Local leaders: Population demographics changing

By: Linda Shepard | Rochester Post | Published March 4, 2015

 Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, Oakland Township Supervisor Terry Gonser, Rochester Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson and Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner speak at the annual Community Outlook Breakfast Feb. 26 at Oakland University.

Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett, Oakland Township Supervisor Terry Gonser, Rochester Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson and Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner speak at the annual Community Outlook Breakfast Feb. 26 at Oakland University.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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Growth amidst change was addressed at the 2015 annual Community Outlook Breakfast held Feb. 26 at Oakland University, hosted by the Rochester Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“Demographics are changing,” said Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett. “The average age of our residents is 39.6, which makes us a relatively older community.” Barnett said three senior housing complexes currently in development are attracted to the city for its amenities, which include the Older Person’s Commission.

Rochester attracts young people, said Rochester Mayor Jeffrey Cuthbertson. “We have great rental apartment options, and we have a lot of great starter homes available — and a great deal of high-end housing stock,” he said. “One area we face a challenge in is housing for growing families.” 

According to Oakland Township Supervisor Terry Gonser, the township has led the area in housing permits given in the past two years. “We had 210 in 2013 and 160 last year,” he said. “We’ve had 10 so far in January. And the average price of those homes is $800,000. People are just scrambling to get into Oakland Township. The challenge is that the folks that are there want to keep it rural. That’s a difficult thing to balance.”

Rochester Community Schools is also facing challenges. “This is one of the first times we have experienced declining enrollment,” said RCS Superintendent Robert Shaner. “The demographics of the community are changing.” The district has identified stewardship and partnerships as priorities. “One specific initiative that makes us extremely proud is expanding our K-5 word language offerings for Chinese and other languages” aimed at empowering students to be global stewards, he said.

The future looks bright for all three communities, all speakers said. “This year we’ll see a new master land plan, zoning ordinance changes, ordinance updates, community water system upgrades, gravel road surface improvements, and invasive species control and eradication,” Gonser said. “That will set our direction for the next 25 to 50 years.”

“Currently, we have over 700 single-family homes, site condos and apartments in some stage of development,” Barnett said. “Commercial spaces are filling up across town, and the city now enjoys the highest occupancy rate in our history.”

“Things are booming in Rochester,” Cuthbertson said. “Leading this trend is an overall home value increase of 23 percent last year and two new parking platforms that will be open this spring and fall.”

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