SPECIAL MEETING OF THE NOVI PLANNING COMMISSION
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 1995 - 8:00 P.M.
EXECUTIVE COUNCIL ROOM-NOVI CIVIC CENTER-45175 W. TEN MILE ROAD
The meeting was called to order at 8:15 P.M. by Chairman Clark.
ROLL CALL: Bonaventura (Present), Capello (Present), Clark (Present), Hoadley (Absent-Excused), Hodges (Absent-Excused), Lorenzo (Present), Mutch (Present), Taub (Absent-Excused), Weddington (Present)
(6) Present (3) Absent-Excused
Hoadley, Hodges, Taub
A quorum being present, the meeting was in session.
ALSO PRESENT: Brandon Rogers - Planning Consultant
James R. Wahl - Planning Director
Steven Cohen - Planning Clerk
APPROVAL OF AGENDA
The Agenda was approved as submitted.
Member Lorenzo asked if Mr. Rogers and Mr. Wahl were going to be brief that evening so they wouldn't have a very long meeting and then at the next meeting, they would go through this in-depth and was that correct and it was stated no.
Chairman Clark then explained the Commission could go through it in-depth if they wish at that time, and Member Lorenzo said but two Planning Commissioners were missing and she thought that was a concern that Members Hoadley and Hodges were missing and they wouldn't have the benefit of the report.
Mr. Rogers commented that Member Hoadley has been on the Planning Studies Committee so he was completely up-to-speed.
Member Lorenzo said so Member Hodges would be somewhat left in the dark in terms of an in-depth report being verbalized.
Member Bonaventura said also Member Capello wasn't present and Member Taub wasn't present, but to him that doesn't mean anything and they do have a quorum. He said as far as he was concerned, he could make a motion to approve some of this and Chairman Clark said but they do not want to act because the meeting should be in the Council Chambers with the benefit of television for anyone in the community who wants to know what was going on. He said it just so happens because of the space constraints, they had to have their meeting in this room.
Member Bonaventura then indicated he was a bit disappointed because he felt they were back-logged on the Planning Commission and the last meeting went to 12:30 P.M. and the 12:30 meetings were effecting him more.
Mr. Wahl said as they would recall, one of the reasons why they were backed up was because essentially they hardly had a meeting one time because most of them were sick so essentially they lost a meeting.
Member Lorenzo said she too was disappointed and she thought they were going to be acting on something that evening.
Mr. Wahl said it was almost impossible to get a meeting room in this building with one week's notice, and Member Lorenzo felt they should have been made aware of that and possibly they would have decided not to have a meeting that night and that was her point of view. She said she didn't mind coming out if they were going to accomplish something.
Chairman Clark said even that night, if they accomplish nothing more that to give the majority of the Commissioners who were there a broad overview from Mr. Rogers and Mr. Wahl, he felt they have accomplished something, and then he would suggest that they each take their copy of the Budget proposal home with them. He felt in the interim, Member Hodges and Member Taub would also have their copy sent back to them with a note so that they know that there was going to be the opportunity for an in-depth discussion at the next meeting.
Member Weddington said she wanted to point out also that Member Taub was on the Committee so he would be up to speed also. She felt the only person who has not had the opportunity to go through and discuss this material would be Member Hodges.
Member Mutch said maybe what could happen following this meeting, was the Commission could go ahead and have a discussion as they were planning to do and then following this meeting, if Commissioner Hodges was given the substance of the meeting and was given the opportunity to provide a memo to the rest of the Commission on what her input would have been and then they would have the benefit of her input. She said it was not a matter of this was a public meeting and her comments would be coming in the back door, and it would all be publicly presented.
Chairman Clark said he would be amenable as to how everyone wants to proceed that night, but he was getting the sense at least that if they were not going to be able to take any affirmative action one way or the other on the proposed Budget that night, that perhaps they should have waited until the next meeting, but he would be amenable to what the majority wishes to do.
Chairman Clark said he wanted to point out also that a motion was needed to correct the caption to the meeting to reflect that this was a Special Meeting of the Novi Planning Commission, Wednesday February 22, 1995, commencing at 8:00 P.M. and not 7:30 P.M.
It was then,
Moved by Member Bonaventura
Seconded by Member Mutch
To correct the caption to the meeting to reflect that this was a Special Meeting of the Novi Planning Commission being held on Wednesday, February 22, 1995 at 8:00 P.M.
(voice vote) Motion Carried Unanimously
Mr. Wahl said he didn't want to belabor the matter but he did regret that they were back there and he would point out the City Council regularly meets in meeting rooms without TV and takes action if he wasn't mistaken and has approved the City Budget in the Activities Room and they met at Tollgate just a couple of weeks ago. He felt it was the standard practice of the City Council to meet in other rooms for Special Meetings so he didn't think they were too far off from the norm.
Mr. Wahl said he was just trying to provide an option where they could do work that they have been putting off and still provide public discussion if any Commissioner or the public would want to do that.
Chairman Clark said there was no capacity or ability to have the public back there and Member Bonaventura said but like it was stated, the Council does it all the time.
Member Mutch said she didn't have a problem that it wasn't televised but that there was no public access.
Member Bonaventura then said Chairman Clark was telling him that in this case, they have higher ethical standards and Chairman Clark said what he was saying was they have elected to do things differently. Chairman Clark then said they would begin with the first item.
1. Proposed FY 1995-96 Planning Commission Work Program & Budget.
Report to the Planning Commission from the Planning Studies & Budget Committee.
Planning & Community Development Department and Consultants regarding:
* Proposed Planning & Traffic Consultant Services/Retainers
* Proposed Planning Studies - FY 95-96
* Proposed Planning Commission Budget - FY 95-96
Recommendations to City Council and Administration (City Manager and Finance Director):
* Determination of "Planning Study Priorities."
* Recommended Planning Commission Budget for FY 1995-96; (July 1, 1995)
Mr. Wahl said he believed the Commission has received several times a copy of this program and they have also elected to have copies, bound copies for all of them kept in the office in the event that if someone forgets their copy, they would have one available for any future meetings.
Mr. Wahl explained the proposal was a Budget and Work Program and the format of which has been determined over the years of trial and error and working with various Commissions and Councils to provide goals and objectives, task assignments, dollar amounts, etc.
Mr. Wahl said Page Two of the Work Program breaks out the Budget into several categories: Consultant Services, Administrative Functions & Services, and Planning Studies Priorities, as well as several background reports.
Mr. Wahl said for purposes of the Budget, which was on Page Four, they have proposed a figure of $247,933 for the recommended Budget. He said on the opposite page, they would see their current Budget which was $126,531. He said they have also received several memos that tracked the Commission's Budget over a period of years and they have seen a decline, where it actually declined five consecutive years and then it leveled off. He noted he has provided a number of background reports regarding those services.
Mr. Wahl said he did receive some questions and comments regarding the Consultants Services, which he would like to clarify. He said the retainers go to Brandon M. Rogers & Associates for $35,000 and that was proposed in this year's Budget. He indicated approximately $20,000 would be for Birchler/Arroyo as a back-up in essence to Brandon M. Rogers & Associates and that decision was made several years ago. He said then there was the Traffic Consultant Retainer for Bircher/Arroyo for $25,000 and that amounts to $80,056 in services.
Mr. Wahl said those services were detailed in letters from the Consultants explaining what they provide under what categories and such. He said frankly those services have been somewhat standardized over the ten years that he has been there and in fact, that was why they have a retainer because over a period of years, they determined that the services provided were somewhat consistent in dollar amounts. He said they could see on the back of this page, the amounts that were provided, although they did reach as high as $96,000.
Mr. Wahl said what the City wanted to do was to make this predictable so they wouldn't have $76,000 one year and $96,000 the next year and the idea with the retainer was that it was a standardized amount and the Consultants agreed to do X services that were outlined in this letter and then presuming that it wasn't a very expensive study that was requested, they would do some requests that were not necessarily X number of meetings per year.
Mr. Wahl said for example, Mr. Rogers wrote about 50 letters and recommendations last year at the request of the Commission, the City Council and the Administration. He said this indicates that last year, actually Mr. Rogers provided more services in terms of hours than his retainer allowed and that was the way it works. He said there was no provision to be compensated above the retainer. He said what Mr. Rogers could do if someone asks him to do an assignment, would be to indicate what he foresees that assignment to cost, such as $5,000 worth of work.
Mr. Wahl indicated they really couldn't in good conscious request that Mr. Rogers now do an additional $5,0000 worth of work on top of the $41,000 last year that he did in hours.
Mr. Wahl said as they recall, the reason he was going into this in some detail was the City Council had suggested that Mr. Rogers and Mr. Arroyo could do the Zoning Ordinance Update on the retainer and that would have been an additional $7,500 worth of hours that Mr. Rogers would have been expected to absorb in his $35,000 retainer or diminish other services and cut back what was essentially standard competitive services that take place throughout the year.
Mr. Wahl said he would suggest that this dollar amount and those services have been arrived at through experience of working over a number of years in terms of what the demands were on the Planning Consultant from the different decision-makers, Administration and public.
Mr. Wahl said this was the proposal and they do have a change in this year's Budget which was that Birchler/Arroyo who was not there, has asked for an increase, and he said to Mr. Rogers if he wasn't mistaken, that was a new hourly rate and Mr. Rogers said yes it was an increase from $60.00 to $70.00 for his services and he doesn't earmark other staff who may do work for Novi and he breaks it down to his two Chief Assistants, but that was one of the issues that was partly the reason it was an increase.
Mr. Wahl said he would suggest that this budgeted amount was subject to the Consultant Review Committee and the City Council's acceptance of Mr. Arroyo's proposal, if he wasn't mistaken, because he believed the Committee would have to approve any changes in the Consultants' hourly rates.
Mr. Rogers said that was expected and he didn't want to question anyone's judgement and their hourly rates remain the same as they have for the last six years.
Mr. Wahl said he would also point out in the initial part of this report, he has added a new section that doesn't fit in with the Budget, but it was Staff Services to the Planning Commission.
Mr. Wahl said they have never been required or otherwise been accountable for exactly what percent of their workload on a daily basis was devoted solely to Planning Commission Services and neither were the Consultants, and frankly their retainer covers services provided to other bodies such as City Council and Departments that may ask for advice and assistance.
Mr. Wahl said he would point out that neither JCK's services to this Commission or Fried and Levitt's were in their Budget nor were they accounted for in terms of how many hours they provide them versus any other decision-making body.
Mr. Wahl said but in any event, for the Department's Services, he has listed here what he felt were the principal ones, such as Site Plan Administration where they administer the site plan review process, the Minutes, Assistance to Committees, the Orientation Briefings, the Planning Commission Agenda, and the Conference and Workshop Arrangements for the Commission.
Mr. Wahl said some of their staff people were essentially devoted almost full-time for providing services to the Commission, such as the Minutes from any one particular meeting.
Mr. Wahl then indicated that completed the Summary and he asked Mr. Rogers if he missed anything under the retainers.
Mr. Rogers felt it has to be made clear that they try to keep their Schedule A-Activities, which follows his letter, within budget. He indicated Schedule B were the separate authorized activities that come on from time to time and Schedule C were pass-through fees from developers. He added they have had the busiest winter in ten years and this was carrying some of the shortfall in his retainer to be very honest, and they were working on at least 15 site plans now that the Commission hasn't even seen.
Mr. Rogers said he had the same shortfall last year and they might note that his retainer was cut 5% last year from the $35,000 that was in place for four years. He said it was all the Consultants, JCK, Fried & Levitt, Mr. Arroyo and his office.
Mr. Wahl indicated the Commission was reviewing the Budget as a year goes by, and they contracted in essence with Mr. Rogers at the beginning of the year for those services at X amount of dollars, so while the Budget as a whole and every line item was cut 5%, his understanding was that those amounts would be restored.
Mr. Rogers said if it was restored, it would come back to the basic $35,000 and that was what he was holding for next year. He added that he didn't put that in his pocket and he had roughly a 1.5 mark-up on basic salary for Ms. Lemke and Mr. Olson and himself and it covers overhead, equipment, travel, overnight stay, professional liability insurance, etc.
Mr. Rogers said he felt that the rate was in the ballpark with the level of experience he was offering and Mr. Arroyo was offering and Ms. Lemke was offering so he felt the City was getting the top available talent that was familiar with the situation in Novi.
Mr. Rogers noted it was ten years to the month that he started, and he has begun to learn people, places, faces, efficiencies, and he felt each year, the job becomes a bit easier.
Mr. Rogers then indicated he had one last attachment for the January-December 1994 period, which listed 118 site plan reviews, 22 subdivision plat reviews, 109 Woodlands Permit reviews, and 222 developer/broker/citizen face-to-face conferences of at least a half hour each.
Mr. Rogers also indicated there were 86 official evening meetings with City Departments and 606 telephone conferences, some of which take 10-20 minutes. He said there has been a lot of activity that was done responsibly and in some cases, it was something not easy to resolve, and for some of them, his recommendation wasn't followed and he accepted that, but he felt on the whole, what he has done and what Mr Arroyo has done, has assisted in facilitating plan review and zoning ordinance reviews. He said he wants to do things responsibly, but not "give away the shop." He said they were tough on developers, but they don't want to play games with them either.
Mr. Wahl said he would also point out that his memo of January 11th nixes site plan reviews and those were not all retainers and Mr. Rogers said no they were not.
Mr. Wahl then asked if there were any questions regarding the Consultant Services to the Commission and the costs of the services.
Member Bonaventura indicated he felt a bit handicapped because of the fact that it was a sensitive subject when they have a relationship with Consultants over the years and he liked Mr. Rogers and Mr. Arroyo a lot, but he felt he was completely in the dark because he has read a letter from Mr. Rogers who had a shortfall this year from his retainer amount, but then he was telling him that it has been made up because they were receiving the site plans and doing more reviews, so he was dependent upon the amount of reviews, which was his understanding.
Member Bonaventura felt the income from Mr. Rogers' company was dependent upon the amount of reviews that he does or the amount of applicants that come into the City and it could be a good year or a bad year and one year there could be a lot of applicants or a bad year with not too many applicants.
Mr. Wahl said obviously the income goes up with the amount of work, however, he would point out that the amount of work required to review a site plan wasn't pegged to the amount of hours that Mr. Rogers puts in, but it was pegged to the fee schedule which was an estimate of what those things cost, so it may be greater or lesser on any project.
Member Bonaventura said then there was a fee schedule for review fees and Mr. Wahl said yes for every project. Member Bonaventura said he doesn't just charge his hourly rate and Mr. Wahl said that was correct.
Member Bonaventura asked if there should be an enormous project and they spend an enormous amount of hours on it, was there a certain fee and Mr. Wahl said yes and it was according to the size of the project with so much per acre and so much per dwelling unit.
Member Bonaventura said he still felt he was in the dark because if Mr. Rogers were to tell him how much he made in the previous year, that number would mean nothing to him, whether it was $100,000 or $200,000 because he has no knowledge of this and he has nothing to compare it to, so he felt he was in the dark, but he was willing to go with it.
Mr. Wahl said he tries to provide the Commission with information that was either required by the Council for their Budget or the Commission has asked for over a period of time. He said the Council has asked on occasion for the types of information that he was just mentioning.
Mr. Wahl said he could tell Member Bonaventura that Mr. Rogers' total income from all sources for the City of Novi from last year, was $150,000 and out of that would be review fees, special studies and the retainer.
Mr. Wahl said he has heard the same thing said from other sources, that because Mr. Rogers has a contract to do all the site plan reviews, which could have amounted to $80,000-$90,000, that he ought to have been donating $35,000 worth of retainer services to the City.
Mr. Wahl said he didn't know of any community where a Consultant does that and it may happen, but he couldn't imagine a situation where they would essentially donate 25% of their work, their hours or 30% to the City, just because the Consultant has an exclusive contract to do site plans.
Member Bonaventura said what he was depending upon the Community Development Director to do was to use his experience and that he was in approval of the numbers and was he correct.
Mr. Wahl said this whole approach and how it was handled wasn't really his call and he didn't make a decision to have retainers, and Council has made that determination. He said the whole contractual arrangement with their Consultants, how they were paid, how they were reviewed and what they do, was all a budgetary policy decision of the City Council, and all he does as an Administrator, was to carry out those policies and provide the information. He said for example, if Council wants to know all the work that Mr. Rogers had done last year and it fits into the services, he could provide that information.
Member Bonaventura asked if he saw something extremely out of line, wouldn't it be fiscally responsible to suggest something, a new method, and he would do that, and Mr. Wahl said yes he would. He said he wasn't indicating he had nothing to do with it, but that he didn't set the policies or make the decisions, but they have asked him for recommendations on occasion.
Mr. Wahl said for example, it was this department that recommended that Birchler-Arroyo be retained as a back-up Planning and Traffic Consultant and that was a recommendation that they made for a variety of reasons and that did go through and was the way it has worked out.
Mr. Wahl said he didn't want to discourage Member Bonaventura or anyone else from asking how they got where they were with the numbers, in fact, he preferred that they all ask a lot of questions because when they sit down in the Budget Hearing, he wanted everyone to be fully informed as to how they got to this point.
Mr. Wahl said two years ago, there was a motion on the floor that failed 4-3 to cut the Consultant Retainer Services in half. He said they would have had to figure out a way to cut them in half or otherwise reorganize all of their functions to do something to provide the same amount of services with less hours and he didn't know how they would have done it, so to him it was absolutely essential that this Commission understand what this provides and what it doesn't.
Mr. Wahl said if there was something that was fiscally irresponsible and someone wanted the Planning Consultant to do $5,000 worth of work that would take away from here perhaps, he would point that out and deal with it one way or the other.
Member Weddington wondered about some comparisons of their Budget with other communities' Budgets in the metro area similar activities. She felt this was a very lean Budget overall, very modest, especially given the level of activity and development in Novi.
Member Weddington said another point was the rates being charged by the Consultants were very modest in comparison to other Consultants that she has seen in her work and knowing what other professionals charge for their services and then there was additional control with the Consultant Review Committee that does make comparisons.
Member Bonaventura said he knows how Farmington works, but that was a City built out. He said obviously it wouldn't be wise for Mr. Rogers to make a deal with the City like that and he would do this work for the $20,000 retainer fee and then if there were no applicants coming in, it would be a loser deal.
Member Weddington said that gets to the other point that she wanted to make which was she would prefer to allocate more to retainers and have the Consultants on their side, rather than have them dependent upon fees. She felt that puts them in a potential conflict of interest situation and the more developments that come in, the more fees.
Member Weddington said she was much more comfortable having a retainer that ensures that the Consultants were on their side or at least more balanced and not dependent solely on the developers who she really didn't trust. She said she would rather see some balance there.
Mr. Rogers indicated the imbalance wasn't that wide and no Consultant he knows of in Novi does work for a developer and then sits back and approves his own work, and he wouldn't touch that with a 10 foot pole.
Member Weddington said she wasn't implying that at all, but the point she was making was by structuring, they could be so inclined to generate a lot more fees by making some changes to the Ordinance and by recommending more of a real policy for their Ordinances and she didn't see that happening, but the potential was there. She said that would make her very uncomfortable if she felt that were going on and she would rather see more of the Budget categorized as a retainer to make sure that the Consultants were looking out for their best interest and reflecting their policy.
Member Bonaventura felt usually people think who was paying the Consultants and Member Weddington said when the developers pay a greater share, she was more concerned and she would rather have the Consultants paid more by the City.
Mr. Rogers said there was some discussion a year or so ago, to really raise the fees and have the developers pay so much that the retainers could be cut out, but he felt the fees have to be related to the amount of work done, the value rendered.
Member Weddington said that proposal makes her very uncomfortable and with that type of an approach, she would have a great difficulty with it because of the potential conflict of interest that it may create and not to say that as a professional, he or any of their other Consultants would be swayed by that, but she just felt it increases the potential and she wouldn't want to see that happen.
Mr. Wahl responded to Member Weddington and said six months ago he knew how the development demands were going to be increasing as they have, and they were already last year, but now they were double. He said they have kept this figure at $53,000 for the last 4-5 years and his Department was stretched to the max right now and they were not going to get any more staff.
Mr. Wahl indicated in this year's Budget, the Treasurers Office was coming in for people, along with Assessing, the Finance Department, and DPS. He said there were more subdivisions so the demands on everyone was tremendous.
Mr. Wahl said they took a staff person away so they were not going to add any more staff to his department. He indicated with the retainer however, he would have some flexibility and the reason he was saying this was because possibly they could revisit this in next year's Budget. He indicated they would have the flexibility to add X more hours to the Consultants Services for that particular year because the demands on the department were such. He felt the only way he was going to get more work in the department during the next year to meet the demands, was to get better computers, telephones, and to increase the efficiency by 15% or 20% to make up for the demand they have.
Mr. Wahl said he would hope during the next year and he didn't know what the Council's feeling would be and it may be a wasted thought, but next year at this time, if this level of demand on services goes up, he would like the Commission to consider a substantial increase in the retainer even to the extent that maybe they don't get as many studies done.
Mr. Wahl said he was indicating that on a day-to-day basis, they were stretched to the maximum and when that happens, there was the potential for errors increasing, which neither this body nor the Council were very tolerant of. He said so they were trying to keep the errors down and be efficient and they were all pretty frazzled right now.
Member Weddington said she understood and was fully supportive of this. She said she didn't see how the City could cut to the extent that he has been given a directive to do and maintain this level of activity and it was just not reasonable.
Mr. Wahl said anything the Planning Commission could do to convince the City Council would be greatly appreciated, because as they could see by this, the key charts in his mind were those two here which show that from a peak in the late 80's, they have declined to about 3% of the Budget from about 6% and in the meantime, the demands were going up.
Member Bonaventura asked how often has the fee schedule been adjusted and Mr. Wahl said he didn't think the fee schedule has been adjusted for several years, and it may have been about 5-6 years ago when it was adjusted upward.
Member Bonaventura asked if that was ever compared to a national average or a Consultants' fees or averages, and Mr. Wahl indicated both the fees and the hourly rates have been compared to other communities around in Michigan. He said they were at the high end of the fee structure although they were not the highest. He added they were doing some checking this year.
Member Weddington asked if he was speaking of fees charged to the developers for permits or the fees charged by the Consultants. Member Bonaventura felt it was the same thing and Mr. Rogers said no, because there were also water tap fees and sewer tap fees, etc.
Mr. Rogers explained why the fees are what they are was that Novi has more ordinances than most communities and the landscape section alone keeps Ms. Lemke going because it was very definitive and many reviews were required. He said it was more complex to review a site plan in Novi than it was in Milford Township.
Member Bonaventura said what they want to stay away from was the taxpayers and that was why it was set up this way and they don't want the taxpayers subsidizing the development.
Member Weddington felt they also want to protect those taxpayers too and they have to find the right balance.
Mr. Rogers commented the developers have accepted the fee structure although they had a few that argued when it was first established.
Mr. Rogers said in Sterling Heights where he was representing a private developer, he had to wait 3 months to get on the Planning Commission Agenda and they fill up and when they get enough on the Agenda, they push things back.
Mr. Rogers commented in Novi they take care of jobs within 22 days and then the developer were on an Agenda, but if they do things too fast, then they could make errors.
Member Mutch said she understood what Member Weddington was saying and she agreed in principal with what she was saying about the precautions, but it seems to her that if they were requiring developers to pay fees that were structured in such a way to recover the costs and those costs were passed on to the Consultants who were doing the reviews, the greater number of reviews they do, would increase their income to their firm.
Member Mutch said she didn't see how there was a conflict because if anything, if someone was working for a developer, it would be one review and they were through and the Consultants were not out as far as she knows drumming up new business and encouraging people to come through the process.
Member Weddington said but they could by tilting the Ordinances and making changes in the Ordinances to make it easier for development and for developers and Member Mutch said the Consultants don't make the changes in the Ordinances, and Member Weddington said they do recommend them and they write them and Member Mutch asked how often do they do that, and Member Bonaventura said they were going through that right now.
Member Mutch said it wasn't an easy process and she didn't feel it was railroading anything through as far as she could see. Member Bonaventura said it was a slow train. Member Mutch said no one was going to get rich in that way then.
Member Mutch said anyway, the point was a more stricter rather than more liberal interpretation does increase the number of reviews. She said if someone couldn't meet it and they assist on appearing before them and get denied, they then have to go back and resubmit and yes there would be reviews and more money generated for the consultants but at the same time, they were not paying that, the developer was paying that based on the fee structure and if the fee structure was not adequate and was coming out of the other time, she would agree that the fee schedule should be structured in such a way that they were truly recapturing that and it was not eating up something else.
Member Mutch said but at the same time, a retainer should be based on the expectation of what they want as a minimum for services from their Consultants and that that figure represents what was fair to both the City in its expectations of hours and services and to the Consultants who were performing the services so they don't rush through those.
Member Weddington said that was the point they were trying to make, but she just didn't want to see it skewed to one side or the other.
Member Mutch said she herself did not see how they were going to be taken advantage of by developers if they were paying the fees. She said the fee schedule for the review process requires it would cost X amount of dollars, but they were really going to pay them twice that amount so they could get them through and that was a whole other ethical situation.
Member Weddington felt the expectation was that a developer feels he can come in and do anything he wants and Member Mutch said that was only his expectation and it was not the reality. Member Weddington felt if they were not careful and if they don't ensure some basic level of loyalty from their Consultants, there was a risk of losing control.
Member Bonaventura commented that was why it was extremely important not to be too lax at the wheel.
Member Mutch said she wasn't talking about the money part, but was saying in the decision-making process, that was part of their responsibility and even if something unethical were to happen and it wasn't even a matter of money but it was a matter of someone being brow-beaten to death and they have had it with something and want to get it out, it still comes to the Commission and sometimes it goes beyond them to the City Council and it was not easy to get things passed by this Commission.
Member Weddington said they have to rely on their professional recommendations and she relies on them a lot and she was sure everyone else does too. She said it was just an issue with her and a caution she puts out and she felt they need to have a balance and the proposal to not have any retainer and get all the Budget from the developers makes her very nervous.
Member Mutch said she didn't see the same dangers but saw more safeguards in place.
Member Lorenzo said while it may not happen very often, she felt they occasionally do not follow their Planning Consultants' recommendations on certain things and that was always an option for them and she didn't think they just take a look at their recommendations and say that was it, but she felt there was a little thought about what goes into this process.
Member Lorenzo said while they respect everyone's opinion, sometimes they use their own common sense or good judgement in certain cases and don't go along with what the Planning Consultants may recommend.
Mr. Wahl indicated there were a couple of other items that relate to Retainer Services and Consultants in general. He said there have been some comments regarding the Consultant Review process that may be changed. He said the Planning Commission and Staff were invited several years ago to participate, by Council asking, as to how the Consultants were performing. He said he then asked all of them to fill out a form with any questions or comments, which he would then take to the Administrative Liaison Committee.
Mr. Wahl indicated his proposal was that those Committee members would then go to the Consultant Review Committee and make that report from whatever information has been collated. He noted the Consultant Review Process at the Council level has been confidential so far and they don't do that in a quorum meeting.
Mr. Wahl said secondly, there has been some remarks made that it was the same every year and that they just keep going on with the same Consultants every year all the time and that was not the case. He said within the last 5-6 years, they have replaced the Traffic Consultant, Barton-Aschman, for performance reasons, turnover and other matters that were deemed to be unsatisfactory and they were replaced by Birchler Arroyo.
Mr. Wahl said they also made a different arrangement with Mr. Rogers and his retainer has been reduced almost in half or more and they had Birchler Arroyo because they were looking for a back-up Planning Consultant and that was the move that was made and they had felt that Birchler Arroyo could be on hand for providing Traffic Consultant Services because of that involvement and because Mr. Arroyo was also a planner and could do site plan reviews or provide any other planning services and they could get that at a reasonable cost, so that change was also made.
Mr. Wahl said a number of years ago, JCK was under review and subsequently was taking a lot of criticisms so most dramatically, they moved their operation from Clarkston to the City of Novi and built the building and upgraded their staff and their hardware and their computers. He said the firm that was there ten years ago and what they have here now was basically a totally new organization except for a few familiar faces.
Mr. Wahl said really with the exception of Fried and Levitt, every one of their Consultants has either been changed or the City made changes to the Consultants' operations as a result of the Consultant Review Process.
Mr. Wahl said so there have been changes made and that was a fact and for those who would prefer it to be differently, they would go through the review process again this year and it was a fairly frank process and when people were not satisfied with a typical service or function, they speak out and the Council Members were not afraid to say something about it and they do and they ask for opinions, so whoever was on that Committee should do their homework and be prepared to speak frankly regarding their satisfaction level.
Mr. Wahl said for example, any comments that they have brought up that evening, were the types of things that may come through the Consultants Review Process. He felt that Committee should be prepared to offer any suggestions or comments on the Consultants' services and performance.
Chairman Clark said he appreciated everyone's concerns. He felt Mr. Rogers was a professional and a professional has two things that he could charge for and one was his time and the other was his services and he didn't think they would find any professional in Mr. Rogers' capacity that would go into any community and say he would do the basic work that was there in the community for free and would rely on fees from developers. He said he didn't care if it was Novi or Farmington, but that Consultant just wouldn't be able to make it on that basis.
Chairman Clark said this was a format that the Council wanted and they didn't want to pay probably what Mr. Rogers services were truly worth up front on a retainer fee basis so they came up with this as a means of seeing that Mr. Rogers was compensated adequately and then getting the basic services that that City wanted on a retainer basis at a minimum cost and it has worked out for both sides.
Chairman Clark said eventually he felt they were going to end up just like Farmington, which was basically built out. He said there was an article in the Detroit News today about development and it talked about Troy and Rochester and Troy had either 17 or 70 at the most acres left for multiple development and then there were 2500 acres left for single family residential and that was it and then it would be built out.
Chairman Clark said then at which point the Planner there was going to be in the position like they were talking about in Farmington, which was simply he would be on a retainer basis and they would not see a lot of plans coming in on a regular basis because there would be nothing left to build unless it was a situation where they were taking something that was old down and re-developing and Mr. Rogers added or using cat and dog parcels and squeezing something in.
Member Mutch then stated she thought it was still Council's decision on which Consultant they hire and Chairman Clark said he didn't think they had any control over the hiring.
Mr. Wahl said he wasn't sure that was correct and he believed that the Planning Commission could select the Planning Consultant.
Member Mutch asked was the reason a developing community uses Planning Consultants was because there was no way they could afford a staff that could adequately do all of that, or was it the need for an outside person.
Mr. Wahl felt part of it was that the workload in a developing community tends to have more of a cyclical nature and then secondly, typically the staff services tend to be somewhat different and they have to respond to the public or have to respond to the Council or their Boss and when they do that, it doesn't leave them a lot of time to review site plans.
Member Mutch felt it also puts them in a different position because if it was not a retainer, the Consultant knows if he doesn't have too many people, it was no big deal and at the end of the year, he would find a replacement income, but the fact was he could be more independent.
Member Mutch said she was curious as to what those built-out communities do, and she would think that they could fall back to in-housing planning if they were built-out.
Mr. Wahl indicated when he was in Monroe, they did most of it in-house, but if there was a special study, again that was not the kind of thing where he could go into a room and close the door and work on a special study for 3-4 hours because it doesn't work.
Member Mutch asked if special studies could be bid out or contracted out by someone other than the regular Consultant.
Mr. Wahl said that has been brought out in the past on a number of occasions, and he felt there was some merit to that and certainly he believed the City has moved in that direction for some of the engineering contracts. He said obviously when they bid out services, they increase staff time in order to prepare RFP's, review RFP's, and sit down and manage Consultants that have to be shown where Novi Road and Grand River was because they have never been there before, so that does increase a lot of the staff work in order to have different Consultants.
Mr. Wahl said also there would be an advantage when doing Master Plan Studies to have the same Consultant that was on retainer doing them. He said so what they have told Mr. Rogers and something they have implemented over the years, was that when they start getting into those highly specialized studies, they want proposals brought in, not just from Mr. Rogers and Ms. Lemke, but that they want to see other expertise, other voices, other ideas from a variety of Consultants. He felt they have done a lot of that so it wasn't just Mr. Rogers and Ms. Lemke, but there were other associated Consultants participating in those types of studies.
Member Mutch felt regarding the potential conflicts or too big a percentage of the available funds going to one Consultant or another, that helps somewhat, but also when they have a tremendous volume of work, if they expect to get things done and done well, any of their Consultants were going to deal with that volume in a timely way. She felt if they have a lot going on and they have the money, they were going to spend it either way and it doesn't matter to the City if it was spent here or there.
Member Mutch stated when doing an environmental study or a traffic study, they could get someone where that was their specialty as opposed to a more general Planning Consultant.
Member Lorenzo then said she had a few comments. She asked about the shortfall in terms of both Mr. Rogers and Mr. Arroyo, and were they specific projects or was it a number of different things, and she asked where did that come from and what types of services were they providing where that shortfall came in.
Mr. Rogers felt there was a significant increase in time that he has spent at the City. He said he was suppose to be in Novi one day per week, and he was in Novi a half-day yesterday and then sometimes he comes in early on many occasions for meetings, and then also there were the special studies that were done "under the retainer."
Mr. Rogers indicated he has just finished one with JCK on landfill siting criteria. He indicated both he and Mr. Bluhm have spent a lot of time on that study for Mr. Heim Schlick and Mr. Tony Nowicki to make sure they were not exposing themselves with their Residential Agriculture Districts, which was one of the criteria that the County could just drop them in Novi.
Mr. Rogers said personally he was on the phone with general inquiry questions with at least two citizens per day and he just couldn't turn them off and there were a lot of brokers and appraisers that call. He indicated probably over 20 appraisers a year call about background data because they were doing an appraisal report about road funding condemnation for example.
Member Lorenzo asked for the meetings at the City that he was coming there for, was it to meet with developers and Mr. Rogers indicated the developer meetings were on Thursdays and he has about 4-5 hours every Thursday just for that. He said but he was including in his retainer, meetings with the Planning Studies Committee, Ms. Lemke's time on the Town Center Committee, and those things come out of the retainer.
Member Lorenzo asked if the numbers of hours and time that he is spending on those committees and being here was increasing and Mr. Rogers said it was because they were nearly double on site plans as of last year, which was unbelievable in mid-winter.
Mr. Cohen indicated they have 14 new plans already for 1995.
Member Lorenzo also said she was a bit concerned about something that Mr. Wahl mentioned and that was in terms of the Administration and Clerical functions and how they might need to reduce some of their planning work in order to compensate that. She said she certainly appreciated all the time that all the employees, particularly Planning & Community Development put in, but she felt if an employee feels that their job duties were increasing, then that was an issue to take up with the City Council in terms of wages and not necessarily a Planning Commission Budget item.
Member Lorenzo said the Planning Commission Budget should not be reduced in areas of Planning in order to compensate for the work that the Clerks and the Administration were being asked to handle and that was an issue she felt needs to be handled at a City Council level and to lobby them in terms of how they feel they were doing, more than what the job and the annual salary was currently at.
Member Lorenzo said she understood where they were coming from on that matter, but she didn't want Planning to suffer because of that.
Mr. Wahl said he has one staff person out of 3-4 clerical oriented people who spends 80% of her time doing Minutes and he has had more than one Planning Commissioner say, why do they have those verbatim Minutes and that was the thought he had when he first came here. He said he has pretty much ignored it over the years, but now the workload was overwhelming and he has a person who was plugged into earphones 80% of the day, day after day after day doing Minutes, which in his experience professionally, was not necessary in order to perform a capable, confident and legal function.
Mr. Wahl felt it was worth the Commission looking into and he presumed the Commission has the authority to eliminate verbatim Minutes if the Commission would so choose and then the records would be kept and tapes would be kept and excerpts could be requested and the motions could be verbatim. He felt that there was a lot of time spent talking and talking and they were typing and typing and he wasn't going to get any more staff.
Mr. Wahl said that was an issue which frankly he was going to suggest to go to their Administration Committee if the Commission sees any merit in it and determine if this was something they really want.
Chairman Clark said the Commission may want to get input from Mr. Watson because he felt there were two main functions of the Minutes which were one, they have to have a "complete set of official Minutes" which were accepted within a reasonable period of time after each meeting so they were available to the public; and then two, for any potential litigation purpose. He said they just had an Executive Session recently dealing with certain pieces of litigation so it serves that function as well.
Member Bonaventura asked if that was a standard that Minutes were a court requirement and Chairman Clark said they do have to have an official record, but he felt they need to get some input from Mr. Watson.
Member Bonaventura said he always thought there was something official about them being typewritten or a standard, but he felt they could go to a video-tape.
Member Capello asked if the video-tapes were kept and Chairman Clark said he assumed they were, but again if they want to make an argument in court because there was a disagreement over what happened on an earlier occasion and it was on the tape, they would still have to go to an official court reporter and pay them to transcribe the Minutes or the proceedings because until they do it, it was not an official record.
Member Mutch questioned if it would be less expensive than what they were doing now. She also said the problem she had with what they were doing now was they were not getting a transcription of what was being said.
Chairman Clark felt the problem was if it just sits on the tape, many a time a member of the Commission corrects something shortly after the meeting and if the Minutes remain on a video cassette, there would be no correction. He felt someone could then transcribe them at a later time and a member of the Commission could say that wasn't what was stated a year and a half ago, but then whoever transcribes those Minutes could say this was what they transcribed and they must be the official Minutes and how could they come in after the fact and correct them now. He felt the only way they could correct them was to have them prepared.
Member Mutch said they have a recording of the meeting and someone could listen to it and have the opportunity to look at that and say that was incorrect and correct it.
Chairman Clark said someone on the Commission would have to listen to every tape and then if someone doesn't feel that was what they said, there could be a problem.
Member Bonaventura and Member Mutch both felt it was the transcription that was incorrect.
Chairman Clark further explained what he was saying was they have the same problem because someone would still have to spend time after the meeting and go back to every tape and watch it to see what was really stated or there could be some misinterpretation.
Member Mutch said what she was saying was the video or the audio tape was a recording of what was being said and it was not going to be in error. She felt where there could be errors was in the transcription.
Chairman Clark felt what they may want to do would be to have Mr. Watson give them an opinion. Member Bonaventura asked how much does it cost to have Ms. Hendrian sit down and type 60 pages of Minutes and Mr. Wahl said it was probably about 80% of her time or her salary.
Member Capello felt they should have Mr. Watson give them an opinion and the other Commission members agreed.
Chairman Clark said to Mr. Cohen to make sure this item was referred to Mr. Watson for his opinion.
Member Capello said he had a question about the Consultant Retainers. He said Mr. Rogers was coming up short and Mr. Arroyo was coming up short and Mr. Arroyo was only increasing his retainer by 1.5% a year, but the cost of living last year he thought was 2.6% or 2.7%, and he wondered why it wasn't fair to at least give the Consultants a cost of living increase. He asked don't they recommend the Budget and Chairman Clark said all they do was recommend.
Member Capello asked why did they put in the same figures from last year instead of putting in at least the cost of living increase because Mr. Rogers indicated that none of this goes into his pocket.
Mr. Rogers indicated he thought Mr. Arroyo had adjusted his figure up to cover some of his shortfall, but he has not.
Mr. Wahl said if anyone has sat through the Budget sessions over the last 3-4 years, they were talking about cutting everything 5% and they cut every line item 5% and the Consultants were not real anxious to go in and ask for an increase. He said the mood of the Budget Hearings has been that there wasn't a whole lot of money for any increases in anything.
Member Bonaventura asked what happens at the end of the year if there should be $50,000 left over and was that a good thing or a bad thing from his viewpoint.
Mr. Wahl said they have never had $50,000 left over and Member Bonaventura asked what about $10,000 or $20,000. Mr. Wahl said years ago, they tended to have leftover money but he had felt if the work was done, that was what was important. He said they did have some Commissioners who felt they should spend 99.9% of the Budget, even though it wasn't as if they would lose the money. He said if they had a $250,000 and they only spend $200,000, he could assure them that the $50,000 that was allocated to them doesn't go up the smokestack and it goes somewhere else in the City Budget, so it wasn't as if it was lost.
Mr. Wahl said they have been very close to the exact amount every year they have cut it. Member Bonaventura asked do they usually run pretty lean. He said as far as last year, for example, they got $114,000 and Mr. Wahl probably asked for more and ended up getting $114,000 so was it projected that he would zero out at the end of the fiscal year, and Mr. Wahl replied there may be a few dollars left in one item or they might be over, but just so the Commission was aware regarding those line items, it was not written anywhere in the line items that they have to come in under a projection for X amount and they could go over it by $500 or $2,000.
Mr. Wahl said if they were to go over within a category, they would have to get a Budget amendment so they would have to go to Council and they would have to pass a Budget amendment in order to go over within the category. He said of course if they go over a line item, the Council doesn't like it so it wasn't suggested to do that. He said in fact, he thought there was a policy that if they were going to go over $1,000 on a line item, they have to report that to the Commission so they were aware of it.
Member Bonaventura then wanted to ask a general question and he asked if they had anything to take care of a new Woodlands Map which involves the infra-red photography like it was done originally in 1987 and Mr. Rogers said he didn't believe so.
Mr. Wahl said that was in the Budget a couple of years ago but what happened was people said why couldn't the Department of Public Services use the City Forester to do that, perhaps with some other funds and not the Planning Commission funds. Member Bonaventura asked if they were going to take care of it and Mr. Wahl said the recommendation went to the Department of Public Services but nothing has come of it that he was aware of.
Member Bonaventura said he didn't know if they should pass that on like that because he felt it was part of the Planning Commission and Member Lorenzo said she also felt it belonged with the Planning Commission.
Mr. Wahl said he wasn't sure if Council didn't do that and he thought they had it in their Budget. Member Bonaventura said they were coming up to ten years now and that was how old the map was going to be.
Member Lorenzo remarked woodlands review was with this Commission and Mr. Wahl said Council may have done that, and he wasn't sure but they had asked couldn't someone else do that.
Member Bonaventura said he didn't want to see that get lost because he felt it was a very important document and he thought it would be very interesting to see the progress that they have made in the ten years of this so called preservation because if they do another infra-red study and get this map, then they would be able to compare 1987 to 1995/1996 and they would see small trees get bigger and see other trees disappear.
Mr. Wahl said as part of this year's Work Program, the Planning Commission and the Staff was suppose to project out the needs for the next 5 years and the Environmental Committee was working on a laundry list of needs for the next 5 years and the first thing they were doing was asking the Consultants to look at all the current studies and recommendations and indicate, "Done, Not Done, Accomplished or Not Accomplished," so he felt in the list of those, they would probably run across the Woodlands Map. He said as far as the Committee becoming more active, they should push it, but he indicated it was not in this Budget.
Mr. Wahl then moved on to the next item which was the Administrative Functions and Services which pretty much speaks for itself. He said he would pass along to them that one of the big issues of the City Council in their goal sessions was the education training of all Boards and Commissions.
Mr. Wahl said they have tried more this year to provide a better briefing format for the Commission and he would only mention in the event that Magazines and Periodicals and Memberships and Dues comes up for the chopping block, that was where a lot of the educational material comes from. He said if it was to the extent that the Council wants them all to study it, that was their source of material and conferences.
Mr. Wahl said he felt it was important and it amounts to $11,000 and he did write a memo to them inquiring for clarification on the Conferences and the National Conference which this year was in Toronto. He said that National Conference runs about $1,000 and in the past, they have sent as many as 3 Commissioners and that has been half of their Budget and then there was some money left for a few other Conferences such as the MSPO.
Mr. Wahl said this year they had interest from more than 3 Commissioners and he just wanted to check back, both for this Budget and for the future, that if they did want the capability to send more Commissioners, then they would have to increase that amount, or the Commission should be aware that for this amount of money, they could only send 3 people, but that was up to the Commission. He added this has been fairly workable over the last few years and the amount used to be $10,000 but they have reduced it.
Member Bonaventura asked since Mr. Wahl has been here, has he had a problem with 5 Commissioners wanting to go and only having enough money to send 2 and Mr. Wahl said this was the first year and Member Bonaventura said but it had fallen through and Mr. Wahl said yes and they now have just 2 Commissioners attending.
Member Bonaventura asked if the people who cancelled out, cancelled out because of the money and Mr. Wahl said no, not that he was aware of.
Member Bonaventura said his solution to that would be to get the 5 people together and indicate to them that there was enough money to send 2 Commissioners and then they could talk it out.
Mr. Wahl said then the consensus of the Commission was that this amount should be adequate. Member Bonaventura said only because it has worked out since he has been here and he hasn't seen anyone slighted by saying they really wanted to go but there wasn't enough money.
Member Mutch then said this wasn't really a Budget question, but relating to the Budget, she felt they should have some sort of a suggestion or a policy that at the very least, before someone does go off to a National Conference, that they would have at least taken advantage of the MSPO basic conferences or possibly even the advanced MSPO conferences. She said not only for the expense, but she knows how overwhelming it could be for someone who has just been appointed to the Planning Commission.
Member Mutch felt they should be at least versed in what it was they could do as a Planning Commissioner in the State of Michigan before they go off to a National Conference, because she has heard people in Planning Commission interviews, for example, say as a Planning Commissioner, they would advocate doing this, that, and the other thing because they have heard it somewhere else, even if by law they couldn't do those things in the State of Michigan.
Member Mutch said so she could see them going off to a National Conference hearing things and thinking what a great idea and get so wrapped up in that, that they totally overlook what they could do under Michigan Law or not knowing which questions to ask to adapt it to the differences in Michigan Law, so possibly that was a policy issue that could effect that somehow.
Member Lorenzo remarked MSPO has some basic training coming up soon and Mr. Cohen indicated it was being held at the Hilton on March 29th.
Member Mutch asked if there were conferences put on by other than the APA, for instance, possibly in the area of environmental areas or traffic areas or other specific areas that they were interested in. She said it may be similar to the conference that she went to in October where a lot of information came back but not everyone would be interested in it. She said for example, Member Lorenzo may find something in the areas she was interested in, and she would like to see Member Lorenzo be able to attend.
Mr. Wahl said he did feel that the Commission over the years has done an admirable job and has worked very hard in becoming familiar with the latest planning and to the extent that the Council was asking for a report on that and requesting that they do as much as possible. He felt the Commissioners have tried to do that and he didn't think they would have to send a questionable report back.
Member Weddington said she didn't feel they would want to go overboard though and expose themselves to having Commissioners flying all over the country at the City's expense, and this was the citizen's money and she felt that was an issue that people do look at.
Member Bonaventura said he felt they could come back from one of those conferences with a lot of information and they could filter it out. He said he got a lot of information from his trip to San Francisco.
Member Bonaventura indicated this may be off-base, but one of the things that struck him was they have a small piece of land at Grand River and Novi Road which was in limbo and they have an option to buy it for $250,000 and who knows when.
Member Bonaventura said from what he brought back from the San Francisco Conference, he was totally convinced that it was absolutely top priority to preserve it as a park, and other people have other ideas about what to do with that piece of land, but the park behind it and the park on the corner was very important for the future because they were scrambling in established cities such as San Francisco to get every single nook and cranny and make it into a greenspace, and here they have a piece of land in Novi and all they have to do was to grow up around it.
Member Lorenzo said people think Novi was dense, but San Francisco or California in general proves otherwise and Member Bonaventura commented in San Francisco, they were looking for every square inch to call a public space.
Member Mutch said regarding the national conferences and even the state conferences, the scheduling was well in advance, and it was tentative to be able to say who would be going but it was likely they want to send someone so they could develop the Conference Budget based on that.
Member Mutch said if it turns out that more people want to attend, someone could make the decision that their Budget would cover the Conference registration and possibly the room, but that they would have to pick up their own travel. She said that may be a way to deal with the issue, and she felt the more they encourage people to participate, the better.
Mr. Wahl then went on to the next category which was Planning Studies and he indicated this was the majority of the Budget. He indicated years ago, what Council would do was they would argue over the studies and ask a lot of questions and then debate the matter and then they would say they could have $150,000 for the total Budget and they would have to decide what to do with it. He said that seemed to satisfy everyone and the Council dealt with the Budget concerns and the Planning Commission dealt with what they considered to be planning concerns.
Mr. Wahl said that has changed really in the last 2-3 years, and Council has seen fit to go line item by line item and say they don't think they need that or they think it was a great idea, so that degree of responsibility has been diminished. He felt they have done that and not on the Planning Commission incidentally but they have done that on other items and he felt they have done that for about the last three years.
Mr. Wahl said what they have done was the Committee worked through those proposals and what they were looking at here was really the beginning of the next Master Plan process and in the past, what has happened has been that they have ended up rushing it and doing it in two to three years at the max and getting behind and having studies and in some cases, going beyond fiscal years and it was pretty overwhelming.
Mr. Wahl felt so what the Commission has suggested and what they have been doing was trying to lengthen that two year process or three year process and in dealing with those studies, to break them down into research, policy making, approval and then publication. He said so they really have that five-year time-frame breaking down into several major components and not trying to do all the research, absorb all of the information, and then make policy decisions all in the same year and then have approval the next year.
Mr. Wahl said so essentially what they already see here were several Master Plan Update items and that was how they were grouped and they have the different priorities of the staff and the Planning Studies Committee in terms of what people thought were most important.
Mr. Wahl said they have a $247,000 Budget and he was going to suggest that the Committee debate whether to take other dollar targets and then work from that or eliminate certain studies. He said for example, everyone voted except Chairman Clark to have Grand River 9th and if they took the $65,000 out of there, they were now down to a $180,000 Budget.
Mr. Wahl indicated they discussed that a bit and then he felt they came out of that Committee meeting with the idea that maybe it wasn't advisable to eliminate anything that the Commission felt was needed. He said he was speaking generally now.
Mr. Wahl said furthermore, they were making a Budget decision that was someone else's and they were not in the Budget business but they were in the Planning business and what did the Commission think was needed for Planning. He said, however to be practical, he would tell them the chance of getting $247,000 was slim and none and it probably would not happen and the memo he sent to them said they were going to get recommended 4% more than what they got last year and that was $131,000.
Mr. Wahl said the Committee then reached a consensus that if they didn't recommend a certain Budget amount that was less than this, what the Commissioners could do was get a consensus of what the priorities were so that when they go to the Council and they say they were not going to get $247,000, then they could get into the discussion of what was needed and what wasn't and they would have a clear understanding of what was most important versus what was least important. He said if it got into picking and choosing, they would have a consensus and they would have everyone's opinion and the Commissioners who were at that meeting could deal with it accordingly.
Member Bonaventura asked if Mr. Wahl has done it the other way, which was if they were anticipating a 3% cut, then take the Budget and cut it 3% and present it to the Council.
Mr. Wahl said one year he believed they had two proposals, and they had a least-case scenario and they had a preferred proposal and frankly, it was confusing to everyone and the Council was not pleased and at the end, it didn't serve any purpose because they chopped off the first proposal and started with the second one and then cut that one.
Member Bonaventura said if the consensus was to do it that way, personally the way he looked at it was they were volunteers too, and if anyone has ever watched a Budget process, it was an enormous process and it was a lot of volunteer time and a lot of time period, and he would think since they were volunteering, why don't they do the work for them and anticipating a 3% cut, do the 3% cut and hand it to them.
Chairman Clark said then they would be cut another 3%-6%-10% more and Member Bonaventura asked if he really thought so and Chairman Clark said yes.
Chairman Clark said in the course of the Committee meeting, he had re-thought the priority list, but he still felt basically what it got down to was that they have told the people in this community that this was a quality community and people have come here on that representation.
Chairman Clark said the Planning Commission tells the public that, the Council tells the public that, and it was the perception that the public has. He stated you can't buy quality on the cheap and every one of those items was essential and was needed.
Chairman Clark said that was why he even re-thought the Grand River Corridor and what was going on now at Vic's Market and that there was a possibility of upgrading Grand River. He said possibly they could get some grant money from the State because Grand River was going to be upgraded for about the last 20 years and the design and engineering has to be done and they couldn't put the cart after the horse.
Chairman Clark felt if they mean what they say and they were going to get the quality community, they have to do something about the complaints, the traffic, the certain areas of Grand River, and they have to do it now. He said they can't keep backing off. He also said he didn't know why they have to keep cutting, cutting, cutting the Budget. He felt it would be different if they were just wasting money, but they were not wasting money in this City and he felt they were one of the most fiscally responsible communities around.
Chairman Clark felt this was money well spent and they were investing in the future of this community to maintain the level of quality that they want to have, so he felt they should go in there and say that they feel this was essential and this was why they were saying they need this money.
Member Weddington said she agreed with Chairman Clark.
Member Bonaventura said he could see his viewpoint and he almost agreed with it, but he just wasn't sure. He said there were different viewpoints on it, but he could come real close to agreeing because it does make sense, but then again it was the same old story and as you say, "cut, cut, cut" was the attitude out there.
Member Mutch felt they need to do a better job of letting people know where their tax dollars were going and how they were benefiting them even if it was indirectly.
Chairman Clark felt they were paying for the sins at the national level where money was wasted by the boatloads and the taxpayers see it going on but have very little control or input and they feel powerless to stop it. He said but where they do feel they have an element of control was at the local government and the City has become the repository of their anger and discontent and that was where they were going to exert the control and if the political leadership of the community feels the same way, then it filters on down the line.
Chairman Clark felt the tragedy was that this was the most responsive unit of government in the country because there was a one-to-one relationship between the citizens and the community leadership and there was direct input and if there was a problem, there was immediate reaction in most cases. He said a person wouldn't see that in Washington and if there was a problem and they contact Washington, a person would grow old waiting for a response, if they get one at all.
Member Mutch said following up on that matter, the idea was that in a community like Novi where there were so many people that ten years lived somewhere else, the expectation was that local government was wasting money and the Consultants were on the take, etc., and they had carried that thinking with them and she felt they needed something to counter-balance that thinking in terms of information.
Chairman Clark said this deals with the basics and someone brought up the school situation which was a perfect example, and he has been in Novi since 1979 and in the last election, there has never been a request made of the residents of this City to support the schools and it has been turned down, whether it was a renewal or an increase.
Member Lorenzo said ultimately this year, she was going to support whatever the majority was going to do because she felt it was important to have team spirit concerning their Budget, but personally she was operating under the assumption that they were going to be "cut, cut, cut." She said realistically from her own personal prospective, she needed to prioritize items.
Member Lorenzo said she agreed in realistic terms, and while she agreed with Chairman Clark ideally; she agreed with Member Bonaventura realistically in terms of handing the Council a Budget that she really felt was a priority, but also one that she felt if fairness enters into any of this, that they should approve.
Member Lorenzo said when she has gone down the list and began to re-evaluate all the different items that were on this list, ironically she found that Communications and Community Liaison was really a public relations item and it was not really a planning item per se and while she felt it was important, she was questioning in terms of priorities of funding and where it lies.
Member Lorenzo felt they do a good job of making themselves available to the public, whether it be here, at City Hall or whether it be privately at home, and they were always available for phone conversations, and when they hold public hearings, she felt most of the time, they were very generous with the time that they allow the public to speak beyond what their By-Laws even call for.
Member Lorenzo said but in the overall realm of things, it was really a public relations item, and she was starting to question it in terms of priorities whether they have to be totally burdened with that item in terms of a Budget.
Member Lorenzo said if they as a City look at this as important, then maybe the Council should be contributing general funds to this as well and why does the Planning Commission Budget seem to have to be burdened with and weighed down with all of those other items that don't seem to find an actual home and some of planning related items seem to get pushed to the backburner.
Member Lorenzo then stated she would give them her list of priorities. She indicated she put the Zoning Ordinance Review & Updates as Item #1, primarily because the very basis of what they were dealing with day in and day out was the Ordinance. She felt they need to be up-to-par in order for them to do their job and also because it seemed to her to be a logical progression to include this because they have already started the process in their last Budget so this was a continuation.
Member Lorenzo said Item #2 would be the Thoroughfare Plan; Data Collection & Analysis and this too appears to be a continuation of the Ten-Year Program from last year, the Ten Year Transportation Improvements Plan. She said one of the criticisms and concerns they most hear in this community was traffic and she, as a Planning Commissioner and other Planning Commissioners, were always asking their Traffic Consultants about the level of service, capacity, traffic congestion, etc., and she felt this was the way to provide them some of those answers so she found this to be also extremely important.
Member Lorenzo indicated what she has also done when she has said she has attributed the Budget to being cut, she basically went along with Mr. Wahl's advisory at the beginning that they should only be looking at 4%.
Member Lorenzo said as Item #3, she had the Wildlife Habitat Master Plan because that was the implementation of an already completed study. She said they felt it was a priority in last year's Budget or the year before, to even do the study and now that they have the basic materials, she felt it was important that they follow-up on it and complete it in terms of implementing those items.
Member Lorenzo said Item #4 and Item #5, she has split the difference between the monies that would be left between Town Center Planning, and Communications and Community Liaison Program, and the Town Center Planning would get about $2,500 and Communications and Community Liaison Program would get about $2,900.
Member Lorenzo said she also has started questioning in terms of Town Center Planning, how much they really need to be funding in terms of a lot of the studies that they want to do, and she felt from her own prospective, the business community and the prospective business community should start kicking in some of those monies for studies.
Member Lorenzo said for example regarding the Expo Center and the Ring Road, she felt the Expo Center should be kicking in part of the funds for the completion of that road for any evaluations and any engineering and studies because primarily that was who would benefit and overall as a City, they benefit from the tax base that that provides them but it was pros and cons, and they also suffer the traffic congestion problems from it, so she felt that the business community needs to also supplement the funding in that area.
Member Lorenzo felt the Town Center Steering Committee was a good Committee in terms of overall looking at things, but she didn't think they should as a Committee be spending a lot of money out of the Planning Commission Budget, and she didn't know of too many committees that she has been on that actually had a Budget and had a lot of money to spend.
Member Lorenzo said they should all keep in mind this was prioritizing and if they had unlimited resources, she would think that all of those things should be done, but unfortunately, that was not the case.
Member Lorenzo then said this would cut about $40,000 worth of studies which again the advisory said they had. She said again, she would willing to support the consensus here this time because she felt it was important in terms of team spirit to support the Budget.
Mr. Wahl said either that night or if the Commissioners want to think about it, he would suggest they turn in their priorities, and then what he would do would be to continue the matrix and he would also suggest to include the staff and the Consultants' recommendations, but obviously it was the Commission's Budget, so the consensus column would only be the Commissioners' conclusions, in other words, they were all done and if there was a consensus, he would provide that consensus accordingly.
Mr. Wahl said then they would have on the other side of the coin, Consultants and Staff just so anyone who would see it would be aware of what their recommendations were.
Mr. Wahl then requested to reply to Member Lorenzo. He said part of the problem that they run into with the Communications Program if they want to call it public relations, was that for the Projects Map, they have to pay for its publication and it was the drafting preparation and it comes to $5,500 and it was only done twice a year. He said by the way, the Committee eliminated doing it four times a year and said to save money and also for time purposes, that it wasn't efficient to do it four times a year, so they decided it should be done only twice a year.
Mr. Wahl said that publication was almost essential for every person who comes in and asks them what was going on in the community. Member Capello asked why wasn't it put under Publications and not under Communications.
Mr. Wahl felt they could do that, but they may run into some problems. He said when they put communication tools into publications, they tend to be eliminated and considered to be superfluous.
Mr. Wahl said they decided that those functions were more than just printing standard publications so they moved it into there and he added it was really a lot of drafting.
Member Weddington asked if they charge for the Maps and Mr. Wahl said yes and she asked if that covered the full cost, and Mr. Wahl replied probably, but it doesn't show up anywhere.
Member Weddington felt that was a very important point and Mr. Wahl said it doesn't go anywhere. Chairman Clark felt if it was going to come out of the Planning Commission's Budget for the publication, then the fees recaptured should be reflected back in their Budget.
Mr. Wahl said they do charge $4.00 but they do not get any recognition for that.
Mr. Rogers added he has delivered the framed new Projects Maps for all of the Departments and he felt they looked very good.
Mr. Wahl said that has been changed for only 1990-1991. He indicated just that one publication was an education in itself because what they have were all residential projects and all of the Grand River projects went from that map which was almost full and have disappeared because they were all from 1985-1990.
Mr. Rogers noted to Mr. Wahl that the past Projects Map was mounted on the back and the new map on the front and he did that on nine boards.
Mr. Wahl said they should also be aware of the Preparation and Update of the City Base Map/Zoning Map. He indicated their Zoning Map was simply inaccurate and the property lines were not where they should be and they have made mistakes and they have had people given the wrong information as their Base Map/Zoning Map was wrong.
Mr. Wahl indicated Mr. Rogers made some corrections to the Land Use Map/Base Map, but they need to have this basic service on CAD so it could be updated more conveniently.
Mr. Wahl said regarding the Town Center, most cities fund a downtown planning function on an annual basis far in excess of what they do, although they do provide a certain percent of their time to staff and that was standard planning practice, and he appreciated that this Commission has recognized the need for that type of specialized planning and it was not a lot of money.
Mr. Wahl indicated the Expo Center, for example, was providing a local batch on the grants and that was a requirement of the grant funding and they were paying 50% of its lobbyists that the City has retained.
Mr. Wahl said so there was a certain participation and he realized there were different opinions and he wasn't suggesting that there was anything wrong with those opinions. He felt it was vital for any community that considers a Downtown or a Town Center, that it was something that requires ongoing special attention and if they just lump it in with land use planning, it just gets lost in the wash. He said there wasn't enough time for the Planning Commission to pay any special attention to that when there were 50,000 other items.
Mr. Wahl said so that was where they were at with the line items. He then asked if they wanted to go through the priorities that evening. Chairman Clark felt Mr. Wahl has his priorities and Member Weddington's and Member Lorenzo's and he needed Member Mutch's and Member Bonaventura's.
Mr. Wahl asked if they could continue the conversation so they could hear the other Commissioner's opinions and Chairman Clark said yes.
Member Mutch referred to the list under Planning Studies, and regarding the Communications & Community Liaison Program, she assumed there was some flexibility and that number was based on doing certain types of things and estimating that they wouldn't run that much, but for some of the items such as Wildlife Habitat Master Plan or the Lake Quality Assessment Study, she assumed if they were going to do it at all, that was what it would cost them, so it was either they get the funding or they just wouldn't do it.
Member Mutch said so she was wondering for which items do they have flexibility and which ones do they not.
Mr. Wahl said if they got down to dollars, obviously they could look at each one of those and see whether they could segment them to a point where they would stand on its own.
Mr. Wahl indicated for Communications & Community Liaison, the Town Center, and the Grand River Corridor were three off the top that have sub-categories where they could cut pieces out of them, but regarding the Grand River Corridor, when he indicates a piece, he thought one piece would $55,000. He said other than that, he didn't know how they would segment them.
Member Mutch said even for some things they could break them down in categories but they don't want to embark on it in the first place, unless they were going to get from section 1 through section 2 through section 3, so she was just asking where were they the least flexible and where were they the most flexible.
Mr. Wahl said for most of them, they would be awfully difficult to segment. He indicated the Zoning Ordinance has already been cut in half.
Member Weddington then said the Communications and Community Liaison Program was really the only one.
Member Mutch said it seems to her that it would be an accomplishment if as a group they knew philosophically where they stood and would they rather see it faced with cuts in their requests or would they rather see an across-the-board cut or priority base cut or elimination of certain things.
Member Weddington said in the past, haven't they been able to determine which projects got done and were funded at a certain level, and Mr. Wahl said that changed recently where they may take the decision away from him.
Member Mutch thought that two years ago, they went through something where they said to the Planning Commission, not only would they not get funding for it, but they don't want to see them do it at all. Mr. Wahl said yes and they could certainly come in and take any one of those line items and zero it out.
Mr. Wahl said they may end up in a situation where they may X out two or three or four of the items and then they would say certain items were out and they were now at $150,000 and now they would go down to $130,000 and they get to choose at that point. He said he just doesn't know what would happen.
Member Mutch said some of what she was hearing on the grapevine was that the Town Center Planning was in great jeopardy.
Mr. Wahl said the Town Center Planning was all of $10,000 so if they cut that, they were down $10,000. Member Mutch said if they do it the way he was suggesting, it was just the beginning of the slide.
Chairman Clark asked if anyone had any other further comments on the Budget as it has been presented and projected by Mr. Wahl.
Member Mutch commented she thought it would be an accomplishment if they could just have some general agreement on if they were faced with cuts, what would they eliminate based on the priorities and what would they prefer to see a percentage and Mr. Wahl said they couldn't do it that way.
Member Lorenzo said she would rather just say give them a number and then they would go back and look at it and prioritize what they want to do.
Member Mutch said that sounded good to her.
Chairman Clark said his thoughts would be that they need this Budget and why and if the Council in their wisdom says they want them to cut 4% or %5, then the Commission would deal with it at that time.
Member Mutch said they were just discussing if the Council says they want them to eliminate a particular study and they don't want to see it funded and they don't want them to do it, but then they were going to also cut.
Chairman Clark said then they would deal with that and it might become a very testy situation.
Mr. Wahl said the Council has eliminated line items in the past three or four years.
Member Lorenzo said if what he was saying was the case, case in point then, and what Mr. Wahl was explaining before when Member Bonaventura asked about the Woodlands Map was if they thought that should be handled by another Department and it was taken out of their Budget, then they wouldn't see it anymore.
Member Capello said he would like to make a motion to adjourn.
Chairman Clark first said they have gone through the items and now they have Matters for Discussion and obviously they wouldn't take any action on those items that night. He said there were two items left, the Master Plan 1995-2000 and the Report by Mr. Wahl and the Department.
MATTERS FOR DISCUSSION
1. FY 1994-95 Planning Commission Work Program and Budget.
Recommendations for Commission, Consultant, Staff Actions regarding:
Master Plan 1995-2000
A. Futuring: Report from Planning Consultants - Commission Review of Alternatives Methodology.
B. Planning Practice: Panel Discussions, Workshops - Commission Decisions.
C. Master Plan Program: 1995-2000: Commission Review of Research Actions; report from the Environmental Planning Committee.
2. Report by James Wahl, Planning & Community Development Director and Rod Arroyo, Traffic/Planning Consultant Regarding Recent City Council Decisions.
A. Ten Mile Road Widening
B. Taft Road Extension
Chairman Clark indicated Mr. Arroyo wasn't present that night regarding recent City Council decisions on the Ten Mile Road Widening and the Taft Road Extension, but they have all been reading about it in the papers and they would have the Council Minutes.
Chairman Clark asked if those two items could be presented at the next meeting.
Mr. Wahl replied yes, but he wanted to point out that the current Work Program was very important and they were really action items and the Commission has to give them some direction regarding how to deal with this Futuring matter, which has been on the Agenda for several years and in panel discussions, they have had quite a bit of almost a debate among themselves about how to handle this. He said he could tell them that they have had very successful workshops out in the Atrium and panel discussions and they have had others that were not successful.
Mr. Wahl said if they were going to make this part of this year's Work Program, it was budgeted at $7,500 to do that, and they would need to get an agreement from the Commissioners on how they want to proceed and did they have some ideas and he needs their sign-off on that matter, so they may need to deal with those items at the next meeting.
Mr. Wahl said relative to the Futuring issue, there was a half dozen different approaches and they were trying to decide how they want to proceed with that, and then that would plug into the next five years. He said what they were looking for was this year to perhaps decide how to do it, so that they could then program what it takes such as resources and the methods of doing it. He indicated they have been talking about this item for quite awhile and they need to call the question.
Chairman Clark noted that Mr. Wahl has also listed Novi 2000 - A Vision Statement for the Future and he would suggest that they pass this out to everyone. Mr. Wahl said that was a different matter and he was speaking of the Futuring item and he would like to try and get to that item if at all possible.
Chairman Clark said to Mr. Cohen to make sure that that item was the first item under Matters for Consideration, so that way they would definitely get to it.
Mr. Wahl said there were a variety of approaches and some were very expensive, for example, Farmington Hills spent $50,000-$100,000 on theirs and some were topo surveys, some were minimal expense and it was considered to be an essential part of the planning process and to work with the Community and the Planning Commission to determine how to gather information on where they want to go, how to get public input and how to use that public input. He said they could spend anywhere from 50 cents to $50,000.
Member Weddington said they could spend millions on this if they wanted to.
Member Mutch then said one of the other City Committees was the Historic District Study Committee and they were finishing up the survey of the historic resources in the City and one of the recommendations was going to be the development of a Master Plan for Historic Resources and since that Committee's job was only to develop that report and make recommendations and then fold up their tents, there was no other place for that to go than under the Planning Commission.
Member Lorenzo felt it belonged here and Member Mutch agreed, but they don't have anywhere here to slot it in the Budget to do anything with it. Chairman Clark felt they could take control of it so to speak in the appropriate sense, but the only problem was where was the money going to come from.
Member Mutch felt the one thing that could come up at the next meeting of that Committee was to say one new report and what goes through the Public Hearings and all the rest of it goes to Council, and that a strong argument be made for the funding of that kind of activity, so even if it was part of a Budget amendment or something else down the road, everyone would be well aware of it because she felt the support would be there to follow through on that, but there was no sense to spring it on them afterwards.
Mr. Wahl commented from previous experience, they would probably fund the Historic Study and Member Mutch said the study was done and it more of a matter of implementing.
Member Lorenzo said she didn't understand that thought because if it was a priority, it almost devalues the work that the Committee has accomplished to just cut it out, and they did their study and now that was it. She said they don't do studies just to take up people's time.
There being no further business before the Planning Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 10:30 P.M.
Transcribed by Sharon Hendrian
April 6, 1995