as, "…protection and preservation of properties with significant natural resources…" would be very helpful in terms of assisting with the Grant application. This statement could go a long way in the DNR’s evaluation of the City’s application.
Commissioner Wingfield confirmed that the DNR would also review the City’s Recreation Plan for consistency. Mr. Auler agreed, and explained that a current plan must be on file. The City’s 2003 Plan has already been approved by the DNR. They will now review Novi’s Grant application, on which there are questions requesting the page numbers of the Recreation Plan that refer to the subject land. It is not necessary to prioritize this item, either as an action strategy or as a capital improvement item. The DNR is changing to a new system that requires a City to have a Plan on file, but they do look for the application to justify the request for the grant. It is not critical for this land to be shown in the Plan as the number one critical item under this new system, as it might have been a few years ago.
Chair Enright asked Mr. Auler if the DNR would look to see whether the City updated the Recreation Plan in order to accommodate the Grant request. Mr. Auler said that they would. The DNR recommends that anytime a Plan is updated for the purposes of accommodating a Grant application, the updated Plan should be received by the DNR a month in advance of the application. Unfortunately this is not possible with this scenario. Typically a Grant application is a four-to-six month process, and the City is trying to accomplish it in 27 days. Everything has to fall into place, and some of those things include this Commission holding special meetings, and so forth. The DNR also has to approve any amendments to the Recreation Plan. When the update is submitted to them, the updated pages will be reviewed.
Commissioner Schwarzlose asked whether the additional 36 acres is being addressed in the appraisal being prepared by the citizens. Mr. Auler was not aware of the additional land being under contract for appraisal. There was a commitment letter from the developer that indicated what he thought the number would be. The City Council’s directive on this Grant proposal was such that the City expend no funds in its completion – the appraisal, the matching funds, etc. Mr. Auler was not sure how the City would handle the addition of this land, as there is an MDEQ conservation easement on that property that is very restrictive. He offered to provide a copy of that easement to the Commission. The Conservation Easement states that not even a path or trail can be built through that land. The value of that property, and therefore the value of the match, really must be provided for this Grant application, but Mr. Auler was not aware of the citizens procuring that appraisal.
Chair Enright asked what the intent of Mirage Development’s donation was. She asked if these two areas were connected by waterway. Mr. Auler reiterated that the DNR indicated that they would accept this Grant application on both parcels, even though they are separated. Mr. Auler does have that documenting e-mail. He did believe that the two areas are connected by waterway. He felt that the objective of the Mirage donation was to help score the area higher on the evaluating point system. It may help with the match toward the project. He noted that this land is identified on all of the natural features maps with the County and the City as a significant source of natural resources, species, habitats, wetlands, woodlands, etc. Mr. Auler was still waiting on the receipt of appraisal numbers, a key component of the application.
Commissioner Staab said that the current Community Recreation Plan got underway in 2001 and was given its final approval in October 2003 after a long, arduous negotiation. It was updated in 2004. He, too, was concerned with setting a precedent that would suggest that community requests will require this Commission to immediately react and amend their Plan. He noted that in his own professional experience, business plans are designed and adhered to – and the ultimate goal is not changed in the middle of the year. Additionally, Commissioner Staab questioned whether this grant served a purpose for the whole community or just the nearby residents. Is the City spending their resources in the best interests of the entire community? He was perplexed about that, and was not, at this time, able to answer that question.
Commissioner Burke said he was on the same page as the Chair, concerned about the need to change the Recreation Plan whenever an opportunity presented itself, possibly coming from a just narrow group of residents. He confirmed that the Grant would be awarded based on a point system. He asked how many possible points there were. Mr. Auler said that there were 730 points. Commissioner Burke asked Mr. Auler what he really thought would be scored on Novi’s Grant application.
Mr. Auler responded that the addition of the Mirage property would certainly help. He said that the City’s approach keys in on the preservation of the natural resources, the wetlands, the woodlands, the waterway, the Middle Rouge River. He felt that the Mirage land would help the City’s chances significantly, over just the fifteen acres. The goal is to score as many points as possible, and Mr. Auler would like to think that the 300 point range is realistic. Whether 300 points will yield any funding depends on what the competition is. Review of the fifteen funded 2004 projects indicates that fourteen of those projects hit a lot of the key initiatives identified by the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund Board. The addition of the Mirage property will indeed help. The City though, can not hit all of the identified goals. This land will not have a State trail connection. It is not going to be a shooting range. It is not going to enhance hunting opportunities. The City has to key in on the approach to garner the maximum amount of points where they can, knowing that there are areas where the City will not score any. The City won’t really know how they rate until the list of applicants is revealed. The City has a significant challenge.
Commissioner Burke asked whether the 2004 recipients – fifteen in all – came from a field of 200 applicants. Mr. Auler said that there were 200 applications between two grant programs. Additional information provided by the DNR indicates that there were 52-55 Acquisition projects. That is a better number, but it is still a competitive process.
Commissioner Burke asked whether Mr. Auler knew how many Grant applications had already been filed. Mr. Auler said that the DNR has received a total of 148 applications, but he did not know how many of those were acquisitions. Commissioner Burke asked whether there was a cap on the number of grants that would be awarded.
Commissioner Burke asked how many Staff hours have been used to procure this Grant. Mr. Auler responded that a significant amount of hours have been spent, though he did not venture to calculate that number. He stated that the Grant is the only item that he, himself, has worked on since City Council approved the motion. He said that he has had assistance from Jack Lewis and other employees in the City who are gathering information. He felt that he was not as available as he needed to be for his Department, but he conceded that this is an important project that the City is going to do its best at completing. This Grant is time consuming and focused. There are citizens who are participating and that has been helpful. He appreciated the collaborative effort. He hoped that information continues to be shared, as it is quite a benefit.
Mr. Burke did not think there was anyone on this Commission who would interfere with Mr. Auler’s efforts in writing this grant. The said the Commission respected his efforts and knew he was doing whatever was possible to complete the application.
Mr. Burke asked to read a letter to the Novi News Editor into the record, because this is such a volatile issue:
"Who’s the majority here? Let’s be logical, prudent, fiduciary responsible, call it what you want, but City Council has the responsibility to represent all taxpayers of this City, not a faction, not a subdivision, nor a single homeowner. With regards to the Villagewood Lake Development, I believe there is a faction – a subdivision – and many homeowners who want things to sway in their favor with disregard to the other 50- or 60,000 citizens, as well as businesses, that also pay taxes in this community. I do not understand that this minority group of citizens has the pleasure of free green space to utilize close to their homes, but should that mean that I have to pay for their benefits when, what they are actually enjoying, is someone else’s property? If my tax dollars did pay for the acquisition of this land, that would mean that I, or any property owner of land in this City, would have the right to walk our dogs there, go there to look at ducks, geese, deer, things that these special people have had the opportunity to enjoy over the years. We will have to park our cars on your streets to get there, and we might trespass on your property to get there. Think about that. We are a community of 60,000 people. Do you want to make this community property something that we could all use? I did not think that was your intention. There is nothing more than a small faction of people trying to preserve something that has been private to them for many years, but is owned by someone else. Put my tax dollars into fixing my street, and the entire City can ride their bikes, walk their dogs, and enjoy the view whenever they want. That is true public ownership. With deepest regret, understanding and best wishes, pay for the private playground yourselves.
Commissioner Burke found this letter to be particularly on the mark. He was inclined to agree with this writer. If these citizens want to find a way to pay for this private area, fine, but to ask the entire community to foot this bill is a bit difficult. This may happen if the Grant doesn’t work or matching funds are necessary. The City doesn’t know what the matching fund amount is.
Chair Enright asked if the surrounding citizens sought a loan to pay for the land themselves. Mr. Auler was not aware of any effort on their part to fund this purchase.
Commissioner Staudt stated that he was a resident of Village Oaks and saw the issue quite differently. He said that the Recreation Plan was a grand effort on which he worked, but he found the Plan to be flawed in a lot of ways. It is not that the City did not do a good job, but as time goes on, as things are determined, the Plan is hopefully improved. He did not think that the changes made in 2004 were ever officially incorporated into the plan, or even submitted to City Council. These items were recommendations to change the strategies. They were very good, and at some point, these items need to be re-addressed. Things have changed somewhat dramatically in the two years that the plan has been in place.
Commissioner Staudt said that the City had tunnel vision regarding active park land. He did not think it was the City’s intent to ignore significant natural resources in the community. He thought that the Commission was just trying to concentrate on active park land. He did not think that anyone present would argue that preserving natural resources, especially significant pieces, is wrong. He did not want to spend a lot of time talking about this grant, but he said this was a significant piece of land in the Rouge watershed – one of the most abused watersheds in the country. Here is this little piece of land whose window of opportunity is here. The land is preserved already, in some respects, but it is not preserved as a park. It is still somebody else’s property – especially the Mirage part of it.
Commissioner Staudt said that the Commission should forget about this Grant and anything that is associated with it. What they should be concentrating on is adding language to the Recreation Plan that addresses the preservation of significant natural resources. It just makes sense. He did not think that this was arguable. It is common sense that green space is a big emphasis in the City right now. The City is trying to get additional trails, sidewalks, etc. He said that the Commission should forget about the Grant. It is a good policy decision. If the Commission looks beyond it, they will find that adding the preservation of natural features to the Recreation Plan is a good idea.
Commissioner Staudt said if this is reactionary to the situation, it is a good reaction. It lets the City know that it is something that the Recreation Plan missed during the original deliberations. This was not done on purpose, but it is a good thing to fix right now. He could not see how other things are going to come into play that are going to make significant changes to the Recreation Plan, as much as this issue would. Frankly, if other items do come forward and they make good sense, they should be considered. A change of policy in the Community Recreation Plan to seek the preservation of natural resources would benefit the entire community.
Commissioner Staudt said that Mirage stepped up to the plate and deserved thanks. If down the road the value of the land is reduced by legal encumbrances, then fine; it doesn’t take away from the effort that Mirage put forward. He asked the Commission to look at the map in their packets. He said the Mirage land makes this issue so much more exciting than just the little thirteen-acre plot. It becomes more interesting to him to find a way to preserve it. This land could become the City’s property forever. Right now it is someone else’s land and some years down the road the owner may challenge the preservation of this land. Mr. Auler agreed that with conservation easements the landowner retains ownership. The easements are in place for the duration of the easement. This easement is with the MDEQ and as written, is very restrictive. The City would like to pursue signage and educational opportunity on that land, and he agreed that it is a significant environmental resource that should be preserved in some manner.
Commissioner Staudt has spoken with City Council members, citizens and neighbors. He has walked the property and the lake in its entirety. It is a pretty nice piece of property. He did not know if this land will remain completely unusable by the residents. He has stood on the hill and looked at the land. There is probably a lot of "Not in my backyard" going on here, but from the merits of preserving one of the last pieces of property in eastern Novi, and really, adding it to a much larger chunk, Commissioner Staudt had a hard time arguing against that.
Commissioner Staudt said that Mr. Roskelly’s ten homes might yield an additional $40,000 per year in taxes, but the citizens do not realize a direct benefit from every dollar collected in taxes. He did not have a problem with City Council’s insistence that no City funds pay for the appraisal. The bottom line is that City Council voted 7-0 to compete for the Grant. He saw this Commission’s role as an advisory position that backs up what Council has asked them to do, i.e., make amendments to the Community Recreation Plan and the CIP so that the Grant can move forward. Then, the City Council can make a final determination on how this Grant is going to be handled at the very end. It is City tax dollars, and the Commission can take that position, but at the end of the day, this is what City Council has asked this Commission to do. He was going to support the 7-0 City Council vote to change the Community Recreation Plan in such a way that this Grant application can be submitted. He also supported the changing of the CIP to support submitting this Grant application. That was the crux of his comments. The change to the Recreation Plan was being forced upon the Commission right now, but he did believe that they are very good changes. At some point, there are going to be other pieces of property that surface that could benefit from this change to the Plan. The fact that the Commission is being asked to make these changes under duress is a fact of life.
Commissioner Staudt encouraged people to come to the Public Hearing. As an advisory board, he felt this Commission was obligated to support City Council. It is a good policy. It was important to him to show City Council this support, and to show Mr. Auler and his Staff their support. He knew Mr. Auler would put out the very best Grant application he could.
Commissioner Staudt was not happy that people had the opinion that the application would be substandard just because a professional grant writing company was not doing the work. He thought that was ludicrous. It was not fair to this City’s Staff.
Commissioner Staudt heard comments made that inferred that Village Oaks was the slum of Novi. He did not hear that at City Council, and he said that this rumor is a method that people use to stir up other people. A lot of the methods put into getting this grant done has not been done professionally or in a manner that is good for this community.
Chair Enright acknowledged the hard work Mr. Auler and his Staff have put into this Grant application. She also encouraged members of the public to take part in the Public Hearing scheduled for Thursday, July 21, 2005.
Chair Enright asked if the City could handle the care and maintenance of this land. Mr. Auler responded that this is a line item on the Grant application. A lot of that will be determined by the ultimate use of this land. One of the recommendations in the Grant suggests that public access should be provided – a public access road, signage, and parking. These items will be placed into the City’s process, but the question does remain, how does the City fund these items? Mr. Auler said he has collected some preliminary engineering costs, which is not a small cost.
Mr. Auler said that the City must also consider what the intent of this land is. Will it be kept in its natural state for educational purposes? Should practice soccer fields be dropped into the open area? Chair Enright asked whether the public access and parking would still be necessary. Mr. Auler said that access must be available to the property. The area must also have signage. Mr. Auler recalled the language on the Grant application, "…when possible, an access road and parking should be installed." Mr. Auler said this is one item that the DNR will evaluate when the City’s application is reviewed. Mr. Auler noted that the developer already has approval for a road, along with the proposed homes, though he said that what the DNR might be looking for might not be a road as long as what would be required with the building of ten homes.
Commissioner Staudt asked that another motion be considered by the Commission this evening.
Moved by Commissioner Staudt, seconded by Commissioner Burke:
Motion to request that City Council formally designate the 253 acres, commonly called the Singh Trail property, as parkland, to reflect accurately the change in the Community Recreation Plan.
Commissioner Staudt said that parkland is again discussed in the Plan, and the Amendment to this plan should reflect this. He thought that this recommendation had already been made before.
Chair Enright told the Commission that Council Member Paul lives in Westmont Subdivision, and residents of that subdivision did purchase some adjacent land. She asked if that land had been designated as park land already. Mr. Auler said he was not aware of that.
Mr. Auler said that the Singh Trail property is attached to a list of items that must also be accomplished, suggesting that those items must be complete before the City accepts the land. Commissioner Staudt asked when the Commission could see that list of requirements, and why was the City accepting maintenance money on the land already. Mr. Auler said that the maintenance money was one of the stipulations. Mr. Auler offered to get the Commission a list of the items attached to the Singh Trail project. Commissioner Staudt said he really wanted to see the pending issues. He said if this motion is inappropriate at this time, then he felt that it was also inappropriate to change the Community Recreation Plan, or to refer to land as a "park." He would like to see it designated as a park, and asked when the City anticipates the completion of these requirements. Mr. Auler recalled that the trails were scheduled for completion by October, 2005. Commissioner Staudt did not think that this was ever part of a previous discussion by this Commission, that the land improvements needed to be completed prior to the land’s designation as park land. Commissioner Staudt thought that the trail completion was a separate issue from the land acquisition. Mr. Auler said that every document refers to the land as park land, and he thought the City’s intention was to have this land designated as park land. If the Commission chooses to make the recommendation, they certainly can. He did think that Singh should be obligated to complete their list of items prior to the City moving forward.
Commissioner Staudt asked if Mr. Auler could provide the Commission the list of items that are currently precluding City Council from designating this land as park land. If there are confidential items associated with this item, then they should be forwarded in a closed package and the Commission won’t discuss those items aloud. He said that the bottom line is that this change should be made. This item has been pending forever. He clearly remembered the discussion with City Council that this park land designation would be accomplished long before the trail was complete. He even thought that the question was specifically asked, whether the trail completion was a pre-requisite. Commissioner Staudt rescinded his motion, and the seconder agreed to that.
Commissioner Burke asked whether there are other pieces of land in Novi that also require City Council’s designation to park land. The Westmont Village land was mentioned as a possible piece of land for inclusion.
Commissioner Staudt asked if the landing area on Walled Lake had also been designated as park land. Mr. Auler thought that those pieces were designated as such by the Planning Commission in the most recently approved Master Plan for Land Use. The Commissioner suggested that these properties should also be included.
Commissioner Staudt was really posing a technical question, and therefore hadn’t suggested the inclusion of the other properties. Mr. Auler asked the Commission whether they wished to have all of the land included in the Amendment, so that they are done at once. Commissioner Staudt said that it can’t be considered park land unless City Council determines it to be park land. Mr. Auler agreed, but he assumed that if the Commission’s objective was to have the land identified as park land, it would be submitted all as one document.
Commissioner Staudt said that the City might be better served to address the Westmont and Walled Lake issues when the other changes are proposed to the Community Recreation Plan. What has been publicly noticed is the Villagewood Lake land. This manner of moving forward would allow the Commission to have a more detailed discussion of the issues. Chair Enright and Commissioner Burke agreed. Commissioner Burke said that he didn’t want to see the process extend beyond 2005.
Mr. Auler asked the Commission to summarize the scope of their request. Was it one property or all of the properties? Chair Enright responded that the property to be included is the one property that was specifically mentioned in the changes. However, she said that at year end, when the full review begins, all of the other parcels proposed for parkland should be included. Right now, she was only recommending the trail property.
Commissioner Staudt asked Mr. Auler to identify all of the "park land" properties on the Master Plan that are not currently parks. He wished to have this for a future meeting, and Mr. Auler suggested the August meeting. He asked to seek clarification from the Commission, as he thought if the Commission was going to make a recommendation for one property, they might as well make the recommendation for all of the properties, for the ease of compiling just one document.
With regard to this Recreation Plan Amendment, Mr. Auler said that the Singh Trail would be stricken. That would be one less amendment submitted to the State for review. Commissioner Staudt asked whether it could be submitted without the land being designated as park land. Mr. Auler said that it could be identified as a property under transformation that will ultimately be designated as park land.
Commissioner Staudt said that it was appropriate deal with the City’s situation in its entirety. He suggested asking City Council to make the designation so that the Plan Amendment could be turned in as such, or at the least, the Commission could point the land out as future park land so that the information is not factually incorrect when the document is submitted to the State.
Commissioner Staudt asked how the Singh property’s designation affected the Grant application. Mr. Auler did not believe that it had an impact. Commissioner Staudt asked whether the Commission could overlook the Singh Trail change. Mr. Auler said that was possible.
Commissioner Staab said that what was important was that this was handled such that the City had the best opportunity in applying for the grant. Mr. Auler said that under the section entitled "Justification," the application will state that the City has 118 acres that have been identified for donation and are under a Development Agreement to have this transaction completed in 2005.
Mr. Auler said that the Public Notice stated that there were proposed amendments for public viewing and the Public Hearing was slated for July 21, 2005 with the Commission, and for July 25, 2005 with City Council. Public input will be solicited at the July 21, 2005 meeting and the Commission will forward their recommendation to City Council, along with the actual wording. It is possible to make changes to these already proposed amendments. Commissioner Staudt thought that it was important to strike the language stating that, "…passive recreation needs are being served via…." That statement sends out the message that the City doesn’t want more land.
Chair Enright asked whether the Spirit of ’76 Park was school property. Mr. Auler answered affirmatively. Chair Enright said that the Public Notice has been published; the Commission can make changes if they desire, and City Council will make their decision on July 25, 2005.
Commissioner Staudt asked what the proposal was for the CIP. Mr. Auler said that the CIP included in the Commission packet was the original document included in the Community Recreation Plan. This is the document that is on file with the State. The item at the bottom, "The land acquisition project that will be considered by the Parks Recreation and Forest Department and City Council for prioritization in the Capital Improvement Plan, that item being acquisitioned is natural resources property in Village Oaks Subdivision" should probably be amended to "Acquisition of natural resources property to create a 51-acre park site which will include the Mirage parcel and the Roskelly parcel." Then, Mr. Auler said that the Commission should identify under which number this item should be placed. Land acquisition is in the document as Number 12, and this could be dropped into that section as a bullet point. The Commission may also wish to put it someplace else.
Commissioner Staudt asked if this proposal would fall off of the CIP if the proposal doesn’t go forward. Mr. Auler said that this would be discussed during budget discussions. The Commission could make their recommendations. Certainly, if the City doesn’t get the grant, or there isn’t a willing seller of land, the CIP document would change. Generally, the Commission reviews its annual progress against the Recreation Plan. Action strategies have been revised accordingly. In the past this was accomplished during November and December. Then, the Commission updates the City Council on this progress. The next step could be to submit these Amendments to the Recreation Plan to the State. This could also be done on an annual basis.
Mr. Auler said the language stating, "…preservation of significant natural resources…" is a good item and it is the Commission’s role as a steward of the land, that they should include this in their Plan. It is unfortunate that it took this scenario to move this item to the City’s attention. He did not think that the preservation of these properties should take away from the Commission’s or Staff’s role. He thought that the annual review serves to remove the Commission from having to review single items and requests to change the Recreation Plan. At some point the City has to say no as well; whether this is a project that should be considered or not is irrelevant. As an advisory Commission, and as policy makers with City Council, the City has to look at using the Recreation Plan as a guide. The City has to be flexible with it, but with the understanding that the City can’t change its direction every day. Otherwise, the City will never ultimately reach their goal to provide the best services to the community. This has been an emotionally charged issue, but it has brought out the need for the language that has been presented for the Plan’s Amendment. Although the preservation of natural resources was mentioned in the Recreation Plan, it was never identified as one of the Action Strategies. That said, Mr. Auler also noted that the City doesn’t have to run out and purchase every piece of vacant property either. The use of conservation easements is an excellent tool. Land donations are an excellent tool. Public-private partnerships are an excellent tool. There are a lot of ways to acquire rights and ownership to property without spending tax money to pursue them. These are the items that the Commission can discuss in the fall when they prepare for the new budget. He reiterated that this has been an emotionally-charged issue and he and his Staff have been at the heart of it. He said that’s all part of being a public servant – even for the Commission and for City Council. He said that he was looking for the Commission to make a recommendation of some sort to the City Council, and he suggested that they could wait until after the Public Hearing has taken place. Chair Enright agreed.
Mr. Auler asked that the Commission consider what level of priority they would place this item in the original Capital Improvement Plan. Mr. Auler also stated that it was not necessary for citizens to be present at the Public Hearing in order to get their comment entered into the record. Comments can be submitted in writing and they will be included as official public input.
Commissioner Staudt asked whether the Commission will also discuss the intended use of the land. Will it be passive recreation? Conservation? Active? Mr. Auler said that this application is a challenging process. City Council meets on July 25, 2005 and traditionally, that would mean that the City Council packet would be prepared by July 18, 2005. This Grant application is unique; the City is trying to do four months’ worth of work in 27 days. The City is trying to be as flexible as it can be. This proposal may come down to the last minute, since all of the variables have yet to be determined – the Roskelly appraisal, the Mirage appraisal, the match value, etc. This information really should be made known to the Commission and to the public. Mr. Auler hoped that everything is in and prepared by July 21, 2005. This is a very tight schedule that may not be fair to the Commission, but perhaps would provide just enough time for the members to read the information prior to the Public Hearing. Mr. Auler did not know what the delivery date was for the Roskelly appraisal. He did not even know who was performing the appraisal. There has been a collaborative effort to have the skeleton draft of the Grant application complete by July 15, 2005. Over the weekend there will be a "meet and tweak" session. Certainly, the number component (the appraisal) is missing. Without that, it is possible that Mr. Roskelly becomes an unwilling seller or may not be able to commit. There are many pieces to this puzzle. Mr. Auler believe that Mr. Roskelly must also be given time to review the appraisal numbers to determine whether he wishes to provide the City with a letter of commitment. These are some of the pending issues that the City is facing.
Mr. Auler said that there is a section of the Grant application where the recreational activities must be identified. Mr. Auler has prepared a very rough draft of that information, and he has already brainstormed a few additional ideas since he wrote the draft. He will be sharing this information with the citizens and with the Commission. The opportunities that immediately come to mind are fishing and/or programming opportunities for fishing (national programs like "Hook a Kid on Fishing" or fishing derbies or classes), educational opportunities (there are two elementary schools in close proximity) regarding science, nature, wildlife habitat, and practice soccer fields. What Mr. Auler is trying to do is compile these ideas for inclusion into the Grant application.
Chair Enright asked Commissioner Staudt what the neighborhood talk was about, since he was a resident of the area. Commissioner Staudt responded that the vast majority of the outspoken neighbors prefer that the land remain in its natural state. He did believe that his neighbors were realistic enough to understand there is give and take in any situation. If this area becomes a property where people are allowed to come down to the lake to fish or recreate, the neighbors would agree that this was a fair trade-off. He did not wish to speak on their behalf, but it was his impression from the comments that he has heard, that the residents would hold this belief. No one is opposed to people fishing at this lake now. The City is very fortunate that Mr. Roskelly has allowed people to have access to this land for all of these years. He said this was a City lake surrounded by private property. He said that people access the area through the back side. He said if this area became a park, the City may make an effort to keep more water in the lake. It’s a little shallow at the moment.
Commissioner Staab asked whether the road could be gravel. Commissioner Staudt said that there is no doubt that this area was planned for future development, as the existing road runs right to this property. He felt that the residents in the area would consider parking in this area a small price to pay for enjoyment of this property.
Commissioner Staab said he has read comments from the residents regarding their concern about the traffic generated by the proposed ten houses. He wondered how they felt about the traffic associated with this land becoming a public park. There might actually be more traffic.
Commissioner Schwarzlose asked to clarify a misconception about the proposed Roskelly development. His proposal does not eliminate all of the open space; it provides a conservation easement on a portion of the land. He felt that the presumption being made was that it was an all-or-nothing proposition. If things don’t work out with the Grant, the City is not losing this piece of natural property.
Commissioner Wingfield said that when he moved to Novi some twelve years ago, the land behind his home was in a natural state and he was led to believe that it would remain that way. Things changed and now there are houses there. He asked whether he and his neighbors could have come to the City and requested to buy the land for park space. What is going to happen in the Thirteen Mile and Meadowbrook area, when in two years those residents might come forward and ask for the City to save fifteen local areas of natural land from being developed? Then the following year residents from the Taft and Nine Mile area might come forward with their request. He supported going forward with the grant, but he wondered when the City might expect the end of these individual requests from coming forward.
Commissioner Staudt believed if the City was proactive to the point where each prospective park area had been reviewed for its potential, the City would be in a much better shape. No one would be blind-sided. If the City knew that the subject property was available before it was approved for development, the City may have been able to work cooperatively with the residents at that time on a grant. He felt that the environment surrounding this current request is somewhat hostile because of the timing issue and how the request was presented. He did not think opposition to this Grant would exist if a year ago this Commission would have, in light of their position as land stewards, approached this developer and asked him about the purchase of this property. Commissioner Staudt said that it was their responsibility as a Commission to procure that list of potential park land properties and proactively seek to incorporate them into the City’s park land portfolio. This City was caught off guard with this request. In the next six months, Commissioner Staudt would like regular discussions on these properties – three or four per meeting – so that when the next request for park land comes forward, the Commission is already aware of the property and has already made some determinations regarding that site. The Commission, during each of these reviews, can determine whether the land is worth pursuing or if it does not serve the community as a whole. The Commission can be proactive and not reactive. As a Commissioner, he was disappointed that he didn’t see this possibility as an issue before now. He encouraged the Commission to change that now by agreeing to review the prospects of other potential park land properties before they become a hot topic. He anticipated that these situations will become more frequent as the City approaches its build-out. If the Commission does this properly, it will give the citizens a heads-up. Perhaps one of the Commission’s roles would be to state the options available – purchasing, donations, etc. He said that this proactive position better serves this community.
Chair Enright asked Mr. Auler if there was a list of potentially available land for the Committee to review. Mr. Auler said that he would work on the request, although he felt that there is already a lot on the Commission’s plate this year – the Naming Rights Policy, the CIP projects, high-profile items, etc. One month of work time has already been lost to this Grant process, and this is time that was allocated to projects already approved. Chair Enright asked whether this could be a joint effort in conjunction with the Greenway and Pathway Study, which came out of the Planning Commission. Mr. Auler said he would look into that.
Commissioner Staudt said that this Commission should take responsibility for this review. The Planning Commission can help them and be a resource. If these properties are for sale, they might be easy to find. He knew that there were lists out there somewhere, and that this review really is a lengthy process. Mr. Auler reminded the Commission that there are not any acquisitions funds in the budget. He also said that with each review, the Commission will have to determine its priority and what the possibilities for acquisition might be.
C. Proposed Amendments to the Community Recreation Plan
This Agenda item was covered in the discussion of Agenda item 7B.
D. Community Forestry Grant Application for Tree Inventory and Management Plan
(This Agenda Item was discussed prior to Agenda item 7B).
City Forester Steve Printz addressed the Commission regarding an available grant for tree inventory and tree management project for the urban forestry program.
Mr. Printz said that a tree inventory would list the trees, stumps and plantings. Data is collected via a hand held computer. It is a foundation for the management of the City’s trees. It acts as a snapshot of the urban forest through time. It will identify what trees are here, and where potential hazards lie. It will help to reduce liability as well as help the Department budget more effectively and schedule work orders more efficiently. It will increase the customer service aspect, allowing the City to answer citizens’ questions about their trees.
Mr. Printz said the data that will be collected includes location, species, diameter, condition, maintenance needs, utility information, growing space, tree lawn, etc. Additional notes might include diseases, multi-stems, etc.
Mr. Printz said the second piece of this puzzle is the Tree Management Plan. It is a detailed analysis of the tree inventory data, and it helps determine what the maintenance needs are. Two components include a scheduling module and a multi-year budget.
The tree inventory software will sort the information and make it more accessible. It would be able to identify, for example, how many ash trees or elm trees the City has. It will maintain the location of dead trees, stumps, plantings, etc. The software will allow the user to query any information that has been inputted. There is room to keep a detailed history of each site. This would allow the City to identify locations where, for instance, plantings have a high failure rate, so that the City can better determine what the cause might be. It will maintain the records of each site’s tree maintenance, which will improve the creation and prioritization of work orders.
Mr. Printz said that the application is due July 29th. The tree inventory and management plan project is eligible to receive up to $20,000 in grant money. It is a 50-50 cost share; the City’s share would be $30,000, based on an estimate by a resource group that indicates that the City has 18,000 trees. The City has 144 street miles, with an average of 125 trees per mile. The inventory estimate was $225 per tree, for an approximate cost of $40,000. The management plan is about $3,000. The software is approximately $3,300 and the on-site training would be about $1,700. The project must be completed by September 1, 2006. This project would only be for street trees. The Forestry Division, using GPS, will inventory the park trees and could complete that project within the same time frame.
Mr. Printz said that the GPS was considered for this project because it would have been too costly. It would have cost about $332 per tree. Since not as many trees need to be catalogued, this park tree project can be done in house.
Chair Enright confirmed with Mr. Printz that the City does not currently have a tree inventory. An outdated 1987 inventory indicated that the City had 8,000 trees. The City’s build-out was much different at that time. Chair Enright asked if the inventory would be easily maintained. Mr. Printz responded that as work orders are written and as subdivisions come on line, the inventory will be updated.
Commissioner Staudt asked what would happen if the grant was only funded up to $5,000. Mr. Printz said that the application asks what the dollar amount requested is. This grant project is most likely an all-or-nothing item. Commissioner Staudt confirmed that the City would use tree fund money to pay its share.
Commissioner Staudt asked where the City stands on tree replacement and the usage of the tree fund. He has heard that the City plans to use the entire fund on planting trees. How does the City know how to spend that money if a replacement policy is not yet in place? Director Randy Auler said that the City continues to add money to that fund. In terms of the replacement program, that item is pending the completion of the Naming Rights program.
Commissioner Staudt asked whether it was important for the City to ensure that the tree fund does not get tapped out. There might be City Council members who wish to use the entire fund to plant trees. Mr. Auler said that a policy decision must be made, perhaps through policy or through the budget process. Based on the ash borer situation, one can never predict what is going to come down the road. It might be beneficial to keep a reserve fund available to address potential future emergencies.
Commissioner Staudt said that this would be a recommendation that the Commission can make to City Council at a later date. He asked if the tree replacement policy was going to come back to this Commission at some point in time. Mr. Auler said he thought it should come back, and since it hasn’t been presented to City Council yet, the Commission should probably revisit that item. Commissioner Staudt commented that although it isn’t this Commission’s role to manage that fund, certainly it was within their right to make the recommendation that a reserve fund is beneficial. Commissioner Staudt asked if this was a fairly high-rated CIP issue. Mr. Auler said it was a highly-rated action strategy. Mr. Auler offered to check whether this item is in the CIP budget, though he did not think that it was in the CIP budget that accompanied the City’s Community Recreation Plan. He could not recall if the item was in the most recent CIP.
Commissioner Staab asked how the information collected would be shared with the citizens. Many times they are concerned about their street trees, but they are probably more concerned about the trees in their back yards. Those will not be inventoried. Mr. Printz said that there are ways to provide this information through the use of the software. There is an internet feature that allows this information to be on the internet, potentially through the City’s website. Residents will be able to review their information in this manner – species, size, etc. They would be able to find out if there might be something potentially wrong with their trees. Mostly, the residents just want to know what kind of trees they have.
Commissioner Staab thought this was a good program, and could have helped the City through the ash borer crisis. That situation may have been made less catastrophic. Mr. Printz agreed, stating that it allows the City to know what it has. This program would allow the City to know upfront what percentage of a certain genus is out there. If there are too many maple trees, for instance, the City can be proactive in planting different types of trees.
Commissioner Staudt said that City Council needs to approve this request because it requires money to come from the tree fund. They have to commit to it at the time of the grant being awarded. Mr. Auler said that City Council must also authorize the Department to submit the grant. Mr. Staudt clarified that the motion must recommend that permission be granted to submit the grant, and also recommend the disbursement of the tree fund money.
Moved by Commissioner Staudt, seconded by Commissioner Staab:
VOICE VOTE ON THE COMMUNITY FORESTRY GRANT APPLICATION MOTION MADE BY COMMISSIONER STAUDT AND SECONDED BY COMMISSIONER STAAB:
Motion to send a positive recommendation of support of this Community Forestry Grant Application to City Council, and secondly, to authorize expenditures from the tree fund in the event that the City is awarded the grant.
Motion carried 6-0.
8. COMMISSIONER COMMENTS
Commissioner Staab reported the passing of Paul Baker, who was one of the Parks’ greatest benefactors many years ago. He asked that the record reflect the City’s acknowledgement of Mr. Baker’s many contributions to this community and many others.
Commissioner Burke stated that the Michigan 50’s Festival was underway and that it becomes more successful with each passing year. He commended those who have helped make it happen and noted that fireworks were on the schedule for Friday, with a rain date of Saturday. A Twelve Mile Cruise was planned for Saturday. He encouraged everyone to attend.
Commissioner Staudt said that the Festival was great fun with great entertainment. He said that Parks and Recreation had a nice booth that would hopefully withstand the looming weather conditions.
Commissioner Schwarzlose wished to acknowledge again the efforts of Mr. Auler and his Staff.
Commissioner Wingfield expressed his pleasure with the current operation at Power Park. He felt the addition of a night supervisor was working very well. The pitching machines are available, the tables are out, the fields are lined, the dirt is dragged, the grass is cut, the concession stands are ready to go and the bathrooms are clean.
Chair Enright agreed that the 50’s Festival will provide a great weekend of fun. She commented that the parks were looking great and the Community Sports Park has received countless compliments.
Moved by Commissioner Burke, seconded by seconded by Commissioner Staab:
Motion to adjourn
Motion carried 6-0.
The meeting adjourned at or about 9:15 p.m.
10. FUTURE MEETINGS
21 – Parks, Recreation and Forestry – Council Chambers – 7:30 p.m.
25 – City Council – Council Chambers – 7:00 p.m.
8 – City Council Council Chambers – 7:00 p.m.
11 – Parks, Recreation and Forestry – Council Chambers – 7:30 p.m.
22 – City Council – Council Chambers – 7:00 p.m.
Transcribed by Jane L. Schimpf, July 22, 2005 ________________________________________
Signed, Marie Enright, Chairperson
Signed, David Staudt, Vice Chairperson