City explores future park options with Oakland County

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published November 24, 2015

 A golfer pulls his clubs along Normandy Oaks Golf Course in June 2014. The city is exploring possible partnership opportunities with Oakland County while developing the future Normandy Oaks park.

A golfer pulls his clubs along Normandy Oaks Golf Course in June 2014. The city is exploring possible partnership opportunities with Oakland County while developing the future Normandy Oaks park.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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ROYAL OAK — The City Commission recently appointed two of its members to serve on a committee to examine possible partnership opportunities with Oakland County while developing the future Normandy Oaks park.

City Commissioners Sharlan Douglas and Michael Fournier will represent the city on the committee, which includes representatives from Oakland County, to look into whether or not a partnership would be a viable option in developing the future 40-acre park on the former Normandy Oaks Golf Course.

“Hopefully through this exploration we’ll be able to not just hear each other out, but maybe even to some extent — if things work out well — understand where our objectives align, find out where things are common and find out what we can do to move the best interest of the city forward,” Fournier said.

Douglas and Fournier serve on the Normandy Oaks Task Force along with Mayor Jim Ellison, who removed himself from consideration to serve on the newly formed committee.

The task force was formed in March 2014 and was charged with creating a plan for the future of the struggling Normandy Oaks Golf Course, located at 4234 Delemere Blvd., on the city’s north side; marketing and selling the property’s 10 acres of salable land; and developing the remaining 40 acres of the golf course as a passive-use park. City officials have said the park’s amenities may include soccer fields, biking and walking trails, a splash pad, a park pavilion and a sledding hill.

City Commissioner Kyle DuBuc stressed that the city, as a way to exhaust all possibilities, was only looking into the option of partnering with the county to see what it could offer.

“I just wanted to reiterate that everyone’s clear it’s just a conversation,” DuBuc said. “There’s very, I think, specific goals we have for the park that we’re going to see if the county is willing to meet us on, and then we’ll have serious conversations about moving forward.”

Ellison has said that talking with the county regarding the future park would not mean a county takeover. He said the county may be interested in partnering on one element — like a splash pad — which would put more money in the city’s pockets for other park development.

Proceeds from the 2014 voter-approved sale of the 10 acres of the former golf course would be used to develop the remaining 40 acres of Normandy Oaks and improve other city parks.

Ellison said he was at an initial meeting Nov. 4 with county officials and there were some good ideas, but nothing to the point where anyone would make a decision one way or the other, which is why the city needed to form a committee.

Ellison said that from the city’s perspective, it is important to remain dedicated to the park amenities promoted to residents during the election.

“So, it was decided that the committee could meet and continue those discussions, and so that is where we are at right now,” Ellison said.

Dan Stencil, executive officer of the Oakland County Parks & Recreation Department, said the newly formed committee plans to meet during the first part of December.

“I think it’s a blank slate,” Stencil said. “We’re looking at all opportunities and what makes sense.”

Stencil said that what makes sense from the county’s perspective are facilities and services of a regional basis and not limited to just one city.

“We’re supported by a county-wide millage,” Stencil said. “And facilities don’t put up borders that say that these people can only come to this facility, and in this day and age, people travel and we want to encourage people to travel to all of our parks.”

City Manager Don Johnson said that nothing can be done to the parkland without the City Commission’s approval.

“In the end, whatever is being proposed comes back here to this body for you to agree or disagree with it,” Johnson said to the commissioners during the Nov. 16 meeting.

City Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle concurred that it was important to explore all opportunities.

“I think it’s important that we continue this discussion so that we’re making an informed decision,” he said. “We don’t know what that final proposal from the county will look like, but we need to hear that before we make a decision of the future of Normandy Oaks.”

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