An illustration shows the work planned at Innovation Hills Park in Rochester Hills in August.

An illustration shows the work planned at Innovation Hills Park in Rochester Hills in August.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Farewell, 2018: News from Rochester area

By: Linda Shepard, Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 28, 2018

 The rains stop shortly before the start of the fireworks in Rochester Hills for the Fourth of July.

The rains stop shortly before the start of the fireworks in Rochester Hills for the Fourth of July.

File photo by Patricia O’Blenes

 Phragmites, pictured here in Oakland Township in September, were a growing concern in 2018.

Phragmites, pictured here in Oakland Township in September, were a growing concern in 2018.

 People line up for the “Antiques Roadshow” filming at Meadow Brook Hall June 14.

People line up for the “Antiques Roadshow” filming at Meadow Brook Hall June 14.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Jenn and Richard Pizzi, of Bloomfield Hills, walk through the Veterans Tribute Nov. 11 in Oakland Township. Richard Pizzi is a Vietnam War Army veteran.

Jenn and Richard Pizzi, of Bloomfield Hills, walk through the Veterans Tribute Nov. 11 in Oakland Township. Richard Pizzi is a Vietnam War Army veteran.

File photo by Donna Agusti

 Fireplaces, sofas and chairs are located throughout the renovated Oakland University Oakland Center.

Fireplaces, sofas and chairs are located throughout the renovated Oakland University Oakland Center.

File photo by Deb Jacques

 Rochester firefighter and EMT David Wood, left, runs through a search and rescue drill Jan. 12 with firefighters Adam Semaan, center, and Sean Frontiera, right, before they enter a training tower at the municipal fire training center — a reuse of the property that at one time was the city’s waste plant — on Letica Road.

Rochester firefighter and EMT David Wood, left, runs through a search and rescue drill Jan. 12 with firefighters Adam Semaan, center, and Sean Frontiera, right, before they enter a training tower at the municipal fire training center — a reuse of the property that at one time was the city’s waste plant — on Letica Road.

File photo by Sarah Purlee

 A sewer along Main Street overflowed Feb. 3, releasing raw sewage into the Paint Creek and temporarily closing nearby businesses.

A sewer along Main Street overflowed Feb. 3, releasing raw sewage into the Paint Creek and temporarily closing nearby businesses.

File photo by Mary Beth Almond

Advertisement

ROCHESTER/ROCHESTER HILLS/OAKLAND TOWNSHIP — The year 2018 was one to remember: From senior housing and fire department concerns, to new projects and park developments, here’s a look at the top issues and trends that Rochester, Rochester Hills and Oakland Township faced in 2018.

Rochester unveils new ‘Sustainable Rochester’ tool
The city of Rochester revealed its new “Sustainable Rochester” development framework, a toolkit that city officials say will ensure responsible and sustainable development decisions in the city by measuring six sustainability values: environmental health, mobility, fiscal strength, public services, strong neighborhoods and downtown viability.

Within the six sustainability values are a total of 20 development components related to each value, which include development balance, natural features protection, watershed health, walkability, traffic, travel time, nonmotorized infrastructure, tax base growth, development impact, pipe maintenance, pipe conditions, public works system capacity, school impact, public safety, housing mix, housing affordability, workforce development, historic preservation, business attraction and parking efficiency.

Each development component is then further divided into indicators — categorized as either local or regional — that officials say measure as many valid aspects of its development component as possible. For example, under the historic preservation component, the percentage of housing structures over 50 years old is the regional indicator, and the compliance of sight lines is the local indicator.


Sewer backup dumps overflow onto Main Street, Paint Creek
An estimated 3,000 to 5,000 gallons of raw sewage was released into the Paint Creek in Rochester due to an unforeseen sewer blockage Feb. 3. Rochester Department of Public Works employees responded to the call by 11:30 a.m. and determined that the sanitary sewer was blocked in the vicinity of 613 N. Main St., causing the sewer to back up and overflow from an upstream manhole onto Main Street and into the city’s storm sewer system, which discharges into the Paint Creek.

Southbound Main Street was closed for about two hours while crews worked to fix the problem. Rochester Streets and Sewers Foreman Jason Dickinson said the DPW was able to clear the blockage — caused by grease and paper towels — in the pipe and restore standard flow by 1 p.m.

City officials said two businesses were affected by the blockage, but they were each cleared and able to reopen for business hours later that day. Rochester officials reported the sanitary sewer overflow to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Oakland County Health Department.


Rochester Fire Department wrestles with staffing, response time
The Rochester Fire Department, like many volunteer fire departments across the nation, faced a decline in volunteer firefighters and a surge in demand — due, in large part, to the aging population. Limited on-site staff; paid-on-call volunteers living farther from the station than in the past; unpredictable paid-on-call response times; and the growth of the city, with many newer neighborhoods being farther away from the Fire Department than in years past, all contributed to the problem, according to staff.

To help meet the national standard for response time, the city’s fire study committee found that the department needs to have six dual-certified firefighters/EMS workers at the station at all times — three to four full-time workers and two to three part-time, paid-on-call staffers, not including the fire chief — to reduce the commute time to the station to zero.

In August, the Rochester Fire Department was awarded the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s $2.4 million Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response — or SAFER — grant to hire 15 full-time-equivalent firefighters, slashing emergency response times citywide from 15 minutes to nine. Fire Chief John Cieslik said the added on-site staff will “significantly increase” the budget, by around $600,000 per year, but it will allow the city to retain its current EMS revenue of $422,000.

FEMA’s SAFER grant will pay for 75 percent of the salary and benefits for each of the 15 full-time-equivalent firefighters in the first and second years of the grant, and 35 percent of the salary and benefits for the third year. The city, according to the terms of the grant, has to recruit the 15 personnel and begin staffing before Feb. 15.


RCS begins third year of bond projects
The Rochester Community Schools district saw a number of updates that occurred during phase three of the district’s five-year, $185 million bond issue. Crews completed work on six schools — the new RCS Caring Steps Children’s Center; Brooklands, Long Meadow and McGregor elementary schools; Adams High School; and the new Dr. John M. Schultz Educational Campus — before the start of the 2018-19 school year.

Construction on two additional phase three schools — Hampton Elementary School and Hart Middle School — will continue throughout the school year. For more information on the bond projects, visit www.rochester.k12.mi.us.


Construction continues on Blossom Ridge senior living development
Construction continued on Blossom Ridge, located on the northwest corner of Dutton and Adams roads, throughout 2018.

The senior development will include 189 residences, incorporating options ranging from active and independent living to memory care, and will include multiple dining areas and a full-service spa that will be complimentary to residents and their guests.

The new Blossom Collection will also include luxury senior living projects in Oakland Township, downtown Rochester, Auburn Hills, Clinton Township and Sterling Heights.


Rochester approves $60M senior development
In July, the Rochester City Council gave the green light to Blossom Mills, a 137-unit senior living community at the northwest corner of Elizabeth and Second streets in downtown Rochester that is also a part of the Blossom Collection.

The $60 million project includes a 243,124-square-foot, six-story senior residential building on a 2.47-acre site in downtown Rochester. Because the site is zoned industrial, which does not permit senior housing, the project required special project approval from the Rochester City Council. The project passed July 9 with a unanimous vote.

The center is an independent living and “active luxury” destination for seniors ages 55 and up. Blossom Mills will feature access to activity rooms, dining areas, a fitness center and programs, cooking and art classes, a library, outdoor and indoor gathering spaces, a pool, a spa, a shuttle for visits to the Older Persons’ Commission and downtown Rochester, and private transportation for personal trips. Construction, which officials said should last 18-24 months, is slated to begin this summer.


$20M luxury condo complex approved for Letica Drive
Soave Real Estate Group got the OK to build a $20 million luxury condominium complex on Letica Drive in Rochester.

The district, zoned RP-research park, does not allow for residential uses, so the development required special approval from the Rochester City Council. The project passed July 24 in a unanimous vote.

The new development, called The Overlook, is a collection of 72 luxury condos that will be built on an over 9-acre site on Letica Drive, just south of the Older Persons’ Commission.

Over half of the site will be left as open space and will include two overlook deck platforms, hence the name of the development.

The 72 condos — which will occupy the north end of the property — will be spread across six five-story buildings, with 12 units each.

The Overlook will include ranch and townhouse options, which will come with balconies and attached parking on the first floor. A project construction timeline was not available at press time.


Rochester Hills breaks ground on Innovation Hills
Community leaders officially broke ground on the 130-acre Innovation Hills Park, located north of Hamlin Road, east of Adams Road, O N Aug. 30.

A series of ponds and waterfalls at the entry will serve as a focal point at Innovation Hills Park. The park’s 5,000-square-foot sensory garden will comprise two different green spaces: an area focusing on elements of ecology, as well as a recreational sensory garden with a playground. Innovation Hills will include the region’s largest universally accessible play area featuring natural materials like logs, dirt, tree stumps, grassy hills, sand, natural bridges and streams.

The park’s design plan includes over 4 miles of woodlands and boardwalk trails — some illuminated by solar glow path pavers — two ponds, a gazebo, a water wall, a sundial, a kayak landing pad on the Clinton River, a community gathering space, shelters, overlooks, observation points and more. The city plans to host a ribbon cutting for the park next year. For more information, visit www.rochesterhills.org/innovationhills.


OU students move into new residence hall
Labor Day weekend marked the official opening of Oakland University’s new $78 million residence hall.

Hillcrest Hall — which was built into a hill on the south side of campus — was the ninth and largest housing project at the university thus far, and OU officials said it won’t be the last. The 289,000-square-foot, seven-story residence hall boasts 750 beds, a 400-seat dining hall, a 100-seat micro-restaurant and convenience store, a lobby, a fitness facility, four academic spaces, and more. Inside Hillcrest Hall, students have access to four general-use classrooms and the university’s largest lounge area, which comes equipped with furniture hand-selected by students, computer access and a printing station.


Rochester Hills continues to wrestle with overpopulation of deer
Although deer-related car crashes were on a downward trend in Rochester Hills, city officials warned motorists to be on high alert through the new year.

The city saw a slight decrease in deer-related car crashes, which dropped from 176 in 2016 to 161 in 2017, according to a report from the city’s Deer Management Advisory Committee.

Each year in Michigan, there are nearly 50,000 reported deer-car crashes, according to the Michigan State Police. Around 80 percent of the accidents occur on two-lane roads between dusk and dawn, and police say the most serious crashes occur when motorists swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or a fixed object, or when their vehicle rolls over.

With almost 50 percent of Michigan’s deer-car crashes occurring in October, November and December, the city placed temporary electronic signs with the message “High Deer Crash Area, Use Caution” in deer hot spots across the city.


Man gets 4-10 years for shooting at lost teen
A Rochester Hills man who fired a gun at a lost teen who was looking for directions was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison by Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts Nov. 13.

Jeffrey Zeigler, 53, a father of three and a former lieutenant with the Detroit Fire Department, was sentenced to two to 10 years for one count of assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and two years for one count of felony firearm.He will be eligible for parole after four years.

Zeigler initially was charged with assault with intent to murder, punishable by up to life in prison, but was convicted of the lesser charge, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, and a felony firearms violation Oct. 12. The conviction stems from an incident in April.

According to a police report, the Rochester Hills teen, who was 14 at the time, missed his bus to Rochester High School and was walking to school when he became lost at 8:20 a.m. April 12 in the 2200 block of Christian Hills Drive.

The teen knocked on the door of a home to ask for directions, the report states.
Instead of helping the teen, the resident called police and reported that a black male was trying to break into her house and that her husband had chased him into the yard.

Police arrived and discovered that the husband had chased after the teen with a 12-gauge shotgun and had fired a round toward the teen, who was running away, according to the police report. Police found the teenager a short distance away on the same street. No injuries were reported.

The incident sparked an outcry in the community that the violence was racially motivated; the teen is black, and Zeigler is white.


Veterans Tribute dedicated
Hundreds of people attended the new Veterans Tribute of Oakland County dedication July 31 on Adams Road, south of Silverbell Road.  

The completed tribute features clear glass-etched markers honoring all branches of the military rising skyward and encircling the American flag, and it is lighted at night.

Tribute designers aimed to focus on the valor, honor, patriotism and nobility of those who have served and are serving the U.S. — giving a positive and uplifting message with a sense of hope. Organizer Tim Reese said the design also includes a special tribute to veterans who have been disabled as a result of their service.

The $2.2 million tribute was built with donated funds, materials and construction over its two-year project schedule.


Expanded Oakland Center opens
Oakland University’s Oakland Center serves as the heart of campus, said Oakland officials during the center’s Oct. 26 reopening in the expanded building. A recent 60,000-square-foot addition transformed the former 140,000-square-foot building, which is a student center for campus involvement and social engagement.

The building’s new lower-level, open theater-style space provides room for performances, screening events and more. The expanded OC also features spacious and comfortable seating around cozy fireplaces on multiple levels, along with private study spaces and meeting rooms. A reflection room — with a foot bath area — accommodates meditation, prayer and contemplation. A lactation room accommodates nursing mothers.

Three sides of the building look completely new, with the south side featuring a multistory glass wall facing the Elliott bell tower. The $44 million project — funded by bonds — also adds dining space, banquet meeting rooms, offices, a kitchen area and retail space, along with student support and service areas.

Advertisement