City Residents Raise Concerns, Ideas for Future – 2013

By Joanne Maliszewski, Staff Writer – Farmington Observer – Apr. 01, 2013

Farmington’s future needs financial resources, maintenance of historic areas, competitive retail, mixed building uses and removing undesirable properties.

Those are just some of the opinions approximately 50 residents offered at the second Farmington visioning meeting Wednesday. Three more visioning meetings are expected with the next scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 1 at Farmington City Hall.

“We are looking for the North Star and then the constellations — the stars around it,” said consultant Charles Fleetham of Project Innovations in Farmington Hills.

Fleetham and OHM Advisors are guiding residents through the visioning process, the first since the last effort in 1998. Aaron Domini of OHM Advisors revisited the former effort with residents.

“This plan did not talk about the economics of achieving that plan,” Domini told residents, about the former plan.

Former vision

In 1998, the visioning process revealed that a major retailer to serve as a destination, cultural activities, pedestrian friendliness, multi-use buildings, green space and economic improvements were important to residents.

Now more than 10 years later, Farmington did not manage to draw a significant retailer to create a destination, but cultural, recreational and social events have increased, while improvements have been made to the parking and pedestrian network, as well as creation of a public space with Riley Park.

Despite residents’ wants, the one thing they could not control in 1998 and still can’t today is the economic marketplace, Domini said.

The consultants also provided a comparison for residents, acknowledging that Farmington and Northville have enough similar characteristics to stand side-by-side.

Differences, however, include Farmington has a larger population and a slightly younger one. Additionally, Farmington’s housing is aged, compared to Northville’s, with a good portion built in the 1980s. Rents and median income are higher in Northville.

Domini also refreshed residents’ memories that at the first visioning meeting, residents valued:

  • The community’s reputation, image and character.
  • Healthy retail.
  • Maintenance of the downtown’s historic core.
  • Enhancing the community’s character, which many of them described as currently “vanilla.”

Residents also wanted fewer residential renters, but higher land use density, new homes, bike and pedestrian paths, entertainment, some franchise restaurants and improved parking.

Newer visions

Jim Houk of OHM Advisors offered residents three different visions for Farmington: status quo, moderate growth and maximum growth.

But the how of boosting growth moderately or greater may include raising taxes, increasing property values and making specific public investments.

“You have to look at ways to control costs,” Houk said. “The success of Farmington is tied to the success of downtown and vice versa. I think you need to put investment into the downtown.”

Houk also offered other how-tos for Farmington’s future. They include consolidating with Farmington Hills. “That has to be put to bed one way or another,” Houk said.

Other suggestions include introducing mixed uses and increasing buildings upward to bring in residents and offices, as well as selling outdated public facilities, a new branding effort for the community and private sector investment.

“We’d like to know what you heard?” Fleetham asked residents, following the OHM presentations.

Again, residents pointed to aged strip centers, raising taxes, following Northville’s lead in redevelopment, consolidation of the two cities and creating new types of housing, such as lofts, to draw younger residents.

Older shopping centers in Farmington drew considerable attention from residents. “We need to take a real serious look at those properties,” said resident Alton Bennett, a former City Council member. (313) 550-8558