Recap of Jan. 18 Special Meeting
Posted on 01/29/2024
City Hall has a newly remodeled lower level and will have a new roof in the spring. Strategic Priorities through 2025

City Manager George Lahanas presented to City Council an overview of progress made over the past six months in six core areas: good governance, vibrant economy and development, strong neighborhoods, high-quality environment, enhanced public assets: a.) transportation and infrastructure and b.) recreational and cultural.

In the good governance section, the city’s pension program is on target to be funded to 120% in a few years, after adding nearly $1.3 million in 2023 to bring it to 92%. When the target is reached, it will free up monies to be applied to other priority projects. In pursuing a triple-A bond rating, the general fund balance must be at 30% or above and is close to that amount. A newly completed cost allocation study that breaks down the amount of staff time spent on delivering city services will be used to calculate program costs and also provide greater transparency. These action items are a key part of “Our march to get to stronger financial sustainability,” Lahanas said. He noted the city has no debt and the next big need will be water infrastructure – repairing and replacing a 100-year-old system.

A landscape architect will develop a pre-engineering concept of the play structure at Ford Field known as Fort Griswold, which will be used for grant applications with the potential for a summer build. Pre-construction meetings with neighbors, which started with Beal St. reconstruction, will be held prior to major infrastructure projects. Lahanas reported on the number of followers for social media –Facebook (2,700) and X (573), and subscribers to City News (2,321) and Nixle, the emergency alert system (2,919). He said growing these numbers will keep residents informed.

Council Member Laura Genitti suggested the city set up an Instagram account to post good news and perhaps turn off comments. Council Member Andrew Krenz proposed having a public-private partnership to build Fort Griswold. He wants to see more in-depth news coverage of complex topics, such as brownfields and Downs’ incentives, in the city’s communication platforms to keep people informed and prevent the spread of “unique theories.”

On the vibrant economy and development section
, Lahanas reported the DDA now has access to a GIS system that shows data for business occupancy levels and the amount of retail space in use or available for lease/sale. Curb-less streets are being explored and elevation renderings with associated costs will enable the community to consider this streetscape enhancement. Three of the four sets of bollards have been installed and are working well to provide pedestrian safety when sections of Main and Center streets are closed to traffic. (The fourth set will be installed in the spring.) A parking study will be conducted to update the inventory of spaces, and look at new ways to enforce parking violations. Regarding the Downs development, which received conditional final site plan approval by the Planning Commission, Lahanas said demolition is expected to begin in the next few months.

Mayor Brian Turnbull mentioned there could be bollards at Wing and Main and the west side of Center and Main in the future. The city manager noted this would help during large events that spill over to that section of Main. Council Member Carter said the city must forecast the need for future parking with new residential growth in the city and surrounding areas. Council Member Genitti wants free parking to remain. Council Member Krenz said he wants parking to become part of the Planning Commission’s update to the Master Plan.

On the topic of strong neighborhoods, Lahanas said the city has hired a school resource officer (SRO), who is stationed at Hillside Middle School. Kraemer Design Group presented a draft report on Historic District design guidelines to the Historic District Commission and is accepting community feedback to bring it closer to a final report. The external Fire Dept. report that analyzed services provided through the shared services agreement between the cities of Northville and Plymouth is near completion and will be presented to City Council and the community to show strengths and areas for improvement.

Council Member Krenz asked what improvements can be made for emergency medical technicians (EMTs), the Fire Dept. and Police Dept. He asked where the ladder truck will be housed in the future. Council Member Carter wants to open a conversation with private schools about the use of key fobs for police and other first responders to access their buildings in emergencies. Currently the key fob entry program is only used at Northville Public Schools. He is a proponent of having a designation plaque for historic homes in Northville and suggested the Northville Historical Society explore the feasibility of such a program. Mayor Pro Tem Barbara Moroski-Browne noted that school buses are using Wing and High streets as a cut-through and wants the inventory of school routes to be completed. She advised that the Planning Commission be supported by other commissions or staff as they develop new ordinances for trees, rooftop uses, form-based construction and other topics being studied.

On the high-quality environment section, the city is recommending that a paperless package system be adopted for City Council meetings and other boards and commissions. That will be a sustainability win and also free up staff time in compiling paper packets. Energy-conservation measures continue to be made at City Hall, including new LED lights. As of Jan. 1, restaurants and bars in the city must adhere to the FOG ordinance (clean disposal of fats, oil and grease); they have until March 1 to remove exterior grease dumpsters. The city will begin placing cameras on dumpsters, starting with Mary Alexander Court, to help reduce illegal dumping and be used as evidence for citations/tickets. An RFP (request for proposals) is being issued for green ordinance audits, a recommendation by the Sustainability Team.

Mayor Turnbull recommended the city install signage stating that cameras are being used at dumpsters. Council Member Carter applauded the city’s zero loss policy for trees, but now wants the city administration to revisit measures to contain water loss.

On the transportation and infrastructure section, the city manager said the engineering consultant will present its traffic-calming report and tool kit to Council at its Feb. 5 meeting. OHM will begin a new PASER rating study in the spring to determine the overall condition of city-owned streets. The High Street culver still needs to be repaired; it’s only one foot short of being classified as a bridge. The city is working with Oakland County to connect a section of the Chapter 21 drain to its sanitary sewer system, switching the metered flow from Wayne County to Oakland County near the former Foundry Flask property. The roof of City Hall will be replaced in the spring. The lower level has been remodeled to make better use of space and create new offices and meeting rooms. Allen Terrace is requesting CDBG* funds from Oakland County for new flooring in the activity rooms. The facility plans to replace old fitness equipment with newer equipment donated by Planet Fitness.

On the recreational and cultural opportunities section, a new gateway entrance to Ford Field and bank stabilization are in the works as OHM develops engineering specs for the project, which will be sent out for bids. The city manager noted the riverwalk plan will happen in sections and the first section may be Ford Field East; a TAP** grant will be sought to develop that section of the riverwalk with SEMCOG’s assistance. The city plans to seek a DNR grant to build restrooms at Ford Field. Lahanas said the city and Chamber of Commerce are finalizing the temporary location of the Farmers’ Market for the 2024 season and it will be announced soon.

Public comment

Thom Barry, 239 High St., said the Victorian festival needs help from the community to restore it to its former glory. He noted the Planning Commission has a subcommittee on parking consisting of Commissioners Maise, DeBono and Saliette. He said he recently attended a Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) meeting and noted that the generator ordinance isn’t working as intended and that needs to be addressed.

Jennifer Luikart, 521 W. Cady, said she wants the city to do another traffic study at Rogers since the previous study lasted less than 24 hours. There’s a school bus stop at Cady and Rogers and she is asking City Council members to help protect children at this stop. She said when she tries to cross Rogers at the pedestrian crossing, nine times out of 10, vehicles don’t stop.

Nancy Chirri, 661 W. Main, requested that sidewalks be a priority in the strategic projects list. She wants to see an open house style of presentation for curb-less streets, along with relevant data, so the city can hear from the community. (Her comments were made on Zoom.)

Tim Luikart, 521 W. Cady, thanked administration for mentioning in City News that residential sidewalks need to be cleared within 24 hours of a snow event. He said many homeowners don’t clear their sidewalks until four or five days after a snowstorm. (His comments were made on Zoom.)

*Community Development Block Grant
**TAP = Transportation Alternatives Program

To learn more about additional topics and updates provided at the meeting; view the meeting video here.