Filling in the vacant parcels within the VCA would generate business vitality, increases residents shopping, restaurants would be busy, and visitors may enjoy the day. More interest and activity within the VCA would be welcomed by the community. Additionally, more market places would potentially generate business profits. There too would be revenue dollars generated for City services.
How a City organizes its Business, Industrial and Residential interests through Planning, Zoning, and Ordinance construction can lead a community into the future or into a hodge-podge of disorganized mayhem.
Joint Meetings on Planning an Zoning
The public was given little notice about two very important joint meetings that were held relative to the Planning and Zoning of development properties within the community. The first joint meeting was held on June 2,2015, the second, October 26, 2015. The meetings were well attended by the representatives of the community’s major operational interests: City Council, ZBA, Planning Commission, DDA, City Planner, City Staff, and Business development representatives.
The City Staff included: Clarence Goodlein, C.M.; Carmine Avantini, City Planner; Debra Baker, Business Development Liaison; Cathy Buck, City Clerk; Dennis Smith, Building Official; Tim Sikma, DPW Director; Stacy Banks, C.M. Office; and Jodi Gallo, Planning and Zoning Secretary.
These joint meetings are intended to understand the dynamics of the development activities of the community and to have all the members who are involved with the regulations and planning efforts to be cognizant of how each independent Board or Commission interacts with the others; furthermore, efforts were made to ensure that all are on the same page regarding the development and planning activities of the community.
This is not to say that there cannot be disagreement of what is written on the page, but to recognize that there are zoning and planning interests that have to be recognized by all and the acknowledgement is in the community’s best interests.
Several subjects were discussed at these joint meetings:
- 1) Ford Property Visioning /Process for Rezoning (Present Zoning is GPUD)
- 2) Oakland County’s “One Step Ready-Best Practices” process.
- 3) Main Street Program
- 4) Master Plan Information Update
- 5) Boards and Commissions By-laws in line with present Public Acts?
Of major concerns for the Ford Property are Menards development of their out lots and the potential flow of traffic ingress and egress that is a result of what is built on the out lots. Adding traffic has potential for congestion. The balance of property not owned my Menards is zoned M-1. (light industrial) There are several infrastructure issues for future development of the property: water, sewer, and electrical power transmission.
The main focus for discussion was the intended and desirable future development of the entire Ford property. What is considered acceptable and what needs to be know before the development is initiated? This parcel is about 180 acres and 140 acres are developable. The Assembly Park is separate. The issue with the remaining Ford property is the estimated removal of the concrete pads and walls on the property. According to some estimation, it may be an $8 to $10 million dollars cost to clean up the property.
The Ford property is of prime importance for several reasons: more tax revenues come from specific kinds of development than others; some development cost more to service for police and fire protection; some developments create more traffic than others. Finally, there is the consideration as to what is acceptable and sustainable for the vitality of the community and for the future of business to be solvent.
The larger view and planning efforts and strategy gets more complex when the entire area from Beck Road to Wixom Road paralleling the I-96 corridor is under consideration with the Ford Property included in the review. The Ford Development, the I-96 corridor development, and then add in the potential development of the South to North Wixom Road to West Road development, the magnitude of the review is unprecedented.
Roads, easements, electrical power, sewer, water, and the needs of developers are of primary importance. However,the impact of development of what is wanted and needed to sustain jobs and foster growth for the community is essential.
There are many options to consider in Planning and Zoning. These joint meetings are essential to keep the community’s interest and their representatives on the same page. However, what is read from the page does not necessarily have to be agreed upon by all members. The GPUD development zoning opens the door to a variety of options for developers. Office use, Hotels, retail, business and industrial options are on the table within many of the areas noted and zoned accordingly.
The Master Plan and Zoning documents of the City are interlaced and connected for the benefits vying for a win-win for business and the community; however, it will take a lot of hard work to generate the best development and sustainable businesses and jobs for the community. The much needed tax revenues are also up for consideration as the revenues from taxes are based upon the kind of development obtained by economic and planning efforts.
Wixom’s development and planning efforts have to consider not only the impact or benefits to be derived from zoning and development, but also how those benefits are either beneficial to the community or detrimental to the Downtown Village Center Area.
There are parcels to be developed and revenues to be gained from the development and build-out of these downtown parcels. There too is the advantage of residents to enjoy a variety of shopping opportunities when these parcels have shops to complement the existing businesses. Specialty shops, restaurants, or hobby shops and the like offer pleasant possibilities to residents and visitors alike.
The DDA has the opportunity to be the main hub for the downtown’s new business, arts , and cultural efforts for this area. Development efforts of the Downtown area are assisted by the “One Stop Ready’ Program created by Oakland County as an initiative to assist in the development of the area. The time frame from the desire to develop and the ability to get through the application, fees and inspections process is enhanced when the time frame is reduced for developers by use of this program.
Augmenting the One Stop Ready program is the Main Street Program. There is approximately 20-25 acres of available acres within the downtown area for development. It needs to be recognized, identified and promoted as the opportunities are now available; once developed, they are gone.
It is true, Wixom’s downtown area is just waiting to be developed. DDA Board member, Keel said, “That the groups present tonight need to unify to think in the same direction and conceive where things are heading. “…There should be a plan that is considered in advance!” So true!
It is to be recognized that the Master Plan is to be updated and coordinated with the updates with the Zoning Ordinances. Under the reviews and the comments from the two meetings one comment stands out clearly and exemplifies the potential for a misstep in the planning and developed area. The comment was made by Mr. Giddings concerning the rating of the One Step Ready- Best Practices.
That outstanding statement noted that the City Staff and the Mayor rated ourselves in the area of best practices format. Mayor had to grade us. Wixom did very well. Mr. Giddings noted that elected officials, appointed officials, and staff did the grading. However, “He wondered about the Clients.” Ms. Barker, Business Development Liaison, did not have a checklist for client evaluation. “She was hoping another city would do that and she can use that as her template.’ The Planning Commission and Ms. Baker should develop that check list for consideration and further evaluation. Nobody knows the city better that present Board and Commission members.
The people want employment, services and reasonable costs, and a safe community with amenities that make living within the community a pleasure. Planning and Zoning of the I-96 corridor, the West Road area and the Wixom Road corridor are significant for many reasons.
Most importantly, the reactions of clients to our City is to understand it; from the clients’ perspective in valued terms of safety, health and business acumen is essential. The City’s potential and their clients potential with needs assessment need to be known.
Commercial interests may detract from the development of the downtown area. The DDA, and the Main Street initiatives should concentrate on the development of specific types of commercial-retail- specialty businesses for the available downtown properties. The success of development will bring more people into the area adding sustainability to the present businesses as well as those who build in the future.
The business of Planning and Zoning is significant and there are serious issues before the Council, Boards and Commissions. There is significant opportunity for these Board an Commission members to understand that Planning and Zoning is not a one-person idea or ownership, but is a consolidation of consensus based upon expressed ideas and opinions on how and why Planning and Zoning should or should not be determined for certain areas. Members consensus will take Wixom into the next generation; the City’s sustainability is based in part upon their best judgement and decisions made within their Planning and Zoning efforts.
At one time there were few zoning categories; for example there were residential, light industrial, heavy industrial, community business, and local business; now there are 18 individual classifications and the “old worry” was spot zoning. Now there is no fear of “spot zoning.” With the so-called overlay of zoning districts, perhaps anything is possible. The designation of a GPUD (Planned Unit Development Overlay) districts covers a lot of possibilities.
Once the Freeway Service designation had its day with the expansion of development at Wixom Road, I-96 and Grand River areas. Presently, there is Industrial Research office, FS, B3, and more areas are to be considered for rezoning in the future.
The original planning for Wixom was a text-book-plan: industrial and manufacturing south of Pontiac Trail and Residential and Business were to be prominent from Pontiac Trail north. Change has a way of undermining the best of plans and the City’s tax base.
Caution is the best approach and understanding community needs for growth and sustainability of Wixom. Priorities need to be determined and the best approach is a complete understanding of the community in which we live and the economic challenges that are in our present and addressing economic forecasts of the future.
Planning and Zoning will be instrumental in addressing these challenges.