PC hears public comment on parks
Posted on 08/11/2022
Farmers Market The meeting began with comments from River Restoration Task Force Chair Nancy Darga and a description of the task force’s efforts to apply for a $2.5 million federal grant administered through Wayne County, as part of the river daylighting project.

DDA Director Lori Ward and Mayor Brian Turnbull then briefed the commissioners on City Council’s decision to keep portions of W. Main and N. Center closed to traffic in the downtown permanently.

City Manager Pat Sullivan noted that two traffic studies had been done prior to the street closures and two were done after the streets closed. A representative from OHM, the City’s engineer, George Tsakoff, said they had more concern about the north-south route being closed (along Center) than the east-west route. The city’s engineer was asked to revisit the previous traffic study in light of the permanent closures. Sullivan also stated that a truck route for construction traffic will be determined pre-construction to limit the
impact on neighborhoods.

What’s the public benefit of a Farmers’ Market that needs a new site?
The Planning Commission continued its deliberations on the topic of parks, open spaces, and the Farmers’ Market. The current plan allocates space for a temporary Farmers’ Market location until the market can move to a permanent location. The Farmers’ Market Task Force recommended an off-site location as preferred over a permanent location on the Downs project site.

The 2018 Master Plan, which guides the Downs development, states that a preferred land use of the racetrack property could include the Farmers’ Market. The Farmers’ Market Task Force noted that given the current reality, it’s okay to locate the market off-site as long as it remains in the city and meets the criteria for vendors and shoppers. (The preferred new site identified in the Task Force’s report is the former MacDonald Ford land at 7 Mile east of River St., where the task force envisions building a year-round facility and expand its usage.)

After much discussion, the commissioners supported the Task Force recommendation that the Farmers’ Market would be best located somewhere other than on the Downs site. As consideration of the project moves to its conclusion, the Planning Commission will need to consider how relocating the market influences their thinking about public benefits of the project.

Developer Randy Wertheimer said it will cost $200,000 to pave the land to host the market temporarily. The Farmers’ Market will be on their site for three years – two of those years at the temporary location. The current site is planned for 25 units of housing and the temporary area is planned for 10 units and an additional eight condos that can’t be built until the market moves off the site. He added the temporary site provides better parking for vendors than the current site at the Downs. The developer is expected to cover the cost of electrical and water at the temporary site.

Wertheimer said the development team is making a $26 million commitment. Of that, he said, $16 million is projected to be returned in brownfield credits. He didn’t elaborate on how the other $10 million will be spent.

The log cabin, Central Park, parking for parks, accessibility and more
The log cabin discussion was revisited after commissioners learned of the history of the building at a previous meeting. Commissioners agreed that it should be preserved, although not necessarily on site, and have municipal ownership. Aside from that, they expect the city will find a use for the building, but it should not be restrooms.

Commissioner Steve Kirk said there needs to be parking near all the parks, especially for handicap access. He wants to see Central Park be an inviting place for seniors and the disabled, and be ADA compliant.

Commissioner Jeff Gaines said the gateway connectivity is another public benefit and sees the Central Park as a nice benefit. He said the pocket parks should be designed in such a way that they say, “Come on in.” If they don’t, then signage would be needed. He also said The Link (a recreational pathway from Rouge Park, though Northville, and onto Maybury) should have a connection point at the Downs development. He wants to see the proposed Downs non-motorized pathway be connected at multiple points. He wants the park sidewalks to be functional as well as provide an experience when you’re going from one end of town, through the Downs, to other points in the city.

He said Bath, England has well developed parks that provide a progression through that city with the Royal Crescent and other smaller parks. He said the Downs plan has all of the elements of the parks in Bath, and encouraged the developer to make the retention basin in River Park an asset. He wants to see a notable form for the pond and make the park seem like a sense of place not like a private backyard.

He questioned why the developer couldn’t add a sidewalk behind the retention basin to make it more inviting to the public. Toll Brothers CEO Alex Martin noted the basin behind the townhomes doesn’t have enough space for a good quality sidewalk and the sloping nature of the pond is another limiting factor.

Commissioners discussed the one-acre section that borders the eight rowhouses and three single-family homes at the proposed River Park and asked whether it will appear to be a private yard or public space. Commissioner Thom Barry said Lexington Commons Park has a public park near condominiums and it may function similar to the new river park.

Barry said he wants to see an example of the footbridge and asked if there’s a warranty on plants that will line the riverbanks. City Planner Sally Elmiger said that landscaping is reviewed in the final site plan. She said native plants take longer than non-native plants to become established and the planting needs to be done by a specialist.

Public comments

Lenore Lewandowski, 119 Randolph, said Central Park shouldn’t be viewed as a separate activity space. She said the city needs connectivity between Town Square and the new park. For the Farmers’ Market space, she noted than the temporary location is less than 5% of the development. In her view, it’s not a big inconvenience for the developer to offer this temporary space for the market.

Teresa Folino, 601 Orchard Dr., said she’s opposed to using the log cabin as restrooms. She said there’s an under-utilized park behind the Water Wheel and perhaps the cabin could go there and become a museum because it is “an amazing part of the city’s history.” She wants to see seniors have full access to properties so they can downsize in the city and retire here. She said there needs to be parking at parks with handicap parking, ramps, higher seats and a railing.

Kathy Spillane, 487 W. Cady, said Central Park plays a strategic role for the city and the development for walkability and recreation. She says the park pathways should prompt residents who live in the new development to walk to downtown and other places in town rather than drive and find it inviting to linger in the park.

John Roby, 511 W. Dunlap, said the delineation between park space and private space at River Park is muddled. He said commissioners should decide whether the retention basin will be a part of the public access or not.

Final topic to be discussed at Aug. 16 meeting
At the next meeting on Aug. 16, the commission will discuss the final topic ( infrastructure, financials and phasing). If deliberations are completed, Chair Donna Tinberg will ask for public comments on this topic. The next step is for the Planning Commission to discuss any remaining outstanding issues, and start to develop its recommendation to City Council about the PUD/Preliminary Site Plan. As throughout the process, the Planning Commission encourages the public to provide comments, either verbally at a meeting, or by sending them in writing to the City Clerk.

The developer is expected to show site plan updates at this meeting.

View the video here.