Planning For The Future Of Oakland County’s Animal Shelter Property

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

The City of Auburn Hills has been working proactively with Oakland County officials to prepare for the closure of the County’s Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center at 1700 Brown Road.  The animal shelter will be relocated to a new 35,000 square foot facility, currently under construction in the City of Pontiac, sometime later this year.

Current animal shelter at 1700 Brown Road in Auburn Hills

The first step in the redevelopment process of the property is to amend its Master Land Use Plan designation from “public” to “non-residential” to facilitate the future rezoning, sale, and repurposing of the land.

The City Council authorized the Planning Commission’s draft plan to amend the land use classification for both 1500 Brown (City DPW Facility) and 1700 Brown Road this past Monday.  The Council’s action will allow the proposed change to be distributed to adjacent governmental agencies, utilities, and Oakland County for review and comment as required per State law.  The plan amendment is consistent with the land use classifications of surrounding properties in both the City of Auburn Hills and Orion Charter Township.

Proposed change to the Master Land Use Plan

Upon completion of their due diligence in the months ahead, Oakland County officials anticipate that they will sell their 40 acre parcel to allow it to be potentially redeveloped into one or more industrial building sites.  Auburn Hills has no plans to sell or relocate its DPW facility at this time.

The Planning Commission has scheduled a public hearing to formally adopt the plan amendment for Wednesday, July 12th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.

Gardeners Brave Chilly Weather At Perennial Exchange Event

Posted by – Elizabeth Brennan, Community Development Executive Assistant

The unseasonably cool weather last Saturday did not deter dedicated gardeners from gathering in River Woods Park for the Auburn Hills Perennial Exchange.  Auburn Hills residents and neighbors from 18 surrounding communities took part in the event, hosted by the Beautification Advisory Commission (BAC).

The exchange offers an economical way to add variety and color to a garden and it’s a great way to pick up gardening tips and tricks.

The BAC welcomed many familiar faces – and some cute new little ones – to the Exchange this year

Beautification Advisory Commission (left to right) Karen Lewis; City Councilman, Bob Kittle; BAC Secretary, Carla Withers and BAC Vice Chair, Pattie Ormsbee

If you weren’t able to attend this year, we welcome you to stop by next Spring.  Details of City events can always be found on www.auburnhills.org.

Water Festival Fun

Posted by – Stephanie Carroll, Manager of Business Development & Community Relations

On Friday, our staff attended one of my absolute favorite events at Oakland University – The 11th Annual Clinton River Water Festival.  Partners including, Waste Management, the Water Resources Commissioner’s Office, and the Clinton River Watershed Council come together to provide a full-day of activities for students.

The Festival is an educational and enjoyable learning experience for over 1,200 fifth-grade students from the Clinton River Watershed community schools in Oakland County.  As the conversations continue to revolve around sustainability and conservation, it’s important to recognize and get involved in programs like this.  Our very own Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner, was instrumental is starting this event at OU back in 2007— that’s something we are very proud of as a city.

The festival design allows students to learn about the central role water and the Clinton River play within the region. Some of the topics explored during the festival include storm water, waste water treatment, soil erosion, wetlands, creeks and streams, habitat, as well as sources of pollution.

The theme of the day is Celebrating water!

Quick Start For “One Stop Ready” Hutchinson HQ Project

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

The City of Auburn Hills has been working closely with General Development Company to help facilitate their construction of Hutchinson’s new 60,502 square foot corporate office building on property located west of Cross Creek Parkway, south of University Drive.  The smooth start for the $8 million project is a testament to both the City’s intense focus on customer service and the developer’s expertise in construction.

Tree clearing is underway on the Hutchinson HQ project

Staff began review of the project’s site plan in late March and the City Council authorized construction on April 24th.  Tree clearing began in early May and will soon be complete.  Mass grading of the site is scheduled for next week and the erection of steel is anticipated to begin in August.  This pace is crazy fast and efficient when benchmarked against other municipalities across the nation, which is a source of pride for both our community and Oakland County.

The property is situated within the Oakland Technology Park, just south of the Delphi building.

Auburn Hills is part of Oakland County’s One Stop Ready Program, which is a proactive initiative aimed at streamlining the development approval processes in communities throughout the County.  The program was created after the Great Recession in an effort to better recruit and retain businesses, which in return brings more jobs and a stronger tax base.  This project is an excellent real world example of the program in action as it kept over 200 jobs in our town.

General Development Company anticipates the building will be ready for occupancy by June 2018.  We will be sure to report back with updates as construction progresses.

Working To Address The Nuisance Of Tall Grass

Posted by – Dale Mathes, Code Enforcement Officer

Due to this year’s wet Spring, the lawns throughout Auburn Hills are growing, pardon the expression, like weeds.  It’s also the time – May 1st through October 15th to be exact – that the City’s Weed Abatement Program is in effect.

Ordinance 78-28 declares grass on residential lawns longer than eight inches to be a nuisance and gives the City the authority to trim it.  The process used is to affix a green grass violation sticker on the door of the residence in question advising the occupant that the grass must be cut within 72 hours.  For vacant lots, a notice is mailed giving 10 days to comply.  This is due to the delivery time of snail mail.  These notices are only issued once a year at a particular location.

Generally, the residents or owners cut the grass within the time allotted.  Last year the compliance rate was about 75%.  However, if the grass doesn’t get cut, the location is placed on a list and given to our City contractor for cutting.

Most of the violations are observed by Code Enforcement Officers during their daily rounds through the neighborhoods.  However, many come from complaints by citizens.  If you see an unkempt lawn over eight inches in length, please feel free to call Code Enforcement at 248-364-6934 and let us know.

One Size Does Not Necessarily Fit All

Posted by – Elizabeth Brennan, Community Development Executive Assistant

The City understands that sometimes an exception to the rule is warranted and necessary.  Zoning rules that fit the vast majority of properties may leave a few folks struggling with a less-than-ideal situation due to the unique conditions related to their property.  The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) reviews requests for variances and determines whether or not to grant such exceptions.  Knowing when and how to grant variances requires a bit of training.

ZBA Training Session led by City Attorney Derk Beckerleg

The ZBA is authorized by State law to grant such variances when the strict or literal application of the Zoning Ordinance would cause a “practical difficulty” for the applicant.  Last night, City Attorney Derk Beckerleg met with our ZBA members to review the responsibilities, procedures, and legalities involved with serving in this capacity.  The Board must ensure that the spirit of the Zoning Ordinance is observed, public safety is secured, and substantial justice is done.  Easy right?  No, not really.

Our five ZBA members are Trina Burrell, Chairperson; Henry Knight, City Council Liaison; Greg Ouellette, Planning Commission Liaison; Jay Boelter and James Buster.

We’re grateful for their time and dedication to the City of Auburn Hills.

Will Auburn Hills Be Ready For The Reality Of The New Normal?

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend professional certification training in Lansing organized by the Michigan Association of Planning.  The primary focus of the seminar, led by economists Dr. George Fulton, Lou Glazer, and Dr. Charles Ballard, was to educate city planners on the population, education, and economic trends that will impact local communities in the years ahead.

To summarize, the economists explained that Michigan is now considered a “Low Prosperity State,” in terms of household income, despite having a growing automotive sector.  Startlingly, despite our strong economy, they reported that 40% of Michigan households can’t afford basic necessities due to low wages.  The experts told us that 25% of households are experiencing increasing incomes, while 75% remain stagnant.  This shift is creating a new class divide in Michigan and America that is primarily defined by college education attainment.

Auburn Hills has been preparing for the aging population. This slide shows a demographic shift is coming.

Planners learned that the dramatic aging of the population will create a labor shortage down the road due to a lack of younger workers replacing those who retire.  Thus, people will need to develop skills that will mesh with the evolving knowledge and information based economy for the State to prosper economically.  If Michigan does not produce or attract skilled workers, then companies will decide to locate in other States that can attract such a workforce.  Occupations that will become increasing vulnerable will be those with routine tasks that can be automated such as retail and assembly/manufacturing.

21st Century job growth will occur in the medical and college educated professional fields

All three economists repeatedly told the audience that “you can’t turn the clock back and bring back low skill manufacturing jobs.”  Most of those jobs have been replaced by automation and other industrial efficiencies.  If Michigan does not proactively adapt to the new economy, municipalities – and ultimately their residents – will continue to struggle due to structural revenue declines and economic disparity.  This is the New Normal.

Five lessons from Dr. George Fulton, Professor of Economics, University of Michigan

The training was excellent in that it raised awareness of the role of city planners in preparing for the aging population, fostering an environment for high-skill job growth, and creating places where people of all ages will want to live and work.

The City of Auburn Hills recognizes these trends and will continue to proactively work to be ready for the New Normal, so that we can play a role in helping Michigan “win” in the 21st century economy.