Resident feedback needed on fate of Halfman property

By: Andy Kozlowski, | Madison - Park News | Published September 12, 2015

MADISON HEIGHTS — Nearly 5 acres are up for redevelopment at Halfman Elementary and the former Sunset Park on the block bordered by Couzens, Brockton, Tawas and Hudson. And resident input is needed on what will become of them.

The 1.75 acres at Halfman are owned by the Madison school district, and the 3.1 acres at the former Sunset Park were deeded from the city to the district in a land exchange deal back in 2008. The district has been using the space primarily for parking at Halfman. However, if the district ceases to use the property for school or recreational purposes, the land reverts back to the city.

The district has designs to convert the land into new housing, in a collaborative effort with Habitat for Humanity of Oakland County and Lawrence Technological University. But that will only happen if the city agrees to donate its share. The city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board is investigating whether the land could be used for other purposes instead. That’s why residents are needed to share their thoughts on how the space should be used.

Residents are asked to visit www.surveymonkey.com/r/half man-park. There, they can fill out a five-minute, 10-question survey about how they currently use the property and what they would like to see done with it.

There will also be a public forum on the topic on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at Halfman Elementary, 25601 Couzens Ave. People will have opportunities to fill out the survey there as well.

The space could become anything. Perhaps part of it could be a soccer field or a playground. Maybe there could be exercise equipment there. Or perhaps simply wide open green space.

“As noted in our master plan, we do have a deficiency of park land in that particular neighborhood,” said City Councilman Mark Bliss. “But all options are on the table, and nothing is decided. There are no decisions that have been made. I want to stress that. The residents’ opinions, in the surveys and at the forum, will have a direct impact on this decision-making process.

“And not only at this particular site,” Bliss continued. “Depending on how the answers go, we may find there are deficiencies in our park system as a whole, and we may see a great idea.”

The survey will run through the end of the month. Then the citizen-led Parks and Recreation Advisory Board will form a recommendation for City Council in October. City staff will research the recommendation, and City Council will begin to debate the issue, likely toward the end of the year. 

“The parks and rec board have put a lot of time and effort into reviewing this issue,” Bliss said. “Hats off to them for being such an engaged and active board.”

City Councilman Robert Corbett said it’s impossible to predict what will happen.

“Really, at the moment, it’s just open space where you can walk your dog or take your kids to throw a ball, which is perfectly reasonable in itself, but the question is whether there is anything else that could be done there,” Corbett said. “The key thing to me is I don’t want to lose the (Habitat for Humanity) model that’s being proposed. I doubt the Halfman site would work for this matter, but there are several other sites in the community that may be good locations to consider, such as the Edison (Elementary)site and Monroe Park site.”

Bliss said that if nothing else, the public dialogue with the residents is helping the city to better understand what the residents want, and the survey and forum could serve as a template for gauging public opinion on future projects.

“It’s hard to understand the voice of the people unless you actively listen to them,” Bliss said. “They can now have their voices heard in a very direct and concise manner that will impact the decision-making process.” 

The survey is available at www.surveymonkey.com/r/halfman-park.

The public forum will be held Sept. 17, 7 p.m., at Halfman Elementary, 25601 Couzens Ave.