Board amends town center ordinance

By: Cari DeLamielleure-Scott | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 1, 2016

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — In the coming years, the Orchard Lake Road corridor will receive a facelift as a new amendment to the township center district ordinance requires specific criteria for developers to follow, whether they are improving existing buildings or erecting new structures. 

About four years ago, LA Fitness requested a waiver to build in the township center overlay district — the area of Orchard Lake Road, between Maple and 14 Mile roads — Trustee Howard Rosenberg, chair of the Town Center Task Force, said at the May 2 Board of Trustees meeting.

“And we were at that point sick of giving waivers to an overlay district that clearly wasn’t working. We denied it and formed a Town Center Task Force to review all the ordinances. From that point to here, we’ve been through two planning directors, a number of iterations and much, much work. What we have before you is a result of that work, and I think it’s a wonderful document,” Rosenberg said. 

The ordinance amendment was drafted by the task force — people from the Parks and Recreation Commission, the Planning Commission, the Police and Fire departments, and the Board of Trustees — with the help of Clearzoning, a consulting company that provides services in the areas of planning, zoning, transportation and implementation. The changes were introduced at the May 2 Board of Trustees meeting and were approved 6-0. At the May 16 board meeting, the amendment was approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda, and it went into effect June 1. 

Rosenberg said that what they recognized early on was that the township would never have a “downtown” area. Instead, what the task force drafted were requirements to create a “world-class regional corridor.” 

For example, a one-story building was previously required to be a minimum of 30 feet tall. Now the height has been lowered to 18 feet. The maximum building height is now three stories, or 42 feet, whichever is less. Per the amendment, buildings up to five stories or 64 feet may be permitted with special land use approval. 

Buildings must now be made from high-quality materials, including brick, stone, cultured stone, decorative wood, integrally colored concrete masonry units, decorative block, decorative fiber-reinforced cement siding, decorative metal panels, tile or decorative glass. The materials must be left in their natural state and cannot be painted or otherwise modified, with the exception of siding, stucco or similar materials, according to the ordinance. 

Trustee Lawrence Brown said at the May 2 meeting that the task force spent a lot of time discussing softer lighting. For example, exterior building lighting that uses exposed neon tubing and similar lighting devices is now prohibited.

Clerk Catherine Shaughnessy, who served on the committee, said at the May 2 meeting that the task force has created a design standard for the entire corridor. 

“From here on out, anybody that redesigns or redevelops or improves their property will have this whole design criteria to follow,” Shaughnessy said, explaining that, eventually, West Bloomfield will have a signature look.

“I’m very happy and pleased with it, and this, tonight, is very momentous. We now have something we can really work with,” Shaughnessy said. 

Rod Arroyo, co-founder of Clearzoning, told the board that he feels good about the ordinance because the task force members showed they “really care about the community and the corridor.”

Treasurer Teri Weingarden said at the May 2 meeting that she is pleased with the results of the amended ordinance. The township has previously made roads a priority, she explained, and now that the roundabouts at Orchard Lake Road and Northwestern Highway present a “beautiful entryway” into the township, officials can focus on creating a common theme among the structural elements. 

“It’s a huge accomplishment we’ve made to make West Bloomfield a beautiful community,” she said. “I’m loving all the plans we’ve been seeing, and it’s really exciting.”

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