Novi Mayor Justin Fischer and Novi Director of Communications Sheryl Walsh-Molloy discuss current issues during Fischer’s first State of the City address May 1 at the Suburban Collection Showplace.

Novi Mayor Justin Fischer and Novi Director of Communications Sheryl Walsh-Molloy discuss current issues during Fischer’s first State of the City address May 1 at the Suburban Collection Showplace.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Novi State of the City focuses on budget, development, safety

By: Charity Meier | Novi Note | Published May 8, 2024


NOVI — Novi Mayor Justin Fischer talked about the city’s financial position, growth and public safety in his first State of the City address.

Fischer elected to change things up from addresses of the past and presented his address over breakfast. He traded in a traditional speech at a podium for a chair and a conversation in the style of a “fireside chat” with Sheryl Walsh-Molloy, director of communications for the city of Novi.

Former Mayor Bob Gatt introduced Fischer with an explanation of what it takes to be mayor, which he feels Fischer possesses and more.

“What does it take to be a good mayor?” asked Gatt, who held the city’s highest office for 12 years. “Well, it takes a lot of dedication, a lot of hard work, a lot of being alone sometimes, a lot of love for the city of Novi.”

Fischer, who has a career in finance, said he pitched the idea of having graphs and pie charts, but that didn’t fly with Walsh-Molloy. So he decided to have a fireside chat.

“It took a lot to convince her, though, that I didn’t want to just stand up here and orate about how great Novi is,” Fischer said. “I wanted to change things up and have a conversation and talk with you about our Novi and the shared vision that I have for our community — the forecast if you will.”

Fischer, a lifelong Novi resident who started at Village Oaks Elementary and worked his way through high school and beyond, admitted that the city has a lot of the same challenges now as it did back then.

“Despite all the growth in Novi, we are still a community that is really focused, a community that is really concerned with neighbors helping neighbors, and really I would say that we are even a better welcoming community than we were back in those days,” Fischer said. “We’ve been through so much in the last 20 years, not only as a nation, but as the city of Novi, and we’ve continued to evolve.”

Fischer said the city has brought in great companies and businesses over the years and continued to invest in parks. Under Gatt, the city obtained Villa Bar Art Park, 22600 Napier Road, which includes a home, a studio and multiple sculpture stations; continued investments in the ITC trail; Pavilion Shore Park, located off Walled Lake at 43390 W. 13 Mile Road, which he said complements Lakeshore Park, 601 S. Lake Drive. Now, he said the city is excited to have Novi Northwest Park, coming soon at 12 Mile and Napier roads.

“We’re excited. It’s going to be right off of 12 Mile, and it’s going to be one that features natural trails, a custom-designed playground that again has natural features,” Fischer said. “Think about all the investments we’ve made in parks. Think about how we made it through the recession. Think about how we made it through COVID. The leadership of my two predecessors (Gatt and David Landry) really is what will guide me going forward.”

The City Council has been working on the annual budget, which Fischer said is probably the most important thing the council does. This year, he said, the council had many robust conversations on the topic.

“That’s driven by the amount of money,” Fischer said. “There has been more money blown into the system from the federal level, state level, county level, than we’ve seen in many, many years. We saw that in inflation and all these other things, and I felt like we kind of needed to tap the brakes on our budget — make sure that we were recognizing that we needed to make sure revenue and expenses were aligned.”

Fischer compared this to the NFL Draft. He said that when new athletes are signed up and given an annual salary of $20 million to $30 million a year, they often think they will be making that for the next 50 years, but often eight to 10 years can be the lifespan of a career in a professional sport, so you need to prepare for the possibility of the future being without that level of income.

The city is still investing $4.5 million a year on neighborhood roads, and spending a total of $18 million on roads. The city continues to fund the sidewalk repair program. Fischer said that the city has one of the lowest millage rates in Oakland County, and the city’s debt remains at an all-time low.

“We ended up with a fund balance of over $12 million — our rainy day fund, if you will — which is nearly 30% of our expenses,” Fischer said. “So, a lot of good things in the budget that we have going on.”

Fischer spoke about the tough decisions that the council has had to make lately and how and why they were made, particularly when it comes to development.

“Novi has grown so much in the sense that we used to have large swaths of land, we used to have 100 acres, 200 acres where a development could go in and maybe it wasn’t as impactful to the rest of the city, but what we are starting to see now is that some of the harder parcels, some of the smaller parcels, maybe they’re tucked into current developments. Those are starting to come forward for development,” Fischer said. “Now, don’t get me wrong. We fully respect and appreciate someone’s right to develop a land that they own, but at the same time, we expect and we’ve been sending a message that it should be congruent, complimentary, similar to maybe what was already there.”

He said the city and its council will continue to balance development with the needs and the wants of the residents. However, he said how that will be done will present a challenge going forward.

“I respect that and I really appreciate all the time and effort that you all put into those decisions and the consideration that you give, because it’s one small development in an area, but you have to make the decision based on all 66-plus thousand residents, right? So, it could be very impactful to someone in close proximity to their home or their business, but yet you have to look at the big picture, and a lot of times I think that’s really hard for everyone to see,” Walsh-Molloy said.

The city is very interested in a revitalization of Main Street, and the Novi Chamber of Commerce will be moving to that area, Fischer said. He said the Townes at Main Street, a housing development featuring 125 townhouse units, will be erected on Main Street. Across from there is the Bond, and across Grand River Avenue is Sakura Novi, which features traditional Asian shops and cuisine.

“Since I’ve been here, 22 years, Main Street’s always been this — we need a downtown. This could be it,” Walsh-Molloy said. “Maybe not a downtown that’s traditional like you would think of in Northville or Plymouth somewhere, but a city center area that’s walkable, where the chamber is, that would just thrive with restaurants and coffee shops. … That center area could be really, really something.”

Fischer spoke about the safety of the city and the city’s Public Safety Department. He said that there are 584 police agencies in the state, and that Novi is 1 of 12 that is nationally accredited, and one of only two that are both nationally accredited and have a communication accreditation. He said this is evident in the results. There were just under 60,000 police calls last year and six total complaints. Crime in the city was down 12% in 2023 compared to 2022.

“That is a testament to all our officers and the importance of all those accreditations,” Fischer said.

Despite the heavy construction going on, response times for emergency response vehicles are well under the county time limits, according to Walsh-Molloy.

The city has hired a new ambulance service, contracting with Medstar in January. The ambulance service has invested in the city and opened a facility within the city limits.

In summary, Fischer said, “The forecast for Novi is strong, vibrant and fiscally sound.”