New Houses Sprout Up in Forester Hills

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner

We’re pleased to see that the first six, newly constructed homes in Forester Hills are already occupied, and six more homes are under construction.  It’s no surprise that the homes were occupied so quickly because they fill a renewed demand for mid-sized, single-family homes.

Forster Hills meets this demand by building ranch and split-level homes, ranging in size from 1,530 to 2,236 sq. ft. – the perfect size for a starter home or empty-nesters looking for a smaller home with several “age-friendly” amenities.

Other features that make Forester Hills so attractive is, you guessed it, location, location, location.  Being located on the west side of Old Adams Road means all the homes are in the Avondale School District, within walking distance of both River Woods Park and the Clinton River Rail Trail, within a 90-second drive to Downtown Auburn Hills and close to shopping.

It will be no surprise to see the six homes currently under construction, occupied shortly.

Fischer Automotive Systems Plans Building Expansion

Posted by – Shawn Keenan, Assistant City Planner

An application has been submitted by Fischer Automotive Services to expand their existing facilities located at 1044 and 1084 Doris Road.

The plans call for a 43,266 square foot building addition that will connect their two existing buildings to create more office, manufacturing and warehouse space.  The larger facility, approximately 104,000 sq. ft. will accommodate the company’s future growth and room to house an additional 100 new employees.   The existing parking lot wil be expaded to the vacant parcel to the east of their building located at 1044 Doris Road.

Illustrated Site Plan

The estimated total investment in the project is $5.1 million.  Construction is expected to begin in October 2017 with completion planned for December 2018.

Those interested in learning more about this proposal are encouraged to attend the Planning commission meetings scheduled for Wednesday, September 13th at 7:00 p.m. in the City Council Chamber at City Hall.  A final decision on the application is anticipated to be made by the City Council on Monday, September 25th.

City To Rezone Oakland County’s Animal Shelter Property

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

A key strategic goal of the City Council is to proactively prepare underutilized properties for redevelopment.  This rezoning proposal, along with The Palace of Auburn Hills redevelopment study and rezoning, is an excellent example of the City Council, Planning Commission, and staff working together to implement that vision.

Oakland County will soon close their Animal Shelter and Pet Adoption Center located at 1700 Brown Road and relocate operations to a new facility in the City of Pontiac.  The County’s imminent move initiated the City preparing for this zoning map change from R-1, One-Family Residential District to I-1, Light Industrial District.

Last month, the Planning Commission adopted an amendment to the City’s Master Land Use Plan that changed the land use classification of the 40.8 acre property from public to non-residential to facilitate the rezoning per State law.

1700 Brown Road is currently zoned residential. Shown as green color on the map above.

The proposed zoning change will set in motion a plan of action to place the tax exempt property on the assessing rolls, which will create new property tax revenue and jobs upon development.  Oakland County anticipates selling the property in the future to allow it to be redeveloped into one or more industrial building sites.

Those interested in learning more about this proposal are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, August 16th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.  A final decision on the application is anticipated to be made by the City Council on Monday, August 28th.

Yay! Auburn Hills Wins Prestigious Urban Planning Award

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development and Karen Adcock, Director of Senior Services

We’re thrilled to report that the City of Auburn Hills has been selected to receive the 2017 Planning Excellence Award for Best Practice by the Michigan Association of Planning for its work on its Age Friendly Action Plan.

The nomination was reviewed by a jury of American Planning Association – Florida Chapter professionals who indicated that the Age Friendly Action Plan was an “exemplary, well-documented effort to provide an opportunity for the community to have conversations about the needs of an aging population.” 

Auburn Hills will receive the award at the Michigan Association of Planning’s annual conference on September 27, 2017 at the Mission Point Resort on Mackinac Island.  

We’re grateful for the support of AARP, our City Council and Planning Commission, and the many volunteers and staff that assisted with this initiative.  Most importantly, we’re appreciative of all those who attended the community meetings and provided valuable input that went into the plan.

The Michigan Association of Planning also recognized the City of Auburn Hills last year for Best Practice for our Industrial Property Analysis and in 2013 for our Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Readiness Project. 

Auburn Hills plans to build on this recognition and incrementally improve the quality of life for our seniors over time, which will naturally make our community a friendlier and more accessible place for all.  That sounds like a really good plan.

The Palace Of Auburn Hills Arena Property Proposed For Rezoning

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

We’re very pleased to report that the City of Auburn Hills, in cooperation with Palace Sports & Entertainment (PS&E), has initiated a rezoning application to prepare the 109 acre arena property for redevelopment should it no longer remain viable as a sports and entertainment venue in the years ahead.

The Palace of Auburn Hills

The land currently has two separate and distinct zoning districts.  The property on which the Pistons practice facility is located is zoned T&R, Technology and Research District and contains approximately six acres; while the property on which the arena sits is zoned I-2, General Industrial District and contains approximately 103 acres.  The City and PS&E have agreed that the T&R zoning is best suited for the entire property.  The T&R zoning classification is also being presented for amendment to permit the arena to remain as an allowable use in the T&R district should that be the final outcome for the site.

The recommendation of the T&R zoning came as a result of a detailed planning analysis called The Palace of Auburn Hills Arena Redevelopment Study, which was conducted by City staff and authorized by the City Council.  The study and proposed zoning change will set the stage for a quick and streamlined review process for new development at the site, if use of the arena is ultimately discontinued.

Scenario A: City’s “wish list” for the redevelopment of the site. Create a walkable, interconnected R&D park with uses such as corporate HQ locations, hotel/conference center, and fitness center

Scenario B: Facilitating redevelopment of the site with several large scale R&D/clean industrial businesses. This option would be immediately supported by the real estate market and is a natural fit for Auburn Hills

Auburn Hills’ officials believe this proactive, “redevelopment ready” approach will better position the City and PS&E when working collaboratively with the State of Michigan and Oakland County to attract new companies and investment to the location.

Those interested in learning more about this proposal are encouraged to attend the Planning Commission meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 14th at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber at City Hall.  A final decision on the application is anticipated to be made by the City Council on Monday, June 26th.

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.

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.