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.

Remember…It’s Not Just Toxic To You

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner

Did you know that many household products are dangerous to our kids, pets, and the environment?  These materials pollute our waterways if washed or dumped into storm drains or roadside ditches that lead directly to our lakes and rivers.  Household cleaners, pesticides, gasoline, antifreeze, used motor oil and other hazardous products need to be labeled, stored, and disposed of properly.

So what can you do to help?  Simple.  Here are some steps you can take to carefully dispose of household wastes and help keep our water clean.

Identify it.  Be aware of household products that can harm children, pets, and the environment.  The words “danger,” “caution,” “warning,” or “toxic” indicate that you need to be careful in how you use and dispose of the product.

Less is better.  Reduce waste and save money by purchasing only the materials you need.  When possible, choose less toxic alternatives.  For example, try cleaning your windows with vinegar and water.

Store properly.  Keep unused products in their original containers with labels intact.  Select cool, dry storage areas that are away from children, pets, and wildlife.

Disposal is key.  Never dump cleaners, chemicals, motor oil, and other toxic materials down storm drains, roadside ditches, sinks, or on the ground.  Contact your local community for household hazardous waste disposal locations, guidelines, and dates.

City of Auburn Hills – Department of Public Works – 1500 Brown Road

Residents of Auburn Hills can participate in the 2017 Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Electronic Recycling Day scheduled for Saturday, May 20th from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  The drop-off location is at the Department of Public Works Facility located at 1500 Brown Road.

Visit the SEMCOG website for more information on protecting our lakes and rivers.  To report pollution, call the City of Auburn Hills, Community Development Department at 248-364-6900.

New $14 Million Hotel Development ‘Going Up’ On Opdyke Road

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

In March 2016, the City Council authorized the construction of a $14 million proposal by Basil and Mike Bacall to build two new hotels – Holiday Inn Express & Suites and Staybridge Suites – at 907 N. Opdyke Road.  We’re pleased to report that the development is under construction and starting to rise up out of the ground.

View of the construction of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Hotel from Opdyke Road

The foundation and initial masonry work for the Holiday Inn Express & Suites is now complete.  The placement of steel is expected to begin within the next two weeks and wood framing is planned to start in June.  The Holiday Inn Express & Suites is anticipated to be complete by January 2018.  The foundation installation for the Staybridge Suites is scheduled to start by July, with the hotel being ready for occupancy by August 2018.

Updated rendering of the Staybridge Suites Hotel

Stay tuned for future updates on this project.